Voting for All-Fenway Red Sox Team: Did the Fans Get It Right?
Red Sox fans have long been considered among the most knowledgeable in baseball, but could they be trusted to choose the best players to ever don a home uniform in the first 100 years of Fenway Park? The starting lineup and two teams of reserves were revealed before Boston's last home game on Sept. 26, and there were definitely some questionable selections.
Let's take a look around the diamond, and then let us know what you think.
Starter: Carlton Fisk
First reserve: Jason Varitek
Second reserve: Rich Gedman
Fisk was certainly the right choice. Even if the Hall of Famer did hit more homers for the White Sox, he was a perennial All-Star in Boston and a rock on the excellent near-miss teams of the late 1970s.
Varitek was a good call at No. 2, based on his durability, leadership and key role on two World Series winners, but the selection of the .259-hitting Gedman over Hall of Famer Rick Ferrell (a .302 batter in five Boston seasons) was a bit of a surprise.
Apparently fans were willing to look past the angst of 1986 to get native son Geddy—who grew up in nearby Worcester—a spot on the squad.
Starter: Jimmie Foxx
First reserve: Mo Vaughn
Second reserve: George Scott
The fans did themselves proud here. Foxx (who averaged 36 homers, 129 RBI and a 1.039 OPS with Boston from 1936-41) would seem a no-brainer, but the fact most voters never saw him play made his selection anything but a sure thing.
Vaughn (the 1995 MVP) had a great run of his own in Boston with a .906 OPS from 1991-98 and might have outpolled Foxx as the starter had he not left town acrimoniously.
Scott was a great fielder (three Gold Gloves with the Sox) who also hit for power, and he played more games at first (968) than anybody in team history.
Starter: Dustin Pedroia
First Reserve: Bobby Doerr
Second Reserve: Jerry Remy
This is a pick that makes you wonder how many pink hats filled out ballots. Pedroia is a fantastic, hard-nosed player with a Rookie of the Year, MVP and two Gold Gloves on his resume, but he's only played six seasons in the majors.
Doerr is a Hall of Famer who spent his entire 14-year career in Boston, was a nine-time All-Star with eight 90-RBI seasons and had his No. 1 retired by the club.
Remy, a Boston-area native, was a scrappy, speedy but oft-injured player from 1978-84 who has achieved far greater fame (and fortune) as a Red Sox broadcaster and restaurateur.
Starter: Wade Boggs
First Reserve: Mike Lowell
Second Reserve: Frank Malzone
Hall of Famer Boggs was the right selection as starter—five batting titles and a .338 average over 11 seasons says it all—but fans let sentiment get in the way of sensibility with their first reserve pick.
Lowell was a hugely popular player over his five years in Boston and was MVP of the 2007 World Series, but Malzone was a six-time All-Star with 20-homer, 90-RBI power and three Gold Gloves for Boston from 1957-59—a string that might have continued several more years if Brooks “Hoover” Robinson hadn't come on the scene.
Starter: Nomar Garciaparra
First Reserve: Johnny Pesky
Second Reserve: Rico Petrocelli
No argument at the top. Nomar's tenure in Boston may have ended badly, but he was one of the game's greatest all-around players (including a gaudy .553 slugging average) for most of his nine years in town. The fans were good not to hold a grudge.
It's too bad Pesky didn't live just a few months longer to enjoy his first-reserve selection, earned perhaps as much for his six decades of dedication to the team in various capacities as for his terrific work atop the powerful 1940s lineup.
Pesky and Petrocelli both split their time in Boston at shortstop and third base, however, whereas gritty Rick Burleson played only short—and played it very, very well for more games with the Sox than anybody but Garciaparra and Everett Scott. The Rooster belongs here somewhere.
Starter: Ted Williams
First Reserve: Carl Yastrzemski
Second Reserve: Jim Rice
The trio here is right-on and shows that fans can look beyond per numbers. Williams is the greatest player in franchise history, and he, Yaz and Rice gave Boston nearly 50 years of Hall of Fame excellence guarding the Green Monster from 1940-88.
Manny Ramirez had far gaudier offensive stats than Rice or Yaz and was a mainstay on two World Series winners, but his off-field antics and oft-abysmal fielding relegate him to also-ran status.
Starter: Fred Lynn
First Reserve: Dom DiMaggio
Second Reserve: Reggie Smith
The fans made a big muff here. Lynn was brilliant when healthy, especially at Fenway, and DiMaggio was a perennial All-Star.
