Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Top Five Red Sox Players to Wear Number 1

So on an older personal website of mine I started listing whom I thought were the best five players on the Red Sox for each number. I thought it would be a nice thing to bring here during the down time before pitchers and catchers report.

Keep in mind as I make my way up the list that there were no numbers on Sox uniforms prior to 1931. So there's a whole slew of players like Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Cy Young and Smokey Joe Wood who aren't in this list. So no e-mails complaining about that.

The other rule is that I won't necessarily have five players listed. I'm not going to sully the list by including some hack that had the number for one year and played in six games just to have five names. I'll give all five spots to one player if I have to.

5. Bernie Carbo (1974-1978) - Bernie actually lost this number for a few months in 1976 when the Sox traded him to the Brewers for Tom Murphy and Bobby Darwin. But that December he came back to the Sox with George Scott for Cecil Cooper. And the less said about that, the better. He never put up stellar numbers, but he did have that great appearance in the 1975 World Series. For that alone, he deserves to be mentioned in this list.

4. George Kell (1952-1954) - Kell came to the Red Sox midaway through the 1952 season as part of a massive trade with the Tigers:
From Boston to Detroit: Walt Dropo, Fred Hatfield, Don Lenhardt, Johnny Pesky and Bill Wight

From Detroit to Boston: George Kell, Hoot Evers, Johnny Lipon and Dizzy Trout

It was a trade that really didn't do anything for either team: the Sox finished sixth that year in the AL while the Tigers were dead last.

Kell was a five-time All-Star when he came to the Sox. He went two more times as a member of the Red Sox in both 1952 and 1953. He replaced Vern Stephens at third, who had in turn replaced Johnny Pesky at third the previous year*. In his one full season with the Sox (1953), Kell hit .307 with an .866 OPS. He finished in the top 30 for MVP voting in the AL that year. His .307 average was fourth-best in the AL in 1953. His .972 fielding percentage at third was the best in the AL at that position in 1953 as well.

Early in 1954 he was traded to the White Sox for Grady Hatton and $100,000. He would retire in 1957 and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 1983. He also was a long-time announcer for the Tigers.

Fun fact: Kell kept Ted Williams from winning the Triple Crown in 1949. On the last day of the season Williams went 0-2 and Kell was 2-3. Kell's final average was .3429 while Williams' was .3427.

3. Eddie Bressoud (1962-65) - In his five seasons with the Sox, Bressoud appeared in one All-Star game (1964) and was in the top 30 for MVP voting twice (26th in 1962, 30th in 1964). For a shortstop he had decent power (averaged almost 15 homeruns per year). He had the sixth-best WAR for position players in the AL in 1962 (4.8) and the secon best defensive WAR (2.5), trailing only Clete Boyer of the Yankees. Following the 1965 season he was traded to the Mets for the immortal Joe Christopher. Talk about a comedown for a former All-Star...

2 and 1. Bobby Doerr (1938-44, 1946-51) - One of the all-time greats. A legend. The greatest second baseman the Sox have ever had. And he was humble enough never to say a single one of those appellations himself. "The Silent Captain" played 14 seasons for the Sox, the only team he ever played for. He was a nine-time All-Star. He finished in the top 30 for MVP voting eight times, including a third-place finish in 1946. He was named The Sporting News AL MVP and Player of the Year in 1944. He is eighth all-time for putouts at second base and 14th all-time in assists. He is currently 20th all-time in the JAWS rankings for second basemen. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1986. And if there is a classier, more decent man to play the game I've yet to see him. It's no wonder his number was retired by the Red Sox in 1988. It should've been done 37 years earlier.

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