The good thing about professional sports is that when an athlete does something spectacularly, he is normally given his moment of fame. Hank Aaron received his recognition for breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, Brett Favre has been worshipped for breaking all of Dan Marino's career passing records, and Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories have made him a living legend. When an athlete makes a spectacular play, he is usually shown on SportsCenter, and players are revered for their on-field accomplishments. So it’s strange that one of the most amazing seasons in the history of professional baseball could be almost forgotten. Carl Yaz in 1967 single-handedly carried the entire Boston Red Sox team on his back to an American League pennant, earning American League MVP honors along the way, and not many people outside of Boston know about it.
Carl Yaz was the team’s captain and the clubhouse leader of the 1967 Boston Red Sox, and he backed it up with his play. Yax put together the most spectacular season by any hitter since Ted Williams, earning practically every award known to man. Yaz carried home the MVP award, became the last hitter to date to win the Triple Crown, earned a Gold Glove for his defense in left field, was voted the Major League Player of the Year, and led the Red Sox to the franchise’s first World Series appearance in 21 years.
Yaz’s numbers were simply phenomenal, especially considering he did so in the middle of the biggest pitching era in baseball. Yaz led the league in home runs (44), and RBIs (121), and made a clean sweep of the percentages, topping in batting average (.326), on-base percentage (.418), slugging percentage (.622), on-base plus slugging (1.040), and adjusted OPS (195). He also finished first in runs scored (112), hits (189), total bases (360), runs created (150), runs created per game (9.90), extra-base hits (79), and times on base (284). He played virtually every game for the Sox (161) and grounded into just five double plays, one of the most overlooked yet nevertheless extremely important statistics.
The Red Sox won the pennant by one game, winning 92 for the season. The Tigers and Twins finished right behind, at 91 wins, and the White Sox finished with 89 wins, so essentially it was a four-team race down the stretch.
Yaz was the team’s biggest clutch hitter that season, as he batted .417 in the month of September with nine home runs in 96 at-bats, helping the Red Sox capture the American League pennant. He hit .396 for the season with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .367 with two outs. With two or more men on base, Yaz hit .373, and with the bases loaded, he hit .800 (4-for-5).
Against the teams the Red Sox needed to beat to secure a playoff berth, Yaz played fantasticly, hitting .356 against the Twins, .328 against the Tigers, and .296 against the White Sox. In the final fifteen games of the season, Yaz batted an incredible .491 (27-for-55) with five homers and 18 RBIs, not only locking up his Triple Crown and MVP, but also guaranteeing the Red Sox would play in the postseason. It seemed that the more clutch the situation, the better Yaz played, as he performed even more spectacularly in the final ten games of the season, hitting .541 (20-for-37) with four home runs and 14 RBIs. And in the final six games, he hit .619 (13-for-21).
With two games left in the season, the Red Sox were a game behind the Twins with two to play against them. In those games, Yaz played the greatest games of his life, going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in the first game, helping the Sox win, 6-4, and 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in the final game of the season, helping the Sox win, 5-3. In all, he hit .875 (7-for-8) and knocked in six runs in the final two games of the season.
In the World Series against the powerful Cardinals, Yaz batted .400 (10-for-25) with three home runs. Although the Sox lost in seven games, it was in no way the fault of Yaz, who would have clearly won the Series MVP award if the Sox had won. Yaz’s regular-season performance was spectacular, and his World Series performance was amazing. He even went 3-for-4 with two walks at the All-Star Game, for an on-base percentage of .833. The Year of the Yaz should go down as one of the ten greatest seasons by any baseball player in history, but it seems that many people have forgotten about how good Yastrzemski was for the Sox in '67.