Left field at Fenway Park is not the biggest area in the world, but it might be the most famous half-acre of grass in sports. Patrol that neck of the woods for the Red Sox, and there?s a good chance of having a decent major league career.
Duffy Lewis. Long before Minute Maid Park had a hill in center field, there was ?Duffy?s Cliff? — a 10-foot incline that ran from the left-field line to the center-field flag pole at Fenway. Lewis mastered the art of tracking down fly balls on the raised ground, which was flattened in 1934, and remains one of the best Red Sox glove men in club history.
Babe Ruth. Maybe you?ve heard of this guy? During his last season in Boston (1919), Ruth played 111 games in left field and hit .322 with 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, 101 walks and a 1.114 OPS in 432 at-bats. The Bambino went on to build a house in the Bronx and make a name for himself.
Ted Williams. The greatest hitter who ever lived worked hard to make sure he was an asset in the field. Williams committed 19 errors in his rookie season in 1939 and 57 errors in his first five years in the bigs, but he made only 56 gaffes in his last 14 seasons, finishing his career with a .974 fielding percentage. He became the first Red Sox left fielder inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
Carl Yazstrzemski. A man can accomplish a lot in 23 seasons and 3,308 games. The only thing Yaz didn?t do in Boston was bring home a championship, but that wasn?t for lack of effort. The 18-time All-Star won seven Gold Gloves, hit 452 career home runs and is still the last man to win the Triple Crown (hitting .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs in 1967). Cooperstown opened its doors in 1989.
Jim Rice. He wasn?t the flashiest or most quotable player to ever don a baseball uniform. Jim Rice was just one of the best. Every day his name was in the lineup — which was almost every day, because the U.S. Postal Service takes off more time than Rice did — meant bad news for any pitcher facing the Red Sox. It also meant bad news for the baseballs. With each crack of the bat, you can hear (if you listen closely) the ball screaming in pain at the point of contact. He finished his career with a .980 fielding percentage (.981 in left) and finally got his Hall pass on Sunday. Read his classy speech here.
Mike Greenwell. Gator played all 12 years of his career in Boston and hit over .300 in seven of those seasons. If it weren?t for Jose Canseco, Mike Greenwell might have won the American League MVP in 1988, when he hit .325 with 22 home runs and 119 RBIs.
Manny Ramirez. Love, hate or indifference, Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest right-handed hitters to ever step in a batters? box on any planet. At one time, his place in Cooperstown was as secure as Pete Rose?s banishment from the shrine. Now, the roles could be reversed. Commissioner Bud Selig is considering reinstating baseball?s hit king, yet those already in the Hall of Fame have no plans to roll out the welcome mat for those suspected of juicing. Time will tell how history judges Manny.
But there?s little doubt that few teams in any sport have had more success at one position than the Red Sox have had in left field.
Now if only some of those ghosts could put a little life back into Jason Bay?s bat.