.326/.418/.622, 1.040 OPS, 680 PA, 189 H, 91 BB, 44 HR, 121 RBI, 360 TB, 79 XBH, 284 TOB, 193 OPS+
MVP, ML Player of Year, All-Star starter and MVP, Gold Glove
There’s a simple reason why this is one of the top two offensive seasons in Red Sox history – most of us are likely Red Sox fans because of it.
We all know the story. A dissatisfied Tom Yawkey, never recognizing the team-building flaws that continually thwarted his efforts to win a championship for Boston, is tired of losing money on the Red Sox. Attendance is sinking – Fenway draws just over 800,000 in 1966, an average of just more than 10,000 fans per game – as is the team, finishing ninth out of 10 AL teams. He begins thinking seriously about moving out of Boston, leaving the Hub of the Universe with no big-league teams.
Then came Yaz.
Of course, the 1967 Red Sox were more than just Yastrzemski and 24 other guys. There was Lonborg, Petrocelli, Scott, Tony C., lesser lights like Jose Santiago and Lee Stange, and great stories like Billy Rohr -- all led by the right-man/right-time Dick Williams. It was a team effort to stay in contention all year, but there would have been no World Series – not even a hope of a World Series – without Yaz, whose record of clutch hitting with the Sox has only been seriously challenged these past few years.
Other hitters in Red Sox history have had better seasons than Yastrzemski did in 1967. Granted, not many – Yaz’s OPS+ for 1967 ranks ninth on the Sox’ all-time list, and no one's topped it in the 40 years since. But no hitter had a season like this at a time when it mattered most. My father became a Red Sox fan because he fell in love with Yaz and the ’67 Sox. He was not alone. The 1967 Impossible Dream season saved baseball in Boston, and Yastrzemski was the face, heart and soul of the ballclub.
The legend of Yastrzemski’s season – and the offensive exploits of the past 10 years – have served to obscure the sheer impressiveness of the numbers Yaz produced. This was the year before the Year of the Pitcher (when Yaz set a record for lowest batting average ever to lead a league, at .301), after all. As a team, the Red Sox hit .255/.320/.395 – and finished first in average and slugging. Six of the league’s 10 teams reached base less than 30 percent of the time. The league batting average was .236, and the league ERA was 3.23. Yaz posted a batting average 90 points better, an OBP 100 points better, and a slugging percentage 300 points better than league average. For a hitter to do that in 2007, he would have needed to hit .361/.438/.723 – an OPS 100 points better than '07 league leader and MVP Alex Rodriguez produced.
On top of the production – Yaz led the league in nearly every conceivable offensive category (he finished third in doubles and didn’t hit many triples) – there was, of course, the clutch. He drove in double the runs of an average MLB player with the same number of appearances, despite slightly fewer opportunities. He crushed the ball in September (.417/.504/.760), he raked with runners in scoring position (.331/.434/.662) and with RISP, two outs (.396/.540/.750). In the final 10 games of the season, as the Red Sox fought a four-way pennant race, Yaz hit an incredible .541/.614/.946 with four home runs and 14 RBI. He went 16-for-21 with three homers in the team’s final six contests.
Needless to say -- because everyone knows it -- Yastrzemski finished with the Triple Crown, the last player in baseball to win it.
Key game: Sept. 30. Facing a do-or-die 161st game of the season against first-place Minnesota, the second-place Red Sox tie the score at one in the fifth on a Jerry Adair single. Yaz then grounds a base hit to second, plating the go-ahead run. In the seventh, with the Red Sox up, 3-2, Yastrzemski seals the game with a three-run blast into the Fenway bullpen, tying the division and setting up Lonborg’s heroics on the final day of the season (a game in which Yastrzemski goes 4-for-4 with the game-tying hit).