Fenway Park's 100th anniversary team: Where do you put Ted Willams?

Fenway Park: Who are the best Red Sox players of the past 100 years? The Monitor goes outside the box to name its lineup.

By , Staff writer

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    Boston Red Sox players run to the dugout at the end of the pre-game ceremony as Fenway Park commemorates its 100th year anniversary before the start of American League MLB baseball action between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass., in April 2012.
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If you were selecting the best Boston Red Sox players of the past 100 years, would Babe Ruth make the cut? And what about Ted Williams?

No-brainer selections, right?  Well, not so fast.

If you voted in the online balloting for club’s All-Fenway Park 100th Anniversary Team then you know just how agonizing it was to complete the lineup card.

Recommended: Fenway Park: 10 questions about baseball's 100-year-old

The results, which the team announced during its final 2012 home game, should fuel some arguments, especially at certain positions. Left field in particular is a tough call given the presence of three Hall of Famers on the ballot: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice.

Who would you choose?

Creating such a straight-laced, by-the-book ballot seems unnecessarily rigid, which is why the Monitor has scrapped it to name an All-Fenway team that takes some liberties in making out its lineup.

So here's our custom All-Fenway Park Centennial Team:

Right-handed pitcher – Roger Clemens

Obviously there’s potential for controversy here. Although cleared of perjury charges recently, Clemens hasn’t convinced everybody that he was “clean” throughout his 24-year career.  But given that the All-Fenway team should be about what a player did in a Red Sox uniform, Clemens is our man.  If he ever did take steroids, it allegedly wasn’t until long after he left Boston.

While some might argue that Pedro Martinez deserves the nod for stretches of white-hot pitching brilliance, Clemens deserves the edge with three Cy Young Awards while in Boston compared with Pedro’s two. Clemens also had three 20-win seasons to Pedro’s two.  By the way, Cy Young himself pitched for the Red Sox and would be in the discussion had his career in Red Sox flannels not ended in 1908, four years before Fenway Park opened.  

Left-handed pitcher – Babe Ruth

Making Babe the southpaw hurling selection might seem odd, but it’s really not. He started his career as a pitcher, and a very good one, and didn’t become a slugging outfielder until traded to the Yankees. With Boston, he turned in back-to-back seasons with 23 and 24 wins. His winning percentage during six seasons was .659 and his earned-run average an impressively low 2.19.

Fellow southpaw Lefty Grove made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, but his greatest seasons came in the first part of 17-year career in which he played for the Philadelphia Athletics. In Ruth’s favor, it should be added, he had it all over Lefty as a hitting pitcher. In a Red Sox uniform, Ruth batted .300 or better four times, while Lefty’s best batting average during eight Boston seasons was a measly .162.

Catcher – Carlton Fisk

Fisk is a lock as the All-Fenway catcher. He actually played for the White Sox longer (13 seasons compared with 11 in Boston), but he will forever be envisioned wearing a Red Sox uniform, waving fair his famous game-winning home run during the 1975 World Series. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Fisk is in the Hall of Fame and is a New England native. Jason Varitek also enjoys solid credentials as a Red Sox captain on two World Series championship teams, plus he is the only catcher to ever be behind the plate for four no-hitters.

First base – Jimmie Foxx

One challenge in choosing an all-century team of any kind is that careers from the distant past are fuzzy if not forgotten. Jimmie Foxx is in the nearly forgotten category, but the unusual spelling of his name has helped keep his name, if not his achievements, alive. As regards the latter, during seven years with the Red Sox he batted. .320 and had 222 home runs, including 50 in 1938.

Second base – Dustin Pedroia

This may be the toughest position of all to pick the starter. The franchise’s current second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, has “future Hall of Famer” stamped all over him, while his leading rival, Bobby Doerr, is already enshrined in Cooperstown, although selected by the Veterans Committee in 1986.  Doerr, a teammate of Ted Williams, played his entire 14-year career with Boston and flashed exceptional power for a second baseman, with 223 home runs. Pedroia, at 5 ft. 8 in., is even shorter than the 5 ft. 11 in. Doerr, yet possesses uncanny swing-from-the-heels power.  He’s the sort of guy who would run through a brick wall to win. His skill has already earned him American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, a Most Valuable Player award in 2008, and Gold Gloves in 2008 and 2011.

