When Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933 he embarked on a two-pronged journey. First he began an extensive renovation of the 21-year-old Fenway Park and second he committed to restoring the Red Sox to respectability on the baseball field.
His first move toward respectability on the field was the acquisition of Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove from the Philadelphia Athletics.
Grove was in the midst of seven consecutive 20 win seasons including back to back seasons in 1930 and 31 when he was 28-5 and 31-4! Let that sink in for a minute, a two-year stretch when he was an astounding 59-9! And he had led the league in ERA for four consecutive seasons as well. Oh, and in his 62 starts in those two years, he threw 49 complete games!
When “Lefty” Grove moved his home address to Fenway Park for the 1934 season, the Red Sox had not had a winning season since they were victorious in the 1918 World Series. Not only that, but in 1932 and 33 they won 43 and 63 games, the worst back to back seasons in their history. “Lefty” was tabbed as the savior!
Things didn’t go all that well for “Lefty” as he came up with a sore arm in spring training and it dogged him all year. He went only 8-8 and despite the fact that the Red Sox won 13 more games than the previous year, hit the .500 mark at 76-76 and set a record in Fenway Park attendance, Grove felt the wrath of the Boston media and fans. Undaunted he righted himself and in 1935 he went 20-12, his eighth 20 win campaign.
Although Grove was clearly not the dominant pitcher with the Red Sox that he had been with Philadelphia, he still went 115-52 .689 in eight seasons in Boston and he won four ERA titles as well.
He pitched until the age of 41 and 1941 was his last season. In that last baseball season of innocence before the inception of WW II, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games and Ted Williams hit .406. Somewhat lost in the midst of that drama was Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove’s 300th career win.
On July 25, 1941 in a game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park, “Lefty” Grove pitched a complete game, 12 hit, 10-6 victory to become baseball’s twelfth 300 game winner. A dozen pitchers since have joined that elite group but none of them boast a better winning percentage than Grove.
Baseball pundits today will still place “Lefty” Grove in the discussion of baseball’s most dominant pitchers. His ultimate reward came on January 22, 1947 when, in his first year of eligibility, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown!
His place in Fenway Park history is forever preserved as his banner waves in honor on Van Ness Street, a reminder of his role in restoring respectability to the Red Sox in the early years of Tom Yawkey.
And so it was on this date in Fenway Park history, January 22, 1947.
My wife’s grandfather was present at Lefty’s 300th win. He was just recounting this, and how that he sat in right field, where a spectator let a rope down to the street below and hoisted up two buckets of ice cream bars, then “bootlegged” them for a dime each.
Brian…Lefty Grove holds a significant place in Red Sox history. The first player acquired by Yawkey on his march to return the Red Sox to respectability. Granpa saw the only 300th career win in Fenway history! Thanks for sharing!