Carl Yastrzemski (pronounced ) (born August 22, 1939 in Southampton, New York, United States) was a Major League Baseball player of Polish origin. He had an excellent 23-year career, playing only for the Boston Red Sox. Primarily a left fielder, he played some first base and served as a designated hitter as he aged.
Raised on his father's potato farm, "Yaz" attended Notre Dame briefly before embarking on his baseball career and began his major-league career in 1961. From the beginning, there was tremendous pressure on him to perform, as he succeeded to the position of Sox legend Ted Williams. He would prove to be a worthy successor at the plate, and a far superior defensive player.
His first two years were viewed as solid but unspectacular. However, he emerged as a rising star in 1963, winning the American League batting championship with a batting average of .321, and also leading the league in doubles and walks.
Yastrzemski enjoyed his best season in 1967, when he won the American League Triple Crown with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs (tied with Harmon Killebrew) and 121 RBI. He is the last hitter to have won the Triple Crown as of the 2005 season (five different pitchers have since won the pitchers' version). He was voted Most Valuable Player almost unanimously (one voter chose C├ęsar Tovar of the Twins).
1967 was the season of the "Impossible Dream" for the Red Sox (referring to the hit song from the musical play Man of La Mancha), who rebounded from a ninth-place finish a year before to win the American League pennant. With the Red Sox battling as part of a four-team pennant race, Yastrzemski collected 13 hits in 21 at bats (a .619 batting average)over the last six games of the season. The Red Sox lost the World Series four games to three to the St. Louis Cardinals, losing three times to Bob Gibson. In that season, Yastrzemski also won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award.
In 1968 Yastrzemski again won the batting championship. Because of the competitive advantages pitchers enjoyed between 1963 and 1968 (prior to the lowering of the pitcher's mound), Yastrzemski's .301 mark in "The Year of the Pitcher" is the lowest average of any batting champion in major league history. He had many more strong seasons, consistently finishing in the top ten in the league in many statistical categories.
Yastrzemski and the Boston Red Sox would suffer another World Series loss in 1975, losing four games to three to the Cincinnati Reds. Yaz made the final out in Game 7 on a fly out to center, trailing by one run. Coincidentally, he also made the final out of the 1978 AL East division one-game playoff with a foul pop to third base. This game featured Bucky Dent's famous shocking homer (although Reggie Jackson's home run was the eventual winning run). It should be pointed out earlier in the game, Yastrzemski hit a homer off left handed pitcher Ron Guidry who was having a career year.(25 wins, 3 loses and a 1.74 ERA.)
Yastrzemski retired in 1983 at the age of 44. No player has had a longer career with only one team. His final career statistics include 3308 games played (second all-time), 452 home runs, 1844 RBI, and a batting average of .285. He had 1845 walks in his career, sixth all-time. Yaz was the first player to ever collect over 3,000 hits and 400 home runs solely in the American League, the feat has since been accomplished by Cal Ripken Jr..
Yaz was well-known for his batting stance, holding his bat exceptionally high, giving his swing a large, dramatic arc, and more power at the plate. However, in his later years, he adjusted his stance and held the bat lower.
An eighteen-time All-Star, Yastrzemski was an outstanding defensive player. He mastered the art of playing the tricky bounces that result from line drives hitting Fenway's Green Monster, and won seven Gold Glove Awards in his career.
A record album of the Red Sox's 1967 season, aptly titled "The Impossible Dream", featured a song of praise for "The man they call Yaz", which included the line "Although 'Yastrzemski' is a lengthy name / It fits quite nicely in our Hall of Fame". As one of the top players of his era, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, with the support of 94f voters.
In his career with the Red Sox, he wore uniform number 8 from start to finish. The Red Sox retired this number after Yaz was elected to the Hall of Fame. He is currently a roving instructor with the Red Sox.