Boston Red Sox: The 5 Greatest First Basemen in Team History

Andrew MartinCorrespondent IIIApril 18, 2013

Boston Red Sox: The 5 Greatest First Basemen in Team History

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    The Boston Red Sox have had many outstanding players in their history. Having recently ranked the catchers, it’s time I move on to the five greatest first basemen in the history of the team.

    Current first baseman Mike Napoli is in his first full season playing the position. While he has had an excellent start to the season, he has a long way to go if he ever wants to be mentioned in the same breath as other legendary Boston first-sackers.

    Qualifying as an all-time great Boston first baseman is not just about statistics and awards. It’s also about contributing to the team in other ways and the legacy left behind.

    Click through to see the five greatest first basemen in the history of the Red Sox. 

5. Pete Runnels

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    Played for Boston: 1958-1962 

    Boston Stats: 732 G, .320 BA, 29 HR, 249 RBI, 825 H, 378 BB 

    Even though the left-handed hitting Runnels spent several seasons (1958-1960) in Boston as the team’s primary second baseman, he also played enough at first to qualify for fifth place this list.

    Even when he started at other positions, he spent plenty of time at first because of his versatile defensive ability. In his years as a second baseman, he was often shifted to first late in games to replace Dick Gernert, who was not nearly as nimble a fielder.

    In addition to his glove, Runnels was an even better hitter. He won two batting titles (1960 and 1962) and had a combined .408 OBP during his time in Boston.

    He is tied with Jimmie Foxx for fifth place on the all-time Boston career batting average list, behind just Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, Tris Speaker and Nomar Garciaparra.

    Runnels doesn’t fit the mold of the classic first baseman, but his contributions while in a Boston uniform make him one of the best to ever man the position for the team.

4. George Scott

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    Played for Boston: 1966-1971, 1977-1979

    Boston Stats: 1,192 G, .257 BA, 154 HR, 562 RBI, 1,088 H, 418 BB 

    “Boomer” hit 27 home runs as a rookie in 1966 and in doing so became the first star African-American position player in the history of the Red Sox. 

    He was a key player for the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team but endured perhaps the worst full season in major league history the following year, batting just .171 with three home runs and 25 RBI in 124 games. Fortunately, that was a one-year blip in an otherwise excellent career. 

    The quirky player called his home runs “taters” and often wore his batting helmet in the field as a precaution because a fan once threw items towards him during a road game.

    Despite having the physique of a lumbering slugger, Scott was actually a graceful fielder and won three of his eight career Gold Gloves in the field for the Red Sox.

    He was very popular during his nine years in Boston and in 2012 was named a second reserve on the All-Fenway Team by the franchise as part of the stadium’s 100-year anniversary.

3. Jake Stahl

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    Played for Boston: 1903, 1908-1910, 1912-1913 

    Boston Stats: 486 G, .277 BA, 21 HR, 228 RBI, 456 H, 50 3B

    Stahl came up as a rookie catcher for the Red Sox in 1903 before being sold to the Washington Senators.

    Upon his return to Boston in 1908, he became one of the best first basemen and managers in the history of the team.

    The right-hander struck out a lot for a player in the Dead Ball Era, leading the league twice with Boston. This included a league-leading 128 strikeouts in 1910, which stood as a major league record until 1938, when the Boston Braves’ Vince DiMaggio whiffed 134 times.

    Despite the holes in his swing, Stahl was also considered a power hitter and led the American League in home runs in 1910 with 10.

    For all his accomplishments on the field, he was also an excellent skipper for Boston, leading the team to 105 wins and the World Series title in 1912. He was relieved of the position halfway through the following season after a sub-.500 start.

    Despite his excellent play, some felt that Stahl took himself out of the lineup too often. According to Baseball-Lingo.com, the baseball term “jaking,” the refusal to play because of a real or imagined ailment, was named after the Boston first baseman.

2. Mo Vaughn

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    Played for Boston: 1991-1998

    Boston Stats: 1,046 G, .304 BA, 230 HR, 752 RBI, 1,165 H, 519 BB

    Vaughn is one of the greatest players, regardless of position, to ever play for the Red Sox.

    The bulky left-handed hitting slugger was a 1989 first-round draft choice.

    He came to national attention during the 1993 season when he hit a home run after visiting a sick child in a hospital and promising to try to hit one out during that night’s game.

    His best season came in 1996, when he hit .326 with 44 home runs and 143 RBI in 161 games while winning the American League MVP.

    Never a wizard with the glove, he more than made up for it with his bat. His .936 OPS with Boston ranks only behind Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in team history.

    He left via free agency following the 1998 season, still in the prime of his career. Unfortunately, injuries and declining skills allowed him to play only four more seasons after his tenure in Boston ended.

1. Jimmie Foxx

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    Played for Boston: 1936-1942 

    Boston Stats: 887 G, .320 BA, 222 HR, 788 RBI, 1,051 H, 624 BB

    Foxx, who is one of the greatest right-handed hitters to ever play the game, had some of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career as Boston’s first baseman.

    The Society for American Baseball Research’s John Bennett wrote that Foxx was traded by manager Connie Mack to Boston following the 1935 season after 11 years with the Philadelphia Athletics because the team desperately needed the money.

    Having led the American League in home runs in three of four seasons prior to coming to Boston, Foxx picked right up with the Red Sox.

    His best season came in 1938, when he hit .349 with 50 home runs and 175 RBI in 149 games. He led the league in batting average and RBI but missed out on the Triple Crown that year because the Detroit Tigers’ Hank Greenberg hit 58 bombs of his own.

    Unfortunately, Foxx’s success in Boston didn’t translate into pennants for the team. The Red Sox mustered four second-place finishes during his tenure but were overshadowed by the powerful New York Yankees.

    Statistics via Baseball-Reference.