On March 19, 1961, the Boston Red Sox announced rookie Carl Yastrzemski would start the season in left field, taking over for legendary Hall of Famer Ted Williams.
Yastrzemski was signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox in 1958. He spent two-years in their minor league system before being called up to replace Williams in left field. During his time in Raleigh and Minneapolis, Yaz batted .356 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI.
When Yastrzemski first came up to the big leagues, he had a tremendous amount of pressure to perform as he was taking over the position of a Red Sox legend in Williams. He would fair well in his first season with the Red Sox, batting .266 with 11 home runs and 80 RBI. However, he wouldn’t really fill the shoes of his predecessor until 1963.
During the 1963 season, Yastrzemski batted .321 with an on base percentage of .418, was elected to his first all-star game and won his first Gold Glove award. Yaz would go on to make a total of 18 all-star games, win seven Gold Gloves and an MVP award.
In Yastrzemski’s MVP season, he also was awarded with the American League Triple Crown, batting .326, with 44 home runs and 121 RBI. He would also score 112 runs and get 189 hits, all which are his career highs.
In 1983, after 23 years in a Red Sox uniform, Yastrzemski decided to retire from the game of baseball at the age of 44. The outfielder stated in his autobiography, he had planned on playing in 1984 until his mid-season slump pushed him towards retirement. He also stated, if he had known how good of a pitcher Roger Clemens would be, he would of played one more season.
Over his long major league career, Yastrzemski hit .285, with 3,419 hits, 452 home runs and 1,844 RBI. Yaz was the first player to hit over 3,000 hits and 400 home runs in the American League. Yaz and Brooks Robinson are the only two players to play 23-years with one team.
In 1989, during his first year of eligibility, Yastrzemski was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 94% of the vote. He is one of the few Hall of Famers to succeed another Hall of Famer at the same position. Additionally, the Red Sox retired his number on Aug. 6, 1989.
Yastrzemski is a true legend in the game of baseball and took the pressure of succeeding Williams in left field and ran with it.