In Memoriam – Bobby Doerr

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Bobby Doerr vs Yankees at Fenway Park (Bill Dickey catching), 1940 or 1941

 

A small tribute to Bobby Doerr, the “silent captain” and 9-time All Star second baseman who played his entire Hall of Fame career for the Boston Red Sox (1937-1951), the oldest living major leaguer, as well as the oldest Hall-of-Famer, and the last surviving major leaguer from the 1930’s, who passed today at 99.

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Doerr at Fenway

Doerr was one of the dominant second baseman of his era, at one point handling 414 chances without an error, but was also a clutch performer at the plate; although not a classic power hitter, he drove in 100 or more runs six times, was the Red Sox hits leader when he retired in 1951, and remains in the Top 10 in many offensive categories for the club to this day.

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Rookie Ted Williams and Doerr in 1939

While the legendary Ted Williams is thought of in retrospect as a somewhat stoic type that was all baseball business, Bobby Doerr (although only a few months older) was an early mentor for the young, wild Williams, who debuted in 1939, with Ted bestowing the moniker “silent captain” on the determined yet down-to-earth Doerr.

Doerr had one of his best seasons in 1944, sporting a .325 average and led the league in slugging, earning AL Player of the Year honors from the Sporting News, this despite being called up for military service in early September (which was unfortunate for the Red Sox, in the midst of a pennant race at that time). Doerr’s service extended into the next year, necessitating missing the entire 1945 season.

redsox46flagHe came back strong in 1946, finishing third to Williams in the MVP voting in the Red Sox’s pennant-winning season; unfortunately, while batting over .400 in the 1946 World Series Boston again fell short of winning a championship. The Red Sox celebrated their second base All-Star by giving him a Bobby Doerr Night in August 1947.

In 1948, the now veteran Doerr set the then record of 414 errorless chances noted above. While he continued to be consistent into the 1950’s with All-Star selections in 1950 and 1951, back problems had slowed him, eventually leading to him shutting down a month early in 1951, and at age 33, electing for retirement rather than risk more serious injury.

While Doerr retired as the Red Sox leader in many offensive categories as noted above, his career home/road splits were still eye-opening: .315 career at Fenway, as opposed to .261 on the road. And again not to be denied on defense, he led AL second basement in double plays 5 times, and held the MLB record for double plays at 2B until the 1960’s.

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Carl Yastrzemski and Doerr, on the eve of the 1967 World Series

Doerr returned to the Red Sox in later years as a scout and instructor, and fittingly was hired as first base coach for the pennant-winning 1967 season. He resigned after manager Dick Williams was fired in 1969. He returned as a hitting coach for the expansion Blue Jays from 1977-1981, eventually retiring from baseball for good to his home in Oregon. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986, and his #1 was retired by the Red Sox in 1988.

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Jimmie Foxx and Doerr in 1939

 

 

 

And now, some historic audio of Bobby Doerr. Vintage baseball broadcast audio from Fenway Park is quite rare, and only one known recording of Bobby Doerr in action at Fenway is known to exist: It happens to be from the earliest surviving audio from Fenway Park, Monday, April 18, 1938, Opening Day vs the Yankees. After being a part-time player in 1937, Doerr was to begin his first full season as the Red Sox second baseman, at the tender age of 20. Doerr slotted in alongside Hall-of-Famers Jimmie Foxx at 1B and Joe Cronin at SS, and batted 7th, against the defending WS champion Yankees, with a lineup packed with 4 HOFers including Lou Gehrig, of which Doerr was the last surviving MLB player to have played with Gehrig. Doerr went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, as Boston took their home opener 8-4.

The surviving audio is a partial game, only through the 4th inning (see YT link at bottom). But today I made a quick video of game moments from that contest involving Doerr, below. 1930’s audio to enjoy, as the last surviving MLB player from the 1930’s passes into memory.

 

Here is the entire 4 innings of the earliest surviving Fenway audio (and again the only Fenway Doerr audio). Unfortunately the first half-hour or so is marred by extraneous pops, clicks and pac-man (lol) like noises, but an historic document.

 

RIP, 1930’s. RIP silent captain.

