On This Day in Red Sox History: Jacoby Ellsbury Steals Club Record Five Bases in Single Game

On this day in 2013, Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stole five bases as part of a 9-2 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia, setting the franchise record for most swiped bags in a single game.

The record Ellsbury broke on that faithful Thursday had stood since Ellsbury himself stole four bases in a game against the Yankees in August 2010 to tie Jerry Remy’s single-game record from June 14th of the 1980 season.

Batting leadoff against the Phillies, Ellsbury, then 29 years old, got his historic night started in the top half of the second, when he reached base on a one-out walk against Jonathan Pettibone and proceeded to steal second with Dustin Pedroia at the plate.

Fast forward to the fourth, and Ellsbury was at it again, as the speedster singled with one out in the frame before swiping second once more while Pettibone was dealing with Daniel Nava.

In the sixth, the Oregon native perhaps took advantage of a rattled Jeremy Horst, who had just yielded a two-out solo shot to Jonny Gomes, and was awarded first base after getting plunked with a pitch.

Before Horst even had the chance to get too deep into his matchup with Nava, Ellsbury put his wheels on display yet again, stealing second and third base in a matter of minutes to tie the Red Sox’ single-game record for stolen bases.

And in the eighth, after reaching on a two-out line-drive single off of Phillies reliever Michael Stutes, Ellsbury etched his name into the record books by swiping second for his fifth and final stolen base of the evening. He also advanced to third on a fielding error.

By stealing those five bases, Ellsbury became the first major-leaguer to accomplish the feat since future Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford did the same as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in a game against Boston in 2009.

Heading into that contest against Philadelphia, Ellsbury’s OPS on the season stood at .691. From the beginning of June to end of the 2013 campaign, the speedy outfielder slashed .318/.367/.462 with 31 stolen bases to earn a top-15 finish in American League MVP voting.

As we all know, the 2013 season was also Ellsbury’s last with the Red Sox, as he inked a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees shortly after Boston took home their eighth World Series title that October.

 

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Raises Batting Average Over .400 for First Time in 1941

On this day in 1941, Red Sox legend Ted Williams went 4-for-5 at the plate with one double and two RBI as part of a 10-3 victory for Boston over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Entering that Sunday, Williams owned a .383/.473/.606 slash line through his first 28 contests of the 1941 campaign. The four-hit showing raised his batting average on the season to a robust .404. It would never fall below the .393 mark again for the remainder of the year.

Yes, when all was said and done in 1941 and the Sox finished with the second-best record in the American League, The Kid owned the best batting average in all of baseball at .406, securing his first of six career batting titles.

Over the course of 143 games played that year, Williams led the junior circuit in hitting (.406), on-base percentage (.533), slugging (.735), home runs (37), runs scored (135), and wRC+ (221). He finished just a handful of RBI short of winning the Triple Crown, but the fact that Williams was statistically the best player in the AL did not result in an uptick in MVP votes.

Instead, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio was named the American’s League Most Valuable Player, in part because of a mid-season hitting streak that spanned 56 games, and he beat out Williams by a fairly wide margin.

That may have been the case because at the time, hitting for a high average was not exactly a rarity in baseball.

By hitting .406 in 1941, Williams became the ninth player since 1871 to surpass the .400 plateau in a single season. Since that time, as you may already be aware, no player has batted .400 or better over the course of a full season. In other words, The Splendid Splinter is the last major-league hitter to bat over .400.

“I hope somebody hits .400 soon,” Williams once said sometime after accomplishing the feat. “Then people can start pestering that guy with questions about the last guy to hit .400.”

It hasn’t happened yet, and it probably won’t happen anytime soon, either. Since the turn of the century, the closest any player has gotten to hitting .400 was Nomar Garciaparra, who batted .372 in 2000, and Ichiro Suzuki, who also batted .372 in 2004.

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Enlists in U.S. Navy

On this day in in 1942, Red Sox legend Ted Williams enlisted in the United States Navy a little more than five months after Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese forces and the U.S. entered World War II as a result.

