November 20, 2019

The 5 Best Shortstops in the History of the Boston Red Sox- Excerpt From The Top-5 of the Boston Red Sox

May 13, 2019 by · 1 Comment 

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most popular and successful teams in the history of Major League Baseball. There has always been significant debate over who exactly are their best players of all time. I recently published The Top-5 of the Boston Red Sox: Ranking and Reviewing the Best Players by Position in Team History in both eBook and paperback form. This book will end all the arguing, as it definitively ranks and reviews the top-five players at every position in Red Sox history.

Here is an excerpt discussing the shortstop position.

5… Freddy Parent: Played with Boston 1901-1907, .273, 1,051 base hits, 18 home runs and 386 RBIs

Parent built his career off his superior defensive skills, but he had a solid bat and was a solid all-around player for the inaugural Red Sox and for a number of years afterwards. He played in the franchise’s first 413 games before taking his first day off, displaying his iron man side despite barely being 150 pounds soaking wet.

His best season, which was in 1903, coincided with Boston winning the pennant and ultimately the first World Series. That season he hit .304 with four homers, 17 triples, 24 stolen bases and 80 RBIs.

Parent’s final major contribution to the Red Sox came when he recommended that the team sign one of his teammates with the Baltimore Orioles in 1914; a young pitcher named George Herman Ruth.

4… Rico Petrocelli: Played with Boston 1963-1976, .251, 1,352 base hits, 210 home runs and 773 RBIs

Petrocelli played his entire big-league career with Boston. Although he only played shortstop for the first half he did enough during those years to merit placement on this list. He not only was an offensive force, but had a stellar glove, leading the league in fielding percentage twice.

The right-handed hitter made his major league debut at the age of 20 and was already an established regular for the 1967 Impossible Dream that made it to the World Series. He peaked in 1970 when he hit .297 with a then-record 40 home runs (for a shortstop) with 97 RBIs.

He shifted to third base in 1971 and played out the rest of his career at the hot corner. After retirement he worked in announcing and in minor league managing. He has also remained close to the Red Sox due to his work with the Boston Jimmy Fund charity.

3… Johnny Pesky: Played with Boston 1942-1953, .313, 1,277 base hits, 13 home runs and 361 RBIs

You know you’ve made an impact on a team when part of the stadium where they play is named after you. The eponymous right field “Pesky Foul Pole” at Fenway Park is named after the left-handed hitting shortstop for his notoriety of wrapping home run(s) around it, which is ironic given how few dingers he hit during his career. Of his 17 career home runs, six of them came at Fenway. Only one of them wrapped around the pole, but it helped pitcher teammate Mel Parnell win the game, who coined the name for the pole, which caught on.

Despite the lack of power, Pesky was a cog in Boston’s offense. He posted a .401 OBP during his time in Boston and scored at least 100 runs in every full season with them except one (when he had 93). He was also a fine fielder, forming a double play partnership with second baseman Bobby Doerr.

Pesky finished third in MVP voting his rookie season, hitting .331 with a league-leading 205 hits, two home runs and 51 RBIs. He then missed the next three seasons because of his military service in World War II. He bounced back, despite the missed time, by hitting .335 and leading the league in hits, on his way to finishing fourth in MVP.

After his retirement as a player, he served the Red Sox as an announcer, coach and goodwill ambassador for decades leading up to his death at the age of 93 in 2012. His number six was retired by the team in 2008.

2… Joe Cronin: Played with Boston 1935-1945, .300, 1,168 base hits, 119 home runs and 737 RBIs

Cronin was a star wunderkind with the Washington Senators, who became a player-manager at the tender age of 26 in 1933. Somehow, the Red Sox were able to convince the Washington owner, who was Cronin’s father-in-law, to send him to Boston in a trade for shortstop Lyn Lary and $225,000 prior to the 1935 season.

Cronin played for the Red Sox until 1945 and managed them through the 1947 season. During that time, he made five All Star teams, but failed to take them to the postseason. His best year came in 1938 when he hit .325 with 17 home runs, 94 RBIs and a league-leading 51 doubles. As a manager he lead the team to a 88-61 record and second-place finish, which was a pretty good effort for someone who was 31 at the time.

He was a strong defender earlier in his career but had regressed significantly by the time he came to the Red Sox and had become a little thicker physically. Following the end of his stint as Boston manager, he assumed the role of team General Manager and eventually was named the American League President. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956 in his 11th year on the ballot.

1… Nomar Garciaparra: Played with Boston 1996-2004, .323, 1,281 base hits, 178 home runs and 690 RBIs

Like a meteor, Garciaparra burst on to the scene in a flash of brilliance.  In his first four full seasons he won Rookie of the Year (1997), made three All Star teams, won two batting titles and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting four times. Between 1998-2000 he hit .323, .357 and .372, crushing the ball all over Fenway Park from the right side of the plate.

He also had power, hitting as many as 35 home runs in one season (1998) and was a solid fielder with a strong arm. He particularly enjoyed hitting at Fenway, as he dominated opposing pitchers to the tune of a .338 batting average in 502 career games there. A fan favorite who caused fans to scream “Nomah” every time he strode to the plate, he was well-know for his constant adjustment of batting gloves between pitches and for his fastidious approach to hitting.

Bitterly, his departure from the team in a 2004 mid-season trade with the Chicago Cubs as he had declined with age and mounting injuries (he played less than 100 games in a season five times in his career) was an ignominious ending to the former icon. Ironically, the players brought back in the deal were essential for the team winning the World Series later that year; the franchise’s first championship in 86 years.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

He has also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on baseball that are available on Amazon

Comments

One Response to “The 5 Best Shortstops in the History of the Boston Red Sox- Excerpt From The Top-5 of the Boston Red Sox”
  1. Vinnie says:

    At the time, Rico was the second SS to hit 40 or more in a season.
    Ernie Banks held the record at the time and still hold the NL record for the position.

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