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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Yankee Stadium Yogi

Returning to my blog after a long absence, but I’ll keep it short and sweet – on this day of memorials to the great Yogi Berra, a few rare photos of him at Yankee Stadium in the 1950’s, from various sources. Above, Yogi dons the tools of ignorance before a game against the White Sox in 1956.

 

 

Opening weekend, April 1956, either Saturday the 21th or Sunday the 22nd, Ted Williams steps to the plate in a pinch-hitting appearance. Yogi knocked in 5 over that weekend as the Yankees swept the series from the Red Sox to go to 5-1 on the short season.

 

 

Wednesday, June 6, 1956. Yanks beat the K.C. A’s 10-5 to improve to an MLB best 30-17, as Yogi goes 2-4 with a 2B and HR. Losing pitcher for the Athletics? Tommy Lasorda, who would only have 7 more appearances that season to close out his short playing career.

 

 

Friday, May 2, 1958, Moose Skowron looks on as Yogi catches a foul pop to help secure a CG 4-hitter for Bob Turley over the A’s, 8-1, as the Yankees improve to an MLB best 10-4.

 

 

Saturday, October 4, 1958, World Series Game 3, Don Larsen and on-deck batter Red Schoendienst watch Yogi gun out the Milwaukee Braves’ Bill Bruton on a bunt attempt for the first play of the game. Yankees would shut out Milwaukee 4-0 to get their first win in the Series, and would go on to win the crown in 7 games.

 

 

Nice shot of Yogi and Roy Campanella in action.

 

 
Yogi Berra Day, Saturday, September 19, 1959:




Yogi went 0-4 but caught Whitey Ford’s CG 4-hitter against the Red Sox. Likely unwillingly, Yogi would have more time to relax in that lounge chair that October, as it was a rare season in the Bronx with the Bombers missing the postseason for only the fourth time in his Yankee career.

That’s it for now, but to borrow from a classic Yogi-ism, thanks Yogi, for making this all necessary.

A Moment In Time – 7/12/55

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maysnewpTuesday, July 12, 1955, the 22nd All-Star Game, County Stadium, Milwaukee. Top of the 7th inning, AL up 5-0, one on, two out, and Willie Mays leaps at the fence to steal a home run away from Ted Williams, which would’ve made the score 7-0. In the NY Times: “…Williams stroked a powerful smash to right center. But Willie gave chase and just as the ball appeared to clear the wire railing, the Say Hey Kid leaped up to snare the ball in his glove.”

As it was an All-Star Game, there were many press photographers present, and as shown here, there were photos taken from all angles of this amazing catch, since no doubt there were many cameras already trained on Mays. Willie was flying high in 1955, as the reigning NL MVP, batting champ, and with the other New York Giants, World Series Champions from 1954. Unfortunately, the Gold Glove award was not originated until 1957, but it’s a sure bet that Mays would have snagged a few in the early ’50’s, as he in fact won 12 straight NL OF GG’s right from the award’s inception until 1969. Also, in the ’50’s and ’60’s, you could’ve almost renamed the ASG “Willie Mays Day” as he participated in the game in every season of his career, except his rookie season (in which he was Rookie Of The Year!).

 

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The American League could’ve used that clout by Williams; after Mays caught the last out in the top of the 7th, above, he trotted in and led off the bottom of the inning with a single, eventually coming around to score as the NL tallied 2 in the 7th, and then for good measure, Willie also singled and scored during a rally in the 8th as the National League scored 3 more to tie it. Mays did strike out looking with two on to end the 9th, however, sending the game into extras. Would the Say Hey Kid have one more magical moment this day? Perhaps, but Stan Musial had other ideas, hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the NL a 6-5 victory – with Mays on deck.