I always thought this team photo was a little off. First we have Yaz floating up there in a bubble like a religious icon and then we get that odd blue background that looks like it may have been added in after the photo was developed. Like the Cubbies, I would have thought Fenway – and the Green Monster specifically – would have made a great backdrop for the team card. But I guess the photographer thought otherwise. My guess is that the team is pretty well represented in the photo but it’s kind of hard to tell since it’s a bit blurry.
The ’72 Red Sox lost out on the AL East title by only half a game to Detroit and its quickly-aging line-up. So hopes were pretty elevated in ’73 as the Sox came back with a line-up that was the same except for the addition of Orlando Cepeda to handle the new job of designated hitter. Orlando did a bang-up job pretty much from Day 1 and the Sox began the season 4-0. But they then lost six straight and were a .500 club through the first few months, mostly due to ineffective pitching and an injury to second baseman Doug Griffin. But nobody was running away with the division and though they were in fifth place to start July they were only six back. But a 10-3 run to kick off the month got them briefly into second place. Luis Tiant was building up a nice comeback season; the Sox moved Bill Lee from the pen to the rotation; and that big brawl with the Yankees sort of energized things. But at the same time the Orioles were taking off as well and some late-summer internal strife had both Reggie Smith and Rico Petrocelli asking to be traded. So in the end the Sox put up their second-straight second-place finish – though they finished eight back this time – with a pretty good record. But it wasn’t enough to let manger Eddie Kasko keep his job and Reggie would get his wish, getting sent to St. Louis in the first trade that would compile the team that would go to the Series in a couple years.
This is a big, big post so again it will be split into two.
Roger “Doc” Cramer was born and grew up near Atlantic City, NJ. After playing ball in high school, he worked as a carpenter and continued to play in the area for a semi-pro team put together by his family when he was spotted by an Athletics player in a local tournament in ’29 when he was 23. Signed on the player’s recommendation by Connie Mack, Doc hit .404 that summer in D ball and went 2-2 on the mound. That was it for his time as a pitcher and in ’30 he got off to a .347 start in Double A before being called up to Philly in September for a couple games. The next couple years he was an outfield reserve for the pennant winners, hitting .232 and .260 as his workload increased a bit. He went one for two with a couple RBI’s in the Series that second season. In ’32 Doc worked his way into the line-up and by the end of the season he had replaced the aging Bing Miller as center fielder. He hit .336 that year and settled into that role as over the next three seasons he led the AL in at bats each year. He put up his big power year in ’33 with a .295/8/75 season while scoring 109 runs. But Doc was primarily a singles guy and the next two seasons he hit .311 and .332 as the team got progressively worse as Connie Mack had to jettison the team’s stars during the Depression. In ’36 it was Doc’s turn to split and he went to Boston where he took over center as well, averaging .302 and 100 runs scored during his five seasons there. Twice he led the AL in at bats and once in hits while being named an All-Star four consecutive seasons. In ’41 Dom DiMaggio was the new kid in camp and Doc never got along too well with Joe Cronin, Boston’s manager, so he was sent to Washington for Gee Walker. After a discounted .273 season in DC in ’41 he went to Detroit where for the war years he would again be the regular guy in center. Those four seasons Doc averaged .283/2/46 years and in ’45 he returned to the Series, leading the winners with a .379 average. He then took on a reserve role the next two years before finishing up top as a player/coach in ’48 at age 42. After a season each back in the minors playing (.274) and coaching Doc was done. He hit .296 with 2,705 hits and only 345 K’s in his 9,140 at bats, made five All-Star teams, and hit .387 with six RBI’s in nine Series games. He is currently 64th all-time in hits and 26th in singles. Defensively he is fifth all-time in games, putouts, and assists in center field. From ’51 to ’53 Doc was the White Sox hitting coach. He then returned to the Jersey shore where he took up his off-season work as carpenter full-time. He passed away there in 1990 at 85.
Ted Williams certainly needs no introduction so this will be short. Ted grew up in San Diego, where he was the state’s Mr. Baseball his junior year. That summer of ’36 he was signed by the San Diego PCL team and hit .271 in his 42 games before returning to school to graduate. He returned the next spring to hit .291 with 23 homers and was signed by Boston in exchange for some players and cash. In ’38 Ted got sent to Double A Minneapolis where his .366/43/145 season won him his league’s triple crown. It was then all Boston as he put up an amazing .327/31/145 rookie year and never looked back. His first four seasons he led the AL in runs and OBA three times; and homers, average, RBI’s, and total bases twice. He had that huge .406/37/120 year – with a .553 OBA! - in ’41 and followed that up with another Triple Crown season of .356/36/137 in ’42 before he enlisted to fly planes in the Pacific in WW II. He returned to win MVP in ’46, another Triple Crown season in ’47, and a ’49 in which he missed doing the trifecta by less than a percentage point on his average in what may have been his biggest season (.343/43/159) and second MVP year. In ’50 he got hurt in the All-Star game and he missed nearly all of ’52 and ’53 to fly planes again, this time in Korea. He stuck with the Sox through the ’60 season, hitting a homer in his final at bat. His numbers are phenomenal: .344 with 512 homers, 1,798 runs, 1,839 RBI’s, and a record-.482 OBA in about 15 full seasons. He was an All-Star 17 times, led the AL in runs four times; doubles twice; homers and RBI’s four times; average six times; walks eight times, and OBA twelve times. About the only blight was his .200 average in the ’46 Series, his only post-season work. Ted retired to Florida to fish and talk baseball in ’61 until talked back into baseball to manage the Senators/Rangers from ’69 to ’72. His first year he won AL Manger of the Year as he took the Nats to the team’s first winning record. He finished 273-364 in that role and thereafter did some informal coaching, some rep work for Sears, lots of fishing, and did the autograph tours. He amped that up in the Nineties when his son John Henry was his manager. Things got a little ugly around then with various members of Ted’s family claiming various rights to him and – after he passed away in 2002 – his name and body. Ted was 83 when he passed away that year and was inducted into the Hall in ’66.
