Monthly Archives: May 2009

Farewell, Dom DiMaggio.

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The term ‘hero’ is tossed around lightly sometimes, especially in baseball when you hear about your favorite player being a ‘baseball hero’. The “Little Professor” was a true hero in every sense of the word. With Dominic DiMaggio’s death last Friday at the age of 92, it seems a bit of living history has slipped away too. He played for eleven seasons in Boston, and missed three full seasons entering the prime of his career when he went off to serve in the US Navy during World War II. Upon returning from the war, DiMaggio helped push the Red Sox into the World Series for the first time since 1918. In the deciding Game 7 of the ’46 World Series, Dom DiMaggio knocked in all three runs that the Red Sox put on the scoreboard. In the game, DiMaggio was removed for a pinch runner and replaced in the field by Lou Culberson. It’s not a sure bet that even DiMaggio would have stopped Enos Slaughter in his ‘Mad Dash’ that won the game and series for St. Louis. Without the “Little Professor”, the game may not have been as close to begin with.

In addition to his 7 All Star selections and a 34 game hit streak(snapped by his brother Joe!), DiMaggio was also a member of the last trio of Red Sox outfielders to hit at least .300 in the same season when he did it alongside Al Zarilla and Ted Williams in 1950. Ultimately, he was one of the remaining connections to an era that seems miles away. Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio are the subject of a fantastic book by the late David Halberstam entitled “The Teammates”, which chronicles the friendships of the aging players near the end of Ted Williams’ life. With rising stars like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and a bunch more on the current roster, a lot focus is on the greatness that Red Sox have now and for the foreseeable future rather than look back at who was leading the way years ago. Though DiMaggio last played in a game nearly 60 years ago, it’s a safe bet that his legacy as an American hero and a baseball hero are secure for the next 60 years and beyond.

“Just like the streak, I did what my job called for.” – Dom DiMaggio (1917-2009)

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Happy Birthday, Eddie Bressoud!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Following the 1961 season, the Red Sox acquired Eddie Bressoud from the new expansion Colt .45’s for Don Buddin. On the surface, the trade looked like a swap of light hitting infielders who both showed some decline in recent seasons. In hindsight, this trade was hugely favorable for the Red Sox, as Don Buddin was out of baseball following the 1962 season. While both players showed a little pop in their bats, it wasn’t until Bressoud’s career led him to Boston that his power numbers soared.

Eddie Bressoud proved to be one of the beacons of hope of Red Sox teams that fell even further into the cellar of the American League standings. In 1963 he became the first Red Sox shortstop to hit 20 homers in a season in 13 years, dating back to Vern Stephens’ slugging days alongside Al Zarilla and the 1950 Red Sox. In 1964 Bressoud was selected to the all star game, also the first Red Sox shortstop since Vern Stephens’ selection in 1950.

1965 is the most recent season during which the Red Sox have reached the 100 loss mark, and it coincided with the sudden decline in Eddie Bressoud’s abilities. Along with his decline, there was a promising rising start pushing his way into the lineup as well. Rico Petrocelli nudged his way into the lineup, where he’d stay for more than a decade. With Petrocelli showing flashes of greatness, Bressoud was shipped out of Boston following the 1965 season.

Traded to the New York Mets, Bressoud was again in a position of being the declining star pushed out by the prospect. This time, Bud Harrelson was the player who fought his way into the lineup. He too ended up staying in the Mets lineup for the next decade. The Mets sent Bressoud to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1967 season, where he served in a backup role at the age of 35 to the Cards starter at shortstop, Dal Maxvill. The ’67 season was Eddie Bressoud’s last at the major league level.

For his great years as the Red Sox shortstop in the early 1960’s, Happy 77th Birthday to Eddie Bressoud!

Happy Birthday, Al Zarilla!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

After the 1946 World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Sox began a long, slow decline into mediocrity. Despite the decline, the 1950 squad included an outfield unlike any that has been seen in recent years. An all .300 hitting outfield. Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Al Zarilla hit above the .300 mark for the third place Red Sox. In fact, the 1950 squad had .300 hitters at every position except second base and shortstop. The lowest batting average for an everyday player on the 1950 Red Sox was .294! Despite having only one pitcher with an ERA below 4.00, the Red Sox still managed to stay within 5 games of the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees.

When Al Zarilla was traded by the St. Louis Browns to the Red Sox during the 1949 season, the guess here is they saw the early returns and did not anticipate Zarilla would again come close to his career year in 1948. Initially, they were right. Zarilla’s 1949 season was slightly less impressive than his 1948 all star season. However, 1950 proved to be a great season for Al Zarilla as he set career highs in on base percentage and slugging to go along with being a part of the all .300 hitting outfield.

Perhaps seeing what the Browns did earlier, the Red Sox pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Zarilla to the Chicago White Sox for a pair of pitchers who wound up sporting a 1951 ERA above 5.00 between them. The trade proved to be a wash, as Zarilla’s numbers for 1951 missed their mark compared to his previous season in Boston. Within two seasons, Zarilla bounced from the White Sox to the Browns and back to the Red Sox before retiring after the 1953 season.

For rejuvenating his career with the Red Sox and being a member of an all .300 hitting outfield, Happy Birthday to Al Zarilla, whowould have been 90 today!