The mystique encompassing left field in Fenway Park isn’t just about the giant “Green Monster” that towers above, it’s also about the players that occupied the position for over seven decades.
Playing left field for the Boston Red Sox has become a doorway to achieving legendary status over the last 75 years. From Ted Williams in 1940 through Manny Ramirez in 2008, the Red Sox have sent out Hall of Famers, All-Stars and all-around great players to guard the 37 foot high giant green wall that stands only 310 feet from home plate.
Think about this for a moment. In the 69 years between the time when Williams took over the position for the Red Sox and the time when Ramirez last played in Boston, the team has only had nine other regular left fielders. That’s 11 total—an astonishingly low number. Looking at the Red Sox players to have played left field for the most games in each season from 1940 through 2008, you’ll find that just six players account for all but five of those years.
Indeed, it’s been primarily Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Troy O’Leary and Ramirez since way back before U.S. involvement in World War II. O’Leary is the only non-All-Star in the group, but he was a solid fixture in left from ’95 to ’01 and a postseason hero in 1999. The other five have made a combined 53 All-Star game appearances. Williams, Yastrzemski and Rice are also Hall of Famers.
To give an idea of just how amazing the Red Sox left field run was, take a look at some of the other great MLB franchises from the same stretch. In that 69-year span, the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have had 35 regular left fielders, the New York Yankees had 34, the Cincinnati Reds had 33 and the Detroit Tigers had 31. Remember, the Red Sox had just 11.
So what’s happened to that left field luster in Boston? Since Ramirez was traded during the 2008 season, the Red Sox have had a different regular left fielder in every year since. Those four players—Jason Bay, Bill Hall, Carl Crawford and Daniel Nava—don’t exactly hold the same status as their predecessors. Jonny Gomes will continue this new, not-so-impressive streak in 2013.
The left field phenomenon in Boston is an interesting discussion to say the least, but it probably means nothing in the way of wins and losses. But then again, it would have been nice to see the Red Sox continue the amazing run of employing star left fielders. It’s somewhat of a shame that the Red Sox passed on Josh Hamilton. There’s a guy that would have fit the mold nicely, and as a bonus, the win-loss numbers would surely have benefited significantly.