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Once Bloodied, Carl Yastrzemski of Boston Red Sox Is Now Bronzed

Yaz enjoys his day.
Yaz enjoys his day.Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Saul WisniaGuest ColumnistJanuary 7, 2017

I couldn't find my "Yaz Day" shirt Sunday morning, but that was okay. Someone else who spent the past 30 years saving the white tee with the caricature that more closely resembled Governor Michael Dukakis than Captain Carl Yastrzemski managed to dig hers out. It was the least she could do given the circumstances.

A statue was unveiled for Yastrzemski Sunday at Fenway Park, just a few feet away from the bronze likeness of the man he followed in left field for the Red Sox: Ted Williams. Yaz and Teddy Ballgame, together at last outside Gate B. 

After a week that marked the coronation of the 2013 Boston club—an immensely likable and surprisingly talented team that went from last place to an AL East title in one year—Sox fans got to take a short trip back to when the only thing atop the Green Monster was a net, and one man spent parts of six presidential administrations guarding it.

It had been a rainy morning, but there were far more cameras than umbrellas being held up when the festivities got underway at 11 a.m. People complain a lot these days about the "Pink Hatification" of Fenway, but it was definitely a hard-core, blue-collar crowd of several hundred that gathered around the roped-off area where Yaz's family, several teammates and current Red Sox players were assembled for the ceremony.  

Siblings Mavis and Jim McGetrick, standing right beside me, were a perfect example. They drove up from Providence wearing matching white Yaz painter's hats, each emblazoned with his uniform No. 8 on top and lined on the sides with some of the stats that helped define the day's honoree: 3,000 hits, 400 home runs, seven gold gloves and the 1967 MVP and Triple Crown awards. 

The McGetricks also came north toting a boom box of the vintage used by John Cusack to win over Ione Skye in "Say Anything." What did they have in the cassette deck? What else but "The Man They Call Yaz," the Jess Cain tune that flew up the Boston radio charts during the summer of '67 and was later captured on the "Impossible Dream" album found under countless Christmas trees that December.

Another guy behind the McGetricks recalled being a freshman at BU and heading to Fenway for four straight nights in September of 1979 as a slumping Yaz remained stuck on 2,999 hits. He finally got his 3,000th against the Yankees, a ground ball that skipped slowly past slick-fielding second baseman Willie Randolph on the captain's last at-bat before a road trip.

Though never proven, the non-play was likely one example in the long, heated Red Sox-Yankees rivalry of when respect trumped hatred. Number 3,000 was a hit meant to come at home.

His feats in '79—when he also had his 400th home run—were historic, but 1967 was clearly Yastrzemski's most memorable year. In addition to his league-leading 44 homers, 121 RBI and .326 batting average, he led the upstart Sox to the World Series with a .437 mark in the final 20 pressure-packed games of the greatest pennant race in American League history.

He played left field with style and excellence, diving in front of and against the wall and routinely nailing baserunners who dared to take an extra bag. On the bases himself he was daring but always smart.

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