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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.

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Right field – Jim Rice

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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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