It is quite possible that the best all around athlete that Fenway Park has ever seen was none other than Jack Eugene Jensen!
Jensen played seven seasons with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox acquired the “Golden Boy” on December 8, 1953 from the Washington Senators for pitcher Mickey McDermott and center-fielder Tommy Umphlett. My dad was not a big fan of Mr. Umphlett. You see he was the guy who replaced Dom DiMaggio and in my dads words, “he couldn’t carry Dominic’s jock strap”! I’m not sure if Dad knew that for a fact, but you get the point.
Jensen, made his debut in 1950 with the New York Yankees as Joe DiMaggio’s (Dom’s brother) back up. Some saw him as the heir apparent to Mr. DiMaggio however the arrival of some kid named Mickey Mantle in 1952 made Jensen expendable and he was shipped off to the nation’s capital.
Following his graduation from high school in 1945, he spent two years in the Navy before attending the University of California at Berkeley, where he excelled at football and baseball!
In 1948 he was a first team All American running back for the Golden Bears as he became Cal’s first ever 1000 yard rusher. The following year he led them to the Rose Bowl where he had a 67 yard touchdown run in a 20-14 loss to Northwestern. In his three years at Cal, he averaged six yards per carry! Come spring, he exchanged the pigskin for horsehide and was twice named to the All American baseball team. In 1947 he was instrumental in the Golden Bears winning the College World Series as he pitched them to a victory over Yale on their way to the title. The Yale team had a left-handed first baseman named George Bush who went on to do some other things unrelated to baseball. Jensen was the first man to play in both the Rose Bowl and the College World Series! And when he made an appearance in the 1950 World Series with the Yankees, he became the first man to play in the Rose Bowl, the College World Series and the World Series.
Williams, Piersall and Jensen comprised the best outfield in the American League for several years in the 1950s.
From 1954-1959, Jensen was an anchor in the Red Sox lineup. Usually hitting fourth or fifth, he hit .285 and averaged 26 homers and 95 RBI per season while playing stellar defense in right field. He led the American League in RBI three times, triples once and stolen bases. In 1958 he was voted the MVP becoming only the fourth Red Sox player to garner that honor and in 1959 he added a Gold Glove to his laurels.
As baseball headed west and air travel replaced the trains, a paralyzing fear of flying grounded the career of Jackie Jensen. He retired following the 59 season, sat out a year and returned in 1961. It proved too much for Jackie and following the 61 campaign he called it quits for good.
In May of 1982 he returned to Fenway for its first Old Timers game in decades. He was warmly welcomed by the Fenway Faithful and as it turned out, they were saying goodbye to the Golden Boy. Just two months later he succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 55. In 2000 he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame!
And so it was on this day in Fenway Park history, December 8, 1958.