Career Year: Carl Yastrzemski – 1967
In his first six seasons (1961-1966), Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski was well on his way to building the kind of credentials that can land a player on a plaque in Cooperstown. He already had won a batting title (1963), had led the American League in doubles three times, and had won his first two Gold Gloves (with five more to come).
Ted Williams in left field, Carl Yastrzemski had put together a solid six seasons unfazed by the Splendid Splinter’s shadow. But his best was yet to come.
He had weathered intense and uncompromising media and fan pressure by replacing Ted Williams in left field, and had even had an occasion when Carroll Hardy pinch hit for him (just as Hardy had once pinch hit for Williams – the only player ever to do so).
But Williams had brought an American League pennant to Boston two decades earlier, something Yastrzemski had not yet accomplished. With a Red Sox team that had been able to finish no higher than sixth in his career, it would take a super-human effort on Yastrzemski’s part to bring a World Series to Boston in 1967.
And that’s what he delivered.
He turned the 1967 season into his personal showcase, just as Frank Robinson had done the season before in winning the Triple Crown. Yastrzemski played like a man possessed, unfazed by the weight of the team on his back.
In the last 12 games of the 1967 season, Carl Yastrzemski hit five home runs, scored 14 runs and drove in 16. He had seven hits and six RBIs in the final two pennant-clinching games against the Minnesota Twins.
At the All-Star break, Yastrzemski was batting .324 with 19 home runs and 56 runs batted in. By the end of August, he was batting .308 with 35 home runs and 95 RBIs (already a new career high). And incredibly, the Red Sox – who had finished ninth in 1966 – were still in contention. In fact, Boston was locked in a four-team pennant race that wouldn’t be decided until the final day of the season.
Yastrzemski had a magnificent September, batting .417 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 27 games, almost single-handedly propelling the Red Sox to the pennant. In the last 12 games of the season, he hit five home runs, scored 14 runs and drove in 16. In the last two “must win” games against the Minnesota Twins, Yastrzemski went seven for eight with six RBIs.
During the 1967 World Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won in seven games, Yastrzemski continued his offensive onslaught, batting .400 with three home runs.
Carl Yastrzemski’s performance in 1967 earned him a Triple Crown and the Most Valuable Player award.
When the regular season had ended, Yastrzemski was at the top of the league in nearly every offensive category: hits (189), runs (112), home runs (44, tied with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew), RBIs (121), total bases (360), slugging percentage (.622) and batting average (.326). His Triple Crown leadership in home runs, RBIs and batting average earned Yaz the league’s Most Valuable Player award.