Like Doc Cramer and Ted Williams, Tris Speaker was both a pitcher and outfielder while growing up in Texas. He also rode in rodeos and it was doing that that got his right arm broken twice and pretty much forced him to be a lefty both batting and throwing. After graduating high school in 1905 he enrolled at what is now Texas Wesleyan University where he played a year and then did the big self-push to local baseball teams and got himself signed to a local D ball one. Though he bombed as a pitcher – 2-7 in his eleven games – he did hit .268 in his half season and in C ball in ’07 he hit .314 and stole over 30 bases. Those numbers got him signed by Boston who used to do spring training in Little Rock. That town had a Single A team and in lieu of paying their rent that year, the Sox gave the team Speaker with a $500 option to buy him back. That they did after Tris hit .350 and got him pulled up for good later that year. Tris didn’t start terribly well at the plate but his fielding was pretty exemplary, partly from workouts with teammate Cy Young. In ’09 he took over center field and for the next seven seasons he averaged .342 with 34 doubles, 15 triples, 74 RBI’s, and 38 stolen bases a year. The year with all the hits he put up a .383/53/12/90/52 season to win AL MVP and also led the league with his ten home runs and .464 OBA. A masterful defender, Tris would play a very shallow center, cutting off lots of potential hits and putting up some big DP numbers for an outfielder, including two unassisted ones. Dogged by rumors he was in the Klan (also suggested by Tris in an interview), some fractious clubhouse relationships (including new star Babe Ruth), and a holdout, Tris was sent to Cleveland after the ’15 season for Sam Jones, Fred Thomas, and cash. In his eleven seasons with the Tribe, Tris stepped up most of his numbers, posting average seasons of .354/44/10/81/14 while also managing the team every year from ’19 to ’26, going 617-520 during that time and bringing home a Series title in ’20. After the ’26 season Tris and Ty Cobb were accused of throwing a game several years earlier by a former teammate and each was basically forced from his team by the league (the accusation was proven unfounded). Speaker was signed immediately by the Senators for whom he hit .327 and then finished out his career in ’28 with the A’s, joined there ironically by Cobb. Tris finished his career with a .345 average with a record 792 doubles, 222 triples, 436 stolen bases, 3,514 hits, a .428 OBA, and 1,531 RBI’s. He hit .306 with a .398 OBA in 20 Series games, winning three rings. He struck out less than 400 times and defensively is first all-time for assists and double plays for an outfielder, and second in putouts. He was admitted to the Hall in ’37. In ’29 and ’30 he managed and played – he hit nearly .400 – in the minors and also managed in ’33 for a team of which he was a partial owner. Baseball-wise he announced for both Chicago teams in ’31 and ’32 and for Cleveland from ’35 to ’46. He then coached for the team on a part-time basis from ’47 to ’58. Away from baseball he had his own wholesale liquor company and was a sales rep for a steel company. In ’58 he had a heart attack after a fishing trip back in Texas that proved fatal. He was 70.
Johnny Pesky (nee Paveskovich) grew up in Portland, Oregon, where after high school he continued playing ball for company teams, one of which happened to be owned by Boston owner Tom Yawkey. Johnny was signed by the Sox in ’40 when he was 21 and both that summer and the next he hit .325 in B ball and Double A, respectively. His defense at shortstop was pretty impressive as well and in ’42 he was named starting shortstop and set a record by pounding out 205 hits his rookie season. With that went 105 runs and a .331 average that had him finish third in the AL MVP race. He then departed the next three years for WW II duty and returned in ’46 to hit .335 with 208 hits, 43 doubles, and only 29 K’s in his only All-Star year. In ’47 he again led the AL in hits with 207 while hitting .324. In ’48 Vern Stephens and Billy Goodman arrived and Johnny moved to third base where his average fell to .281 but he scored 124 runs, his season’s best. He rallied to hit over .300 the next three seasons while also averaging over 100 runs scored. In ’50 he recorded his highest OBA at .437 and in ’51 returned to shortstop. In ’52 a poor start to his season got him sent to Detroit in a big trade with Walt Dropo and Fred Hatfield (among others) for Hoot Evers, George Kell, Johnny Lipon, and Dizzy Trout. With the Tigers his average bounced a bunch but he still hit only .225 for the season, and while he revived a lot more in ’53 with a .292 average while playing second, he was only getting in about half the games and he finished things up with Detroit and the Nats the following year. Johnny ended things with a .307 average with a .394 OBA and only 218 strikeouts in over 4,700 at bats. In his one Series in ’46 he hit .233 in seven games. He stayed close to ball thereafter: as a player/coach in the Yankees system ( he hit .343 in ’55); a minor league manager for Detroit (’56-’60), Boston (’61-’62 and ’90), and Pittsburgh (’68); an MLB coach for the Pirates (’65-’67) and Boston (’75-’84); and Boston manager (’63-’64 and ’80). His record in the minors was an excellent 664-583 and in Boston 147-179. After ’85 he held various admin and part-time coaching roles with the Sox until he was quite old, leaving the bench in 2005. He passed away last year at 92.