Neither of them, however, could match the all-around skills of Speaker. Peerless as a fielder, “The Spoke” was also one the game's greatest hitters—with a .337 average over nine Red Sox seasons topped only by Ted Williams and Wade Boggs in club history.
Reggie Smith? A very good ballplayer, certainly, but not worthy of inclusion here.
Starter: Dwight Evans
First Reserve: Trot Nixon
Second Reserve: Tony Conigliaro
Evans was an excellent choice as the starter, an eight-time Gold Glove winner who hit more homers than any other AL player during the 1980s. But Trot Nixon as a first reserve is absurd; while a widely popular and gritty ballplayer, he was never close to an All-Star-caliber performer.
The oft-injured, star-crossed Conigliaro was a local hero and the ultimate “What If?” in team history, but three-time RBI champ and '58 MVP Jackie Jensen and Hall of Famer Harry Hooper of the great four-time champs of 1912-18 both deserve a spot on this list over Tony C.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
Pinch-Hitter: Bernie Carbo
Ortiz is the greatest DH in history (sorry, Edgar Martinez) whose clutch-hitting spearheaded the 2004 and 2007 World Series champs, so the fans got it right there.
Carbo was certainly a great man in the pinch—never more so than his two pinch-homers in the '75 World Series—but one could also make a good argument for Dalton Jones (a club-best 55 lifetime pinch hits) or Rick Miller (second with 49, including a fantastic 17-for-36 slate in 1983 alone).
No. 1 Starter (righty): Pedro Martinez
No. 1 Starter (lefty): Lefty Grove
No. 1 Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Starters: Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Dennis Eckersley, Tim Wakefield
Closer: Dick Radatz
Starters: Babe Ruth, Smokey Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg
A lot of questionable calls here. Pedro, at his peak, is definitely the top right-handed pitcher to toe the Fenway mound, but Grove is less clear-cut as leading lefty.
Ruth was considered the AL's best left-hander while hurling for Boston's 1915-16 and 1918 world champs and could also hit a little.
Grove's top years were already behind him when he got to town, and he eventually became a once-a-week hurler. Even their records (105-62 for Grove, 89-46 for Ruth) make this a bit of a toss-up.
Closer is another tough one. Papelbon certainly dominated for much of his seven seasons with Boston—including with the 2007 World Series winners—but in his last two years blew several big games.
Radatz may have been the most dominant pitcher in the American League, starters included, while hurling for awful Boston teams from 1962-64. Papelbon did it longer as a three-out specialist, but Radatz was a workhorse who routinely went two or more innings and in '63 alone was 16-9 with 29 saves and 181 strikeouts in 157 innings for a 72-90 club.
Of the first-reserve starters, Clemens and Tiant are sensible choices, but while Wakefield may be one of the most beloved players in team history, nobody can rightfully claim he was a better pitcher over a prolonged stretch than the likes of second reserve Joe Wood (117-56 from 1908-15) or Mel Parnell (123-75 from 1947-56)—who inexplicably, was not even a second-reserve selection.
Eckersley had just two good years as a starter in Boston and is in the Hall of Fame for his relief work with the A's and Cardinals. Like Remy, he is on this list because of his popularity as a broadcaster with the Sox.
The third reserves have a few sentimental choices as well. As wonderful as Jim Lonborg was in pitching the 1967 Sox to an Impossible Dream pennant, his entire body of work does not warrant his selection.
Ditto for Bill Lee, who was a cult hero for the college crowd and a three-time 17-game winner in the '70s, but not the equal of Parnell, swing man Ellis Kinder (86-52 with 91 saves) or World Series champs Ernie Shore and Dutch Leonard of Fenway's great early years.
Top Manager: Terry Francona
First Reserve: Joe Cronin
Second Reserve: Dick Williams
Francona is the easy choice, with two World Series titles (both sweeps) and six 90-win seasons in eight years. The others are far less obvious.
Cronin won more games than any Red Sox skipper but only captured one pennant in 13 seasons despite a team of All-Stars and Tom Yawkey's sizable bankroll at his disposal. One could argue that Williams (who turned a young 72-90 team into the '67 AL champs) or even Walpole Joe Morgan (division titles in 1988 and '90) did more with less, but all three should take a back seat to the man who deserves the first-reserve spot: Bill Carrigan.
The Maine native led Boston to world championships as a player-manager in 1915 and '16 and likely would have captured at least one more title had he not abruptly left the game in 1917 to become a banker. In addition to his managerial duties, he helped steady one of baseball’s best pitching staffs as the team’s back-up catcher.
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at http://amzn.to/qWjQRS, and his Fenway Reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @saulwizz.