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Sketches of Major League Parks by Gene Mack – From the 1946-1947 Sporting News

Hey all, similar to my recent post Visiting Major League Parks – Complete Set from the 1933-1934 Sporting News and the earlier Burns-Eye Views of Big League Parks from the 1937 Sporting News, this is yet another interesting series I discovered in the SN archives (the gift that keeps on giving) from a later era, the 1946-1947 seasons, cartoon illustrations of the major league parks of the day. As the others, I had posted them individually in their respective threads and now also as one post over at the Baseball-Fever.com ballparks area (as my alpineinc alter ego), and am now posting this series as one on this blog, for all to see and enjoy.

This series is complete, with 14 illustrations in all, representing the 15 major league parks in 1946-1947 (Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and League Park, which the Indians left for good after the 1946 season, are both in one illustration), for the 16 major league teams (parks were shared by two teams in Philadelphia and St Louis). There are 15 images total, including the introduction to the series in July 1946.

There’s really no embellishment needed on my part, the series is very enjoyable for fans of baseball history, with little nuggets of trivia sprinkled throughout.

The series in order:

Comiskey Park (Chicago White Sox)
Cleveland Municipal Stadium and League Park (Cleveland Indians)
Briggs Stadium (Detroit Tigers)
Sportsman’s Park (St Louis Cardinals and St Louis Browns)
Shibe Park (Philadelphia Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies)
Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
Braves Field (Boston Braves)
Ebbets Field (Brooklyn Dodgers)
Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)
Crosley Field (Cincinnati Reds)
Polo Grounds (New York Giants)
Forbes Field (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)
Griffith Stadium (Washington Senators)

You can click on each illustration to view larger size files for easier reading. Enjoy!

 

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Visiting Major League Parks – Complete Set from the 1933-1934 Sporting News

Similar to my Burns-Eye Views of Big League Parks post a while back, from the 1937 Sporting News, this is another interesting series I discovered in the SN archives from a few years earlier, during the 1933-1934 offseason – detailed articles of the major league parks of the day. I had posted them individually in their respective threads and now also as one post over at the Baseball-Fever.com ballparks area (as my alpineinc alter ego), and am now posting them as one on this blog, for all to see and enjoy at once.

The Sporting News’ editor introduces the series upon publication of the first article in the series, on 11/23/33:

“Fans in many major league cities have never seen the parks of clubs other than their own and are not acquainted with their different features and peculiarities, which, in some cases, have a marked effect on the batters of the home team and of visiting clubs. With a view to introducing these fields, the Sporting News has arranged for a series of stories and pictures of the various parks, which will be printed from time to time.”

Unfortunately, unlike the Burns’ 1937 series, to my knowledge, this series is incomplete, with only 10 articles printed and 6 parks of the era not represented in this series: Cleveland Municipal Stadium (Indians were back at League Park in 1934 when that article was printed), neither New York City NL park (Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds), neither Philadelphia park at all (Baker Bowl and Shibe Park), nor Griffith Stadium. It is also somewhat less colorful than the Burns series. However, it does provide greater detail and information on each park highlighted, and provides another interesting perspective of the ballparks and the state of the game from the 1930’s.

The series published was printed in chronological order as follows:

1. Forbes Field (Pittsburgh Pirates) – published 11/23/33
2. Comiskey Park (Chicago White Sox) – 12/7/33
3. Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees) – 12/28/33
4. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs) – 1/11/34
5. League Park (Cleveland Indians) – 2/1/34
6. Redland Field (Cincinnati Reds) – 2/8/34
7. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox) – 2/15/34
8. Sportsman’s Park (St Louis Cardinals and St Louis Browns) – 3/1/34
9. Braves Field (Boston Braves) – 3/15/34
10. Navin Field (Detroit Tigers) – 3/22/34

Links to larger versions are below each image for easier reading. Enjoy!

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Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks, #8 – Fenway Park

In 1937, Ed Burns, a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, penned a series of articles on every major league park at the time (15 articles in all, of 16 parks for 16 teams; the Cardinals and Browns shared Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, while the Indians played in both League Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium that year, with one article for both), which were also published in the Sporting News that year.

A very interesting series, especially from the perspective of 1937, and the hand-drawn diagrams of interesting plays and quirks of each park are wonderful. I’ll post them in order of when they were originally published, and one at a time to make things interesting. Click the Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks category link to the right to see all the articles together.

Eighth in the series, venerable Fenway Park, which, while classic today, back then had “no apparent reason for the outline of the field having similarity with…a tough jig saw puzzle.” Sounds like the complaints of the contrived designs of “retro” ballparks today, 75 years later.

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