At the time of his joining the Navy reserves voluntarily, Williams was 31 games into what would turn out to be a superb 1942 campaign.

The Kid was coming off a 3-for-5 effort in Cleveland the day before his enlistment, raising his slash line on the year to a robust .319/.458/.611 to go along with nine home runs and 37 RBI.

Despite being exempt from the draft due to his mother’s dependence on him, Williams faced criticism from fans and media alike as his courage was put into question.

Still, even though he didn’t have to, Williams, who was 23 at the time, enlisted in the Navy on May 22nd and was sworn in that same day.

From there, the Splendid Splinter went on to finish second in 1942 American League MVP voting behind Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon despite winning the Triple Crown and leading the junior circuit in several offensive categories.

The Red Sox finished second in the American League that year, and in November, Williams was called into active duty.

For the next three years, in what would have been his age-24, 25, and 26 seasons, Williams never saw any live combat, but he did spend his time training, eventually earning his wings and Marine Corps commission in 1944 and attending flight school in Florida for a few years before being discharged in January 1946.

Williams re-joined the Sox that spring and picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He was however recalled to military service later on in 1952, serving as a Marine Corps captain and member of the first Marine Air Wing during the Korean War.

For more on Williams, click here, here, and here.

 

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Luis Tiant Signs With Boston

On this day in 1971, the Red Sox signed free-agent right-hander Luis Tiant to a minor-league contract.

Tiant, 30 at the time, had just been released by the Braves two days earlier after Atlanta refused to promote him to the majors.

The beginning of the 1971 campaign was eventful for Tiant. He had been diagnosed with a crack in a bone in his right shoulder the year prior and missed ten weeks of the 1970 season because of it.

Entering 1971 as a member of the Twins organization, Tiant missed two weeks of spring training due to a pulled muscle in his rib cage and was subsequently released by Minnesota in late March.

As previously mentioned, the Braves picked the veteran righty up on what was then called a 30-day trial contract with their Triple-A affiliate in Richmond.

That experiment did not work out however, as Atlanta eventually cut Tiant loose on May 15th. He was on the open market for just two days before the Red Sox acquired his services on the 17th.

Tiant’s Red Sox tenure began in Louisville home of the Sox’ Triple-A affilate at the time,, where he posted a 2.61 ERA over 31 innings of work, which was good enough to earn him a call up to Boston on June 3rd.

The Cuba national’s first major-league experience with the Sox did not go so well as he went just 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA over 21 appearances (10 starts) and 72 1/3 innings of work in ’71.

Fortunately though, El Tiante would wind up being one of the better starting pitchers of the decade in his time with the Red Sox.

From 1972 until 1978, Tiant owned an ERA of 3.30, an ERA+ of 121, and a FIP of 3.50 over 253 outings (228 starts) and 1,702 1/3 total innings pitched. Per FanGraphs, he was the 14th-most valuable starting pitcher in baseball during that time period in terms of fWAR (28.0) while compiling two All-Star appearances and three top-six finishes in American League Cy Young voting.

In his lone postseason action with Boston in 1975, the Red Sox won all four games Tiant started in against the Athletics and Reds, although they did go on to fall to Cincinnati in the World Series that year.

Following the 1978 season, Tiant inked a two-year deal with the Yankees and went on to also pitch for the Pirates and Angels before calling it quits in 1982.

Inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997, Tiant currently serves as a special assignment instructor for the club.

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Dom DiMaggio Lifts Sox to 15th Straight Win

On this day in 1946, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to a franchise-best 15 games in a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Playing in front of over 64,000 fans in the Bronx, the Sox jumped out to an early three-run lead in the top half of the second on back-to-back two-out run-scoring hits from Joe Dobson, that day’s starter for Boston, and George Metkovich off Yankees right-hander Red Ruffing.

Fast forward to the bottom half of the fifth, with the Yankees lineup turning over for a second time, and Dobson began to waver on the mound.

