Thursday, January 15, 2009

YAZ Speaks Out About Jim Ed Rice...& More

Carl Yastrzemski, who survived a triple bypass heart procedure last summer, was thrilled to voice his thoughts about his replacement in Fenway's leftfield...Hall of Famer Jim Ed Rice. Who else better? After all, he is the greatest living Red Sox player, bar none. Yaz took over the outfield spot vacated by Ted Williams, himself a Hall of Famer. And then came Jim Ed. The following quotes were "borrowed" from an article penned by the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy. First up, Yaz speaks out on the Williams to Yaz to Rice leftfield progression and how each Hall of Famer stayed with Boston for their entire careers, a rarity these days...

"I don't think any other team can say that," said Yastrzemski, speaking over the phone from Florida. "It's unbelievable. And it makes me happy that we all played our entire career for the Red Sox."

Jim Rice said this about the master of the monster upon learning that his vote total was good enough to get him into the Hall, deservedly so...

"Most of all, my hat goes off to Carl Yastrzemski, because if Yaz had told Zim at that time, 'I'm still playing left field, I don't want to go to first base,' I would have been sitting on the bench," remembered Rice. "But Yaz came out in left field and said, 'Jimmy, I'm going to show you how to play left field.' Yaz took two balls off the left-field wall and said I could have it."

And Yaz said this about that...glowing words...

"It was very simple," said Yastrzemski, the maestro of the Monster. "You wanted to have his bat in the lineup. I just talked to him about the Wall. It had just been converted from tin to fiberglass and the bounces were more true. I give Jimmy credit. He worked hard out there. And Johnny Pesky hit him a lot of balls. Pesky did a lot for him."

Jim Ed then brought up the fact that when, as a rookie in 1975, the summer of JAWS, Yaz gave him a glove...

"Yaz played with only one outfield glove and I have it at my home," said Rice. "He asked for it one day and I said, 'I can't give it back, it's mine.'

Yaz' response?

"Yes, I gave him a glove, but it was one of the ones I hadn't broken in yet," he said. "I used the same outfielder's glove my whole career and I've got it at home. You could say it's pretty well broken in. It's probably only half of the size of the ones they use today.

Peter here. All I know is this...I've seen Carl Yastrzemski play Fenway's leftfield too many times to count. Any baserunner who tried to stretch a single into a "wallball" double was literally DEAD MEAT, seasoned and aged prime meat. He was the best leftfielder I ever saw while at Fenway. That's not a diss on Jim Ed Rice, it's a testament to Yaz...he was THAT good. Carl sums up his thoughts right here...

"I'll say this about Jimmy: He was overdue for the Hall of Fame. I couldn't understand that. One of the greatest things I remember about him came when Don Zimmer was manager, probably in 1977 or '78. We had played a game and I went into Zim's office and he'd already started to make out the lineup card for the next day. There were only two names on his card: my name and Jim Rice. Zim said, 'You two go to the post every day, so I put your names in there the night before.' I took that as a tremendous compliment."

Peter again...I've always loved Don Zimmer, even after he donned pinstipes. He knows the game of baseball, which is so much more than I can say about some managers of this era. But I wanted to stress that Yaz is feeling great after his heart procedure (he almost died) and has quit smoking. The longer he is around, the better. His 1967 MVP season, witnessed live by yours truly and SO many others, was a marvel to behold. Every time our Red Sox needed the big hit, number 8 was at the plate. He played the Green Monster like it was his own...after all, it was. He could play those line drives off the wall, catch 'em barehanded and throw to second base while the runner was 30 feet from the bag. He knew it, we knew it, but so many hitters challenged him when they hit scorching wall-banging line drives. And most of 'em were, as I said before, DEAD MEAT.

OK, I'm finished for now. It was so nice to relive the glory days when Yaz was in left, Dewey in right and Reggie Smith, number 7, in center. "Those were the days, my friends, I hope they never end." But they did. George Harrison put it perfectly... "All things must pass." They might have, they did, but the memories will live in my heart. FOREVER.

Here's to all of your tomorrows. I linked this post's title to the original Globe article. Just click on it. As always, BE WELL. L'chaim. Thank you for being here...your comments are always welcome.


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