The Red Sox have, what could best be described as, a two tier system of recognizing the immortals who have called Fenway Park their home. The top-tier is the retired numbers. These are the creme de la creme, the pièce de résistance and they are honored on Fenway’s venerable right field facade…..
and on the outside wall on Van Ness Street as well.
They hang in numerical order, however the order in which they were retired reads 9, 4, 1, 8, 27, 6 and 14. The blue number 42 is Jackie Robinson’s number which is retired throughout all of Major League Baseball.
Ted Williams and Joe Cronin’s numbers were retired together on a rainy night in May of 1984. Ted addressed the crowd from a podium set up on the field and a very ill Joe Cronin was on hand but remained in a box upstairs. He passed away before the end of the season.
Ted (9) played 19 seasons, all with the Red Sox. He missed five years owed to WW II and Korea. A 17 time all-star, he was twice named the MVP. He also was a two-time winner of the triple crown, a six-time batting champ, and the last man to hit .400. (.406 in 1941) He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1966 and in his speech there intoned Major League Baseball to considered players from the old Negro Leagues for enshrinement. In 1971, that came to be.
Cronin (4) was the player manager for the Red Sox from 1935-45 and after his playing days were finished, he managed them in 1946 and 47 as well. A career .301 hitter, he was a five time all-star while playing in Fenway Park. He went on to become the Red Sox General Manager and the American League President as well. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1956.
Bobby Doerr’s number 1 joined the ranks of the immortals in May of 1988. He played for 14 seasons from 1937-1951 all with the Red Sox. A nine time all-star, he was elected to the National Hall of Fame in Cooperstown by the Veteran’s Committee in 1986. Often referred to as the “unofficial” captain of the 1946 pennant winning team, he hit .409 in the 1946 World Series. He was the Red Sox first base coach when they won the pennant in 1967.
In August of 1988, just days after he was inducted into Cooperstown, Carl Yastrzemski’s number 8 joined the roll call of Fenway immortality and was installed on the famous facade. “Yaz” was the 1967 MVP and an all-star in 18 of his 23 seasons. He played more games in a Red Sox uniform, 3308, than any player in their history. He is the last player to win the coveted Triple Crown, accomplishing it in 1967.
In April of 1997, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson became part of the Fenway facade when baseball commissioner Bud Selig retired his number 42 throughout baseball. Jackie had a tryout with the Red Sox in 1945, he didn’t make the cut. Yikes!
Carlton Fisk’s number 27 made its way to the Fenway facade in September of 2000, just two short months after the catcher had made his way to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. The 1972 American League Rookie of the Year, Fisk spent 11 seasons with the Red Sox and was an all-star seven times. And then there was that October night in game six of the 1975 World Series when his 12th inning homer hit the foul pole in left which now bears his name. His homer won the game, tied the Series and sent New England into rapturous joy!
The next number to be so honored was Johnny Pesky’s number 6. He is the only player to have his number retired who is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Pesky’s honor was a reward for a lifetime of achievement with the Boston Red Sox. Johnny has served the Red Sox as a player, a coach, a manager, a special assistant, a TV broadcaster and a goodwill ambassador. Loved by one and all, he may well be the most popular man to ever don a Red Sox uniform.
The last number to adorn Fenway’s facade of immortality belongs to Jim Rice. Number 14 joined the ranks in July of 2009 just days after his enshrinement in Cooperstown. Rice played 16 seasons with the Red Sox from 1974-1989. An eight time all-star he was the 1978 MVP and from 1976-1980 he was among the most feared hitters in baseball.
What will be the next number to join the ranks of Fenway Park immortals? Some things to consider and look for; when was the last time a player wore number 26 (Wade Boggs) or 21 (Roger Clemens) or 45 (Pedro)? My money is on Pedro!
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, February 16, 2012.