The right-hander allowed the first three hitters he faced in the frame to reach base via a catcher’s interference, a single, and a walk to fill the bases for vaunted Yankees cleanup man and future Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

Heading into his third at-bat of the day 1-for-2 with a third inning single, DiMaggio came through with what could have been the biggest hit of the day this time around, as the 31-year-old crushed a grand slam deep to right field to simultaneously put his side up a run while also ending Dobson’s outing.

From there, Sox reliever Earl Johnson entered in the fifth and held the Bronx Bombers in check the rest of the way.

An inning and a half after Joltin’ Joe had crushed that grand slam, Boston came into the top half of the seventh trailing by one with just nine more outs to work with.

Facing off against Yanks reliever Joe Page, franchise legend Bobby Doerr led things off for a walk, setting up first baseman Rudy York to drive him in from first on an RBI triple down the left field line.

That brought up another franchise legend to the plate in the form of Dom DiMaggio, Joe’s brother, with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away from home.

The Little Professor delivered in the clutch, driving in York from third with a run-scoring single to right to make it a 5-4 contest, which would go on to be the final score on that faithful Friday evening.

The one-run victory extended the Red Sox’ winning streak to 15 consecutive games and improved their record on the year to an outstanding 21-3. The streak came to an unfortunate end one day later at the hands of the Yankees, but Boston did go on to win the American League pennant that year.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Cy Young Tosses American League’s First Perfect Game

On this day in 1904, 37-year-old right-hander Cy Young, then of the Boston Americans, took the mound at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds for his fifth start of his 15th major-league season against the Philadelphia Athletics on a Thursday afternoon in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood.

Coming into that Thursday, the Americans had won 12 of their first 15 games, while Young owned a sparkling 1.97 ERA through his first four outings of the year.

At that time, the American League was in its infant stages having just been founded in 1901, and the Americans and the Athletics represented the Junior Circuit’s last two champions. To add on to that, the pitcher’s mound being 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate instead of 55 feet 6 inches was still a fairly new concept, as it was first introduced in 1893.

Having already amassed 569 major-league starts over the course of an illustrious career up until that point in time, Young was already regarded as one of the game’s best, but what he did on that faithful Thursday might be his most exceptional accomplishment.

Pitching in front of over 10,000 fans at the Americans’ old stomping grounds, Young had somewhat of a history with his counterpart for the A’s that day in left-hander Rube Waddell.

Just a week prior, the Athletics southpaw had outdueled Young in a 2-0 victory for his side at Columbia Park in Philadelphia, leading Waddell to ‘bait’ Young through the press leading up to the May 5th rematch, much to the chagrin of the Boston ace.

The game itself took all of 83 minutes, with Young and Waddell exchanging blows through the first five frames before the Americans finally broke through against The Rube with a run in the sixth and another pair tacked on in the seventh.

That bit of offense would turn out to be all Young needed to see this one through, as “Cyclone,” having already sat down the first 21 Athletics he faced in order, wrapped things up by doing the same with the final six hitters who came to the plate against him in the eighth and ninth innings.

That sixth and final A’s batter Young faced with two outs in the top half of the ninth just so happened to be Waddell himself, hitless to that point in the contest, obviously.

On the third pitch of that final at-bat, Young got Waddell to fly out to center for the third out of the ninth, and that was that. The first perfect game in baseball’s modern era, and the first since 1880, had just been completed.

“How do you like that, you hayseed?” Young shouted at his rival after retiring him for the final out as spectators stormed the field in celebration.

From there, Young went on to finish the ’04 campaign with a 26-16 record, a 1.97 ERA, and a .527 OPS against over 380 innings pitched. All while leading the Americans to their second consecutive American League pennant.

Upon retiring from baseball in 1911, Denton True Young, 44, had a World Series championship, a pitching Triple Crown, and two ERA titles to his name. He is without a doubt one of the Deadball Era’s greatest pitchers, but outside of May 5th, 1904, he was never perfect again.