This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The amazing website Baseball-Reference celebrates its 10 year anniversary in April, and I personally can credit that website with wasting an incredible amount of time due to the expansive catalog they have of every major league team in history. Over the years they’ve added new and exciting features to give baseball fans everywhere new excuses to lose hours searching through statistics.
One of my favorite pastimes is connecting players through the history of the game. To celebrate the birthday of Baseball-Reference, I’m going to share one of these winding roads through baseball history. This may turn into a series, but it’s important to know that every road through history can take a different path. The path I chose here is just one of thousands that you can use to reach the same final player.
To start off the Trail To Teddy Ballgame, we begin with the youngest member on the 2009 Boston Red Sox.
Michael Bowden is a 22 year old right handed pitcher who has dominated the minor leagues in his brief professional career. In 5 seasons, he has an 3.15 ERA with a WHIP of 1.156. In his major league debut on August 30th 2008, Bowden held the Chicago White Sox to 2 runs over 5 innings. Aside from two dreadful games against the Yankees and Blue Jays in 2009, Bowden had a relatively successful late summer appearance with the club.
Michael Bowden played with Tim Wakefield
Bowden’s 5th career appearance came in relief during a game that was started by veteran Tim Wakefield. It also turned out to be Wakefield’s 387th start for the Red Sox, a category that he leads the franchise in with 388. You may or may not know that Tim Wakefield enters the 2010 season needing only 18 victories to become the franchise leader in wins. Though never the ace of the pitching staff, Wakefield has been a solid contributor for much of his 15 year tenure in Boston.
Tim Wakefield played with Mike Greenwell
Tim Wakefield’s first start with the Boston Red Sox was the beginning of a single season stretch of dominance that he hasn’t duplicated in any season since, except perhaps during the first half of the 2009 season. In his first 17 starts as a Red Sox, the team won 15 games and 10 straight. Wakefield threw 6 complete games, including a 10 inning 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners and a shutout of Minnesota Twins. In the first start of Wakefield’s Red Sox career, the lineup included veteran outfielder Mike Greenwell. Though they played together for just two seasons, Mike Greenwell rounded out his decade with the same team at the end of the 1996 season, and retired soon after signing a deal to play in Japan for the 1997 season.
Greenwell’s first major league hit was a home run that came in a 13 inning walk-off blast that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was just his 7th at bat, and earned him just his second start ever the following day. In his third at bat of the day, Greenwell cranked his second career hit over the wall, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in an eventual 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays. It’s possible Red Sox skipper John McNamara was trying to catch lightning in a bottle for the third time when Greenwell started the first game of a series against the Detroit Tigers. Alas, Greenwell went 0 for 3 and started just 3 games the rest of the way. However, it’s worth mentioning that his career finished with a high note similar to the way it began. On September 2nd, 1996 Greenwell scored all of Boston’s runs in a 9-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners. He had 2 home runs, but came a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
Mike Greenwell played with Dwight Evans
The day Greenwell launched his first career home run would not have been possible had long time right fielder Dwight Evans not hit his 262nd career home run in the 8th inning to tie up the score. Greenwell’s emergence on the scene in 1985 did not pose a threat to Evans, and at the time probably not even then-right fielder Jim Rice. However, within 3 seasons, Greenwell was the everyday left fielder. Within four seasons, Jim Rice was out of baseball. An amazing aspect of the Greenwell-Rice transition is Dwight Evans. Arguably one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Evans was the everyday right fielder before, during, and after Jim Rice’s tenure as the everyday left fielder for the Sox. It wasn’t until the 1990 season that Dewey saw most of his playing time as the designated hitter. His Hall of Fame status is likely a discussion for another day!
Dwight Evans played with Carl Yastrzemski
Dewey’s long career started in 1972 with a late September callup. Over the next decade playing together, Dwight Evans and Carl Yastrzemski combined to slug almost 400 home runs. The first time the two players homered in the same game came on April 14th, 1974 against the Detroit Tigers. Juan Marichal, in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, started for Boston and struggled through 3.1 innings of work. Luckily for the Red Sox, the Tigers’ starter also faltered. Evans’ home run in the first and Yaz’s homer in the 3rd proved to be the difference in an eventual 7-5 Red Sox win.
Yastrzemski spent his entire 23 year career with the Red Sox, and faced immense pressure even in his rookie season. It’s easy to understand why, as the future Hall of Famer was replacing the legendary Ted Williams in left field. There was another player who faced pressure and played alongside both Yaz and Teddy Ballgame. Of course, the pressure on this player was of a different, culturally important variety.
Carl Yastrzemski played with Pumpsie Green
Pumpsie Green’s best season in his brief 5 year career was during Yaz’s rookie season, when he hit .260 with 6 home runs. Though they never homered in the same game, Green and Yaz combined to be an offensive force several times throughout the 1961 season.
Pumpsie Green played with Ted Williams
Pumpsie Green’s major league debut on July 21st, 1959 marked an end to Boston’s title as the lone team that had yet to integrate their roster, an incredible 12 seasons after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. While Green played primarily in a backup role, one of his 12 career home runs as a member of the Red Sox was in a game against the New York Yankees that Ted Williams also homered. Green’s 1st inning homer on September 6th, 1960 and Ted Williams 2 run bomb in the 5th accounted for three runs in an eventual 7-1 victory over the Yanks.
It’s fitting that Pumpsie Green connects the current Red Sox to the greatest hitter is Red Sox history, because Williams famously called for recognition of Negro League players during his Hall of Fame induction speech. His support for players such a Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson played a major role in the eventual induction of these players and more in the ensuing years.
Bonus, Michael Bowden to the 1927 New York Yankees: Ted Williams played with Cedric Durst
The Red Sox signed Ted Williams in 1936 and sent him to play for the Double-A affiliate San Diego Padres. Williams played alongside many future MLB players including Vince DiMaggio and longtime friend Bobby Doerr. By 1936, Cedric Durst was 6 years removed from his most reason season at the MLB level. He helped Ted Williams at the Padres to their 1937 Pacific League Championship. At the Major League level, Durst was a member of the ‘Murderer’s Row’ New York Yankees championship team of 1927.
Bonus Bonus, Michael Bowden to the 1918 Boston Red Sox: Cedric Durst played with Jack Stansbury
In 1921, Cedric Durst hit .274 as an outfielder with the unaffiliated Beaumont Exporters. The Exporters had several future and past MLB players, including Jack Stansbury. Stansbury was 3 years removed from his last MLB at bat when he played with the Exporters. The interesting point here is that Jack Stansbury’s only major league time took place while with the 1918 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Between June and the end of July, Stansbury hit .128 over 20 games with the team that would not make another World Series appearance until Ted Williams’ 7th season at the major league level.