Let’s take YAZ, Carl Albert Yastrzemski, to be precise. Without his talent, Yaz would be an ordinary guy. With it he is extraordinary, not just as a player, but as the inspiring person he or any of us “ordinary” folks might be. That is why he inspired us. Did Yaz have the natural ability of Ted Williams, or of dozens of other lesser players, like his teammates Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Wade Boggs? Probably not. In his first six seasons, Carl was a serviceable player whose home run total reached twenty only one time. Suddenly, in 1967, Yaz led his team to the World Series with one of the greatest seasons ever, winning the Triple Crown (batting average, home runs, and runs batted in), and the MVP, winning forever the respect of everyone. Did it stop there? No. Carl whacked 40 or more homers thrice in the next three seasons, and went on to a remarkable 23 year career that included a multiplicity of batting, fielding, throwing, and team leading exploits which make his moniker, “YAZ,” ring down the baseball ages. That was accomplished by a singular dedication to be the best player he could be, a seriousness of purpose and desire to excel, which made him a role model we all admired, and inspired us to lead a more focused life. Of all players, it may be that Carl Yastrzemski best fit the notion that we identify with ballplayers because of all athletes they most resemble in size and background any one of us. Another player of that ilk is Ian Kinsler who wasn’t picked until the 17th round of the draft several hundred rungs down the ladder, but pulled himself up by his bootstraps a la Yaz to become one of the most prominent players in the American League over a 14 year career, capped by winning a ring with the Red Sox 2018 Championship team. Listen here to my retelling of my interview of the centered Ian in the third base dugout at Fenway Park when he visited here with the Rangers in the midst of a torrid batting streak. That meeting led to my joking offer to Nolan Ryan, then the President of the Rangers, to hire me as a Rangers magic maker for the coming World Series. How about baseballers off the field like Chaim Bloom, the astute Chief Baseball Officer of the Red Sox, who was the only one who believed me that I witnessed Teddy Ballgame’s 500 foot plus home run in June, 1946, prompting me to write a story about Chaim and Teddy, soon to be published. Another such baseballer is poet, author, playright, Sox Public Address Announcer, and raconteur, the gentle and talented, Dick Flavin, whom I address as “King Richard.” You’ll get to know him here. As you will meet at an event I attended, Mariano Rivera, Bud Selig, and Pat Courtney, Bud’s right hand guy. Not to mention brushing elbows there with Pedro Martinez and Joe Torre. I was also there long ago on that horrific evening when I heard “a sound never to be forgotten,” when Tony Conigliaro got beaned and blinded by an errant fastball. Happier times involved Juan. Marichal, the Cooper brothers, Mort and Walker, the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, Tom Seaver and his long ago predecessor, Christy Mathewson, and the unforgettable Rickey Henderson. They’re all here, so please listen and share.
People, Always People.