Whenever you’re talking about the Red Sox, there are plenty of options to choose from with regards to the best of all time.
With the 2010 All-Star Game looming on Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif., we started thinking about the makeup of an all-time All-Star team featuring exclusively Red Sox players. Would Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez make the cut? Would any of the recent heroes — Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek — steal a seat from the legendary old-timers like Jim Rice and Wade Boggs?
With all the talent that has solidified the Red Sox as one of the most storied franchises in major league history, there are bound to be some worthy players who didn’t make the cut. But this squad of Red Sox all-time All-Stars would certainly give any other roster a run for its money (except maybe the Yankees’ all-timers).
If it were up to Red Sox fans, Jim Rice would have made it to the Hall of Fame long before he was finally inducted in 2009 on his 15th and final ballot. Shortly thereafter, his No. 14 was retired at Fenway Park, where he spent his entire career from 1974 to 1989. Rice was selected to eight All-Star teams, earning one MVP award along the way and leading the MLB in total bases for three years in a row — only the second player to do so, aside from Ty Cobb. In his 16 seasons, Rice hit .300 or more seven times and tallied 100-plus RBIs eight times, finishing his career with a .298 average.
Another Red Sox lifer, Yaz spent his entire 23-year career in Boston, earning All-Star bids in all but five of those seasons. Among his innumerable honors are seven Gold Gloves and a spot in the 3,000-hit club. Yaz still holds the Red Sox career record in RBIs, runs, hits, singles, doubles, total bases and games played. He also became the first AL member of the 3,000-hit club to hit over 400 homers. But perhaps the most important thing Yaz did in his Red Sox career was begin to lead the team back toward salvation, delivering the team’s first pennant in over 20 years in 1967 — the same year he was voted AL MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, earning 94.63 percent of the vote.
A Red Sox All-Star team without Williams isn’t an All-Star team worth having. Perhaps the most beloved Red Sox in the history of the franchise, Williams proudly represented the team until the day he died. Teddy Ballgame began his 21-year career with Boston in 1939 and immediately led the AL in RBIs as a rookie, finishing fourth in MVP balloting. By the end of his career — which was famously interrupted by two tours of duty with the military — Williams would solidify his legacy as the greatest hitter in the history of the game, the benchmark by which all others are measured. He won six batting titles, two Triple Crowns and finished with an unheralded .344 career average. The first-ballot Hall of Famer also was the last player in major league history to hit over .400 in a season in 1941.
Yes, he spent some time with the dark side, but that does not diminish his accomplishments with the Red Sox. Boggs spent the first 11 years of his career with the Red Sox before jumping ship to the Yankees for five seasons, finishing his career after two years with Tampa Bay. During his heyday, Boggs made 12 consecutive All-Star appearances. Boggs’ most impressive year was 1987, when he tallied a career-high 24 home runs and 89 RBIs to accompany a personal best .588 slugging percentage. That year, he boasted a .363 batting average, which led the league. Boggs was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004, and Cooperstown followed suit not too long thereafter, inducting him in 2005.
Making a name for yourself as a shortstop in Boston has always proven to be a difficult task, and ever since Nomar Garciaparra, there hasn’t been anyone who has come close. Nomar solidified himself as one of the most promising young shortstops in the game after his rookie season in 1997, in which he hit 30 homers — the most by a rookie shortstop — and tallied 98 RBIs, a record by a leadoff hitter. That was all it took for the league to recognize his unique talent: Nomar was a unanimous selection for Rookie of the Year and also won a Silver Slugger award. During his 10 years in Boston, Nomar would lead the AL in batting average for two years and would be selected to five All-Star teams. Though he was shipped out of town amid controversy in 2004, his legacy remained intact, and he signed a one-day contract with Boston earlier this season before formally retiring, just so he could say he retired a Red Sox.
Dustin Pedroia is a strong candidate for Red Sox All-Star teams of the future, but for now, Bobby Doerr sets the standard for second basemen. He spent the entirety of his 14-year career with Boston, tying a league record by leading the AL in double plays on five occasions. His .980 career fielding percentage stood as an MLB record until 1953, and he set Red Sox records for career games (1,865), hits (2,042), doubles (381) and RBIs (1,247). From 1937 to 1951, Doerr was named to nine All-Star teams and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1986 by the Veterans Committee.
The Beast was one of the Red Sox’ first bona fide power hitters, though his career in Beantown didn’t begin until he was well established in the major league world. After spending the first 11 years of his career with Philadelphia, Foxx became a Red Sox in 1936 – a side effect of the Great Depression. Because Athletics owner Connie Mack couldn’t afford to keep his big-time players, he was forced to sell many of them off. Foxx earned an All-Star nod in each of his six years in town, and his best season came in 1938, when he hit 349 with 50 homers and 175 RBIs en route to his third MVP award. Only Barry Bonds has won more MVP awards than this first-ballot Hall of Famer.
In a strange way, Carlton Fisk set the standard for Nomar Garciaparra; though Nomar accomplished the same feat, Fisk was the first player to earn a unanimous Rookie of the Year selection in 1972, hitting .293 with 22 homers, 28 doubles and a .909 OPS. The very next year, a collision at home plate led to a devastating knee injury which doctors insisted Fisk could not come back from — but he did, returning in 1975 to hit .331. Fisk led Boston to the World Series that same year, and although the Red Sox didn’t beat the Reds, it was that series that marked Fisk’s defining moment. In the 12th inning of Game 6 at Fenway Park, the catcher launched a Pat Darcy pitch down the left-field line and waved it fair, carrying Boston to a 7-6 win to force a Game 7. Despite a tumultuous relationship with then-GM Haywood Sullivan that eventually led to Fisk’s departure to the White Sox, the 11-time All-Star and Hall-of-Famer remains beloved in Red Sox Nation.
It doesn’t take much to understand why David Ortiz is not only the most beloved DH in franchise history, but also one of its most beloved players. After several season in Minnesota in which he was mired in mediocrity, Ortiz arrived in Boston in 2003 a new man. He immediately helped change the culture of the club, teaming up with Manny Ramirez to form one of the most feared one-two punches in baseball. In the 2004 postseason, Ortiz hit .400 with five homers and 19 RBIs, as well as three particularly memorable walk-off hits to help the Red Sox capture their first championship since 1918. Ortiz set the franchise’s home run record in 2006, going deep 54 times, and has been named to the All-Star team in six of eight years since arriving in Boston.
There have been plenty of wacky, eccentric, fun-loving, game-changing pitchers throughout the course of Red Sox history, from Roger Clemens to Pedro Martinez to Josh Beckett. In fact, the current Red Sox roster boasts several young All-Stars who could be making a run at the franchise’s all-time best 20 years from now. But it all started with Cy Young. The most legendary hurler in baseball history began his baseball career at the age of 23 with Cleveland and didn’t arrive in Boston until 1901, but his impact was immediate: He led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA, earning 42 percent of his team’s wins that season. He also led Boston (then the Americans) to a win in the first World Series in history. Today, Young still owns records for the most innings pitched (7,355), most games started (815) and most complete games (749).