MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history. We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Boston Red Sox Mt. Rushmore
The overplayed drought of championships from 1918 to 2004 and the Curse of the Bambino have overshadowed what has been a very successful franchise. By 1918 the team had won five World Series and another AL pennant in 1904, a year there was no Series. Dark days followed from 1922-33 when they finished in last place in nine of 12 seasons and next-to-last in another two. But Sox fans have had much to cheer for recently. Even going back to 1966, there have been just seven losing seasons. They have finished worse than second place just three times since 1997. The Sox have made 13 postseason appearances in the past 28 years. And since the Curse was reversed in 2004, Boston has won two more titles (2007, 2013). However, the team has won 100 games in a season only three times, the last all the way back in 1946. The famous 1978 playoff game with the Yankees would have been the Sox 100th win had Bucky Dent not shattered Boston’s championship plans. The Red Sox pose a tough test in selecting just four individuals. Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski are easy choices. The list of candidates for the last two spots is long, and filled with strong arguments.
There is absolutely no doubt that Teddy Ballgame belongs here. The Splendid Splinter is also in the discussion for the MLB Hitters Mt. Rushmore. There may not have been a better hitter ever. His entire career was spent in Boston and was interrupted twice by stints in the U.S. Marine Corps — first in World War II then again during the Korean War. The 10 best on-base percentages in Boston history, ranging from .479-.553, all belong to Williams.
It isn’t easy to step into a legend’s shoes, especially at the age of 21 and a legend the size of Williams. But that’s what was asked of Yastrzemski in 1961. But 3,308 games later, Yaz had cemented his place alongside Williams as the two greatest players in Red Sox history. Yastrzemski won three batting titles, a triple crown, made 18 All-Star teams and earned seven Gold Gloves. At ages 22 and 38 he finished 18th in MVP voting. In between, he had nine finishes that high or better, including winning the award in his triple crown season of 1967. Sadly, Yaz never won a World Series, but he batted .400 and hit three home runs in the 1967 Classic and hit .310 in the 1975 Series. Overall, he batted .369 in the postseason with 11 RBIs and 15 runs in 17 games.
Big Papi has embodied the spirit of the Red Sox in the 2000s. Over his first five seasons with the team, he averaged .302 with 42 home runs, 128 RBIs, 105 runs and 41 doubles, and finished in the top 5 in MVP votes each year. And most importantly, the Sox won two World Series in that time, and added a third since then. He has 17 postseason home runs and owns a .455 average with 14 RBIs in 14 World Series games.
Rice is third on the Red Sox list in hits, total bases and RBIs. He and Hank Aaron (in 1959) are the only two hitters with as many as 400 total bases in a season between 1948 and 1997. From the mid-1970s to the mid-’80s, Rice was the most feared hitter in the American League.
Pedro Martinez spent only seven years in a Boston uniform, but he won 117 games, winning 76 percent of his decisions. He was 6-2 in the postseason, but made just one start in the World Series, tossing seven shutout innings in 2004. In those seven seasons, he won two Cy Young awards, finished second twice, third once and fourth once.
You would think any player with a foul pole named for him would deserve a Mt. Rushmore honor. And Johnny Pesky remains a beloved player to fans of several generations.
The Game 6 home run in 1975 by Carlton Fisk certainly is on Boston’s Mt. Rushmore of moments, but the catcher had a tough breakup and spent too much time in white socks.
Third in career runs, fourth in hits and total bases, Dwight Evans was as good a rightfielder as we’ve seen since the 1970s.
Cy Young has an award named for him, but fewer than 200 wins in Boston.
Bobby Doerr made nine All-Star teams and drove in 100 runs six times. He missed a full season due to military service at age 27. He played only second base in his career and wore no other uniform.
From 1935 to 1947, Joe Cronin managed Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, among others, to a pennant, four second-place finishes and 10 .500 seasons or better in 13 years.
Tris Speaker won the 1912 MVP in a Boston uniform. In seven full-time seasons from 1909-15, he averaged .342-6-76 with 99 runs, 34 doubles and 15 triples and a .909 OPS.
Jimmie Foxx made six All-Star teams and won an MVP with the Sox.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: