Boston Sports Franchises: Boston Red Sox
April 6, 2011 Leave a comment
World Series Championships: (7) 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007
Retired Numbers: #1 Bobby Doerr, #4 Joe Cronin, #6 Johnny Pesky, #8 Carl Yastrzemski, #9 Ted Williams, #14 Jim Rice, #27 Carlton Fisk, #42 Jackie Robinson (retired league-wide)
Rivals: New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles
The Red Sox franchise was founded in 1901 as one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. For seven seasons, the team wore dark blue stockings and had no official nickname. The National League club in Boston, though seldom called the “Red Stockings,” had long sported red trim, but switched to all white uniforms in 1907, prompting the American League franchise to seize the opportunity to adopt red as their new team color. By 1908, the team’s nickname would remain the “Rex Sox” for good.
Playing their games at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, the franchise finished second and third in their first two seasons of existence before capturing their first pennant in 1903 and repeating such the next year. In 1903, Boston participated in the first modern World Series, beating the heavily favored Pittsburgh Pirates, winning five out of a best-of-nine series.
The Red Sox would not win another pennant until 1912, in which they finished with 105 wins and a club record .691 winning percentage. Anchored by an outfield considered to be the best in the game at the time, the Red Sox beat the New York Giants 4-3-1 in the 1912 World Series, the franchise’s third in less than two decades of existence. Another 101 wins in 1915 propelled the Sox to the 1915 World Series, in which they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. The emergence of star pitcher and future legend Babe Ruth helped push the team to a 1916 World Series win over the Brooklyn Robins, and again in 1918 over the Cubs.
In December 1919, owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth, who had played the previous six seasons for the Red Sox, to the rival New York Yankees. In his last season in Boston, Ruth had just broken the single-season home run record, hitting 12 in 1919. Legend has it that Frazee completed the controversial sale in order to finance a Broadway play he had ownership in. Additionally, profits from the Babe Ruth sale, which was a straight sale that did not include any player trades, were utilized to help the franchise finally purchase their stadium, Fenway Park. New York achieved incredible greatness after the Ruth sale, whereas Boston played very poorly. Thus began the beginning of the historic rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Over an eight year period from 1925 to 1932, the red Sox averaged over 100 losses per season. However, the team’s fortunes began to change in 1933 when Tom Yawkey bought the team, and subsequently acquired one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Lefty Grove, making the team competitive once again in the late thirties.
In 1939, the Red Sox purchased the contract of outfielder Ted Williams from the minor league San Diego Padres, thus ushering in an era of the team sometimes called the “Ted Sox.” Williams consistently hit for both high power and high average, and is widely considered one of the greatest hitters of all time. Hi is currently the last player to hit over .400 for a full season, batting .406 in 1941. With Williams, the Red Sox reached the 1946 World Series, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Along with Williams and shortstop Johnny Pesky, the Red Sox featured several other star players during the 1940’s, and narrowly missed the pennant in 1948 and 1949.
The 1950’s and 60’s were times of trials and tribulations for the franchise. The bright spot in that era was the “Impossible Dream” of the 1967 season, in which the Red Sox overcame a ninth place finish in the previous season to win the AL Pennant. However, they ended up falling yet again to the Cardinals in seven games. Although the Sox were competitive for much of the late 60’s and early 70’s, they never finished higher than second place in their division, with the closest they get coming in 1972, when they lost by a half-game to the Tigers.
The Sox won the AL pennant in 1975, behind outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, catcher Carlton Fisk, and pitchers Luis Tiant and Bill Lee. In the World Series, Boston faced the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds, and dragged an exciting series out to a Game 7, in which they fell, with the Reds scoring the winning run in the ninth inning. The 1978 season ended in similar heartbreaking fashion, with Boston pushing the pennant race with the Yankees out to a one game playoff, in which New York won 5-4.
In 1986, the Red Sox won the AL East for the first time in 11 years, facing the California Angels in the ALCS. In a 7 game series, the Red Sox won in convincing fashion, and faced the New York Mets in the World Series. In a series made famous by the grounder that rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs, the Sox fell to New York in seven games, concluding the devastating playoff collapse and feeding into the myth that the Red Sox were “cursed.”
This “curse” continued to feed into opposing fans’ taunting, as well as the mediocre play of the Boston teams fielded in the 1990’s. However, around the early 2000’s, new ownership made big moves, acquiring Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, and Derek Lowe, most of whom were partially responsible for the turnaround of the resurgent Red Sox in the early 2000’s.
In 2004, the “curse” was finally broken, as the Red Sox won the first World Series Championship since 1918, ousting St. Louis in four games to win the title. This 2004 postseason was most notable for Boston in that they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS to win in seven games, the first time any team in baseball had accomplished such a feat.
The franchise achieved yet another title after the lengthy drought of the 1900’s in the 2007 season, when the team captured their first AL East title since 1995, enroute to victories over the Angels and Indians in the ALDS and ALCS, respectively. The Red Sox faced the Rockies in the 2007 World Series, and swept them in four games.
After winning two championships in the past decade, the Red Sox have done a tremendous amount of retooling during the 2010 offseason. Stay tuned tomorrow as we discuss what is on the horizon for the new-look Red Sox of 2011!