Carl Yastrzemski 1963 #115
by William Szczepanek
This 1963 card of Carl Yastrzemski represents the year in which he first met the expectations of the Boston fans. He led the league in hits with 183 and was the batting champion with a .321 average. Early cards of Yaz, particularly his rookie card, were often tossed by youngsters who knew nothing of the guy with the funny name. Being Polish myself I had a fondness for Yastrzemski from the start, but really didn't expect him to live up to the vaulted expectations that were placed upon him. I found it amusing that like many other polish names the "Z" seemed to get forgotten in the English pronunciation. While the "Z" wasn't heard in his surname, it was evident in his nickname. "Yaz"
Much like Willie Mays who played alongside his father Cat Mays on semi-pro teams, Carl grew up doing the same, playing on the same semi-pro team as his father, Karol Yastrzemski. In the same way the Mays' and Mantle's fathers taught them the basics at an early age and like many other sons across the country, Carl learned the skills of baseball shortly after he could walk.
Just like Mickey Mantle picking up where Joe DiMaggio left off in center field, following in the footsteps of Ted Williams in left field would be no easy task for the young slugger. After minor league seasons with batting averages of .377 to lead the Carolina league and .339 in the American Association, missing the batting title by three points, the press hyped that a replacement for Williams was in the wings. He was a superior left fielder and a worthy successor to the Spendid Splinter. Carl became the Red Sox' all-time leader in career RBIs, runs, hits, singles, doubles, total bases, and games played.
On May 14, 1965 Yaz would make history when he would line a double in the tenth inning off of Terry Fox of the Detroit Tigers to finish his day at the plate. The double was preceded by a single, triple, and 2 home runs to finish 5 for 5 and complete "the cycle".
Yastrzemski would win three batting titles: 1963, 1967 and 1968. In 1967 Yaz would lead the Red Sox to the pennant going 7 for 8 against the Twins in the final series of the season. He would also win the AL MVP and the Triple Crown, the last player to do so. But, his .400 average in the World Series wasn't enough to get the Red Sox past the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson, losing in 7 games.
"And if I have my choice between a pennant and a triple crown, I'll take the pennant every time." ─ Carl Yastrzemski
In 1971 Yastrzemski would sign a 3-year contract for $500,000, the largest at the time. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be about 2.7 million today, which I think would be a fair salary for the best players in the game today.)
Yastrzemski was the first AL player to get more than 3,000 hits and hit more than 400 home runs. He was an 18-time All Star with 7 Gold Gloves.
Ignoring Ted Williams' time in the military, from 1939 through 1983 the Boston Red Sox were fortunate to have the best left fielders in the game in Williams and Yastrzemski.
Carl was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 with 94.63% of the votes.
"I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it." ─ Carl Yastrzemski
You can check out Yaz's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.