Earl Webb’s dad was a coal miner as was Earl by the time he was finished with school, which occurred any time between when he was eleven and 17, depending on the source. He played local and company ball in his late teens, primarily as a pitcher, and drew notice from several area pro teams but was too intimidated by what he viewed as big cities to go play for them. He got over that in ’21 when he was 23 and went 12-8 in D ball while hitting .282 while also playing outfield. In ’22 he went 8-6 with a high ERA but pitched well in an exhibition game against the Giants, who signed him the next year. He then spent two seasons on their A team where his pitching floundered – a combined 17-33 – but for whom he hit a combined .335 before a late ’24 sale to Double A Toledo - .333 – and a brief NY stint for a couple games, though he didn’t play. He remained in Toledo in ’25 where he was now exclusively a fielder and hit .329 with eleven homers and after the season was sent back to NY for Hack Wilson (?!!) in August. He got only a couple at bats before he was sent to Louisville, another Double A team, after the season. He hit .333 with 18 homers through August when he was sent to the Cubs. For Chicago in ’27 Earl had a pretty good rookie year at 29, hitting .301 with 14 homers while playing right field. He was pretty inept as an outfielder (by his own admittance) and the next year was moved to a reserve role, hitting .250 before being moved to the PCL in ’29. That year he hit .357 with 56 doubles and 37 homers in the league’s extended season (188 games) and after it he was taken by Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft. He then went to Washington and then Boston before the ’30 season opened. Moving up to the Sox he had a .323/16/66 year with 30 doubles before he exploded in ’31 with his record-setting doubles amount in a .333/14/103 year. In ’32 he didn’t come close in the power department to his record year and mid-season he was sent to Detroit for Dale Alexander and Roy Johnson and finished the year with .285/8/78 numbers with 28 doubles. His last MLB season was a ’33 split between Detroit and the Nats. Earl finished with a .306 average with a relatively ordinary 155 doubles in his 2,161 at bats. He also had 333 RBI’s and a .381 OBA. He spent the next four seasons in the minors, hitting well above .300 the first three and then left ball for a full-time gig in mining, both as a foreman and as manager of his company’s baseball team. He passed away from coronary thrombosis in ’65 when he was 67.
Chick Stahl was born and raised in Indiana in a huge family. He played ball in school and thereafter for lots of semi-pro teams while working a bit for his dad’s carpentry business. He was signed by Roanoke, a B team, in 1895 when he was 22 and for whom he went 8-11 with a 3.16 ERA on the mound and hit .311 while also playing center field. He was purchased by Buffalo, an A team, in ’96, gave up pitching, and hit .340 with 23 triples. He was signed by the Boston NL franchise, the Beaneaters, and put up a big rookie year in ’97, hitting .354 with 13 triples, four homers, and 97 RBI’s. His sophomore year was a bit of a discount with a .308/8/3/52 season, but he bounced back the next two seasons to average .320/17/6/67 with 30 steals. In ’01 his manager Jimmy Collins moved over to the new Boston AL team and Chick joined him and the next two seasons averaged .313/14/4/65 while still playing an excellent center field. Between those two years a woman he did not know pulled a gun on him and threatened to shoot him and then went away in a well-publicized trial. In ’03 Chick had a pretty much lost season as he broke his leg sliding and missed about half the year. He returned in time to play in the Series, though, and hit .303 with three triples in beating Pittsburgh in eight games. He returned with three healthy seasons from ’04 to ’06, getting all those triples the first year, and taking over as manager midway through ’06. But in ’07 he resigned as manager because he did not like cutting people during spring training and in late March he overdosed on carbolic acid, which killed him pretty much immediately. Only 34, it was always believed the death was a suicide and many reasons were posited: overall depression; the sting of being a losing manager – he was 14-26 in ’06; an affair with a married woman; and finally an affair with a guy friend who’d killed himself in the same manner a few weeks earlier and asked to be buried next to Chick. Pretty sad story.
Jimmy Foxx is covered on the Oakland page. The pitchers will get covered on the next post.