Third base –  Wade Boggs

This is one of the least competitive spots in the lineup. As the only Hall of Famer in the mix, Boggs has the hot corner sewn up. Because of his all-around contributions to two World Series champions, Mike Lowell, who retired after the 2010 season, naturally remains a favorite of many current fans. Still, there have been few better hitters in the modern era than Boggs. He finished his 18 years in the majors with a spectacular .328 batting average, five batting titles, and even two Gold Gloves, although those were earned while he played for the Yankees.

Shortstop – Nomar Garciaparra

Boston has had its share of talented and popular shortstops, including one of the most beloved of all alums, Johnny Pesky, and Joe Cronin, a seven-time All-Star who became the team’s successful manager in the 1930s and 1940s.  Overall, however, it’s hard to pick against Garciaparra, even though his excessive batting rituals were a major distraction. Nomar’s .313 lifetime batting average is easily the best of all Fenway anniversary shortstop candidates, and besides hitting for average (he led the American League twice), the Georgia Tech product was a genuine slugger, with 30- and 35-home run seasons in Boston.

Left field – Carl Yastrzemski

How do you keep Ted Williams out of left field? You replace him with his successor, who mastered the art of playing in front of Fenway’s Green Monster and is generally considered the better fielder of the two. Williams stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time and certainly ranks as one of Boston’s most iconic sports figures.  He deserves to be in the lineup (keep reading), but Yaz has seven Gold Gloves, the sixth-most hits in baseball history, and is the player best qualified to patrol left field.

Right field – Jim Rice

Jim Rice spent his career in left field, as Yaz’s successor, but to get him into the lineup we’re moving him to right.  This surely will make fans of Dwight Evans howl, since Evans was an eight-time Gold Glover and arguably one of the best defensive players of his day. Rice, however, owns the distinction of being in the Hall of Fame, even if he did need to wait the maximum number of years to get in. Rice’s credentials certainly merit a spot on the All-Fenway team: .298 batting average, 382 homers, 1,451 RBIs, eight All-Star selections, and the 1978 Most Valuable Player award.

Center field – Tris Speaker

It hurts to leave Dom DiMaggio, “the Little Professor,” out of the starting lineup, because he spent a lifetime as the overshadowed DiMaggio brother, and he was an excellent player in his own right. But how can you not pick Tris Speaker? A refresher course, we assume, is order. Speaker wound up his 22-year career with an astounding .345 batting average, the fifth-highest of all time. He also has the fifth most hits of all time (3,514), putting him just ahead Yaz. Many of Speaker’s hits, it should be pointed out, were collected with in Cleveland, where he spent more than half of his career. As a fielder, Speaker was none for playing shallow in center field in order to take away as many hits as possible.

Designated hitter – Ted Williams

You knew there had to be a spot for Williams somewhere, and fortunately, since his career ended, the American League has created the DH. This seems the perfect place for The Splendid Splinter, who was the ultimate student of hitting. Perhaps no one ever had a better or more-disciplined eye for the strike zone. And even teams that used the “Williams shift” to try to defend against him couldn’t keep Teddy Ballgame from rapping out hits. He is the last player to bat .400, with a .406 average in 1941, and was a lifetime .344 hitter. 

Bench  – Billy Goodman

During a career that ran from 1947 to 1962, Goodman was the definition of a utility player, which is just the sort of guy you want ready to come off the bench. He saw playing time at every infield position, and occasionally saw outfield duty as well.  He was so good he made two All-Star teams, won a batting championship in 1950, was a career .300 hitter and an MVP runner-up one season, and batted .290 or better 11 straight years.

Bullpen – Dennis Eckersley

Truth be told, Eckersley didn’t become a relief pitcher until after he left the Red Sox. But once he began seeing bullpen duty with the Oakland A’sin the late 1980s, he became one of the best-ever at his craft, compiling nearly 400 saves and making the Hall of Fame in 2004.

Manager – Terry Francona

Francona’s eight years in Boston’s dugout ended, unfortunately, on a sour note, when the team imploded down the home stretch and missed making the playoffs last season. Francona was criticized for losing his grip, especially with some pitchers who were eating chicken in the clubhouse during games. Still, that doesn’t diminish what he accomplished, which was guiding the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 84 years in 2004, his first leading the team.  And Boston repeated the feat in 2007. 

10th Man – David Ortiz, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Kevin Youkulis, Dwight Evans.

The fan balloting called for selection of a "Bench" player, with the Top 5 second-place finishers at all positions designated as "10th Man" honorees. When the All-Fenway Team was finally announced, however, 28 candidates across all categories (including manager) were designated either as "First Reserves" or "Second Reserves." 

 

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