By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
MY ALL-TIME RED SOX TEAM
Now that the 2018 edition of the Red Sox has established itself as the winningest team in
the history of the franchise, let’s do an exercise. Whom do you think are the greatest
players that you have seen at each position? There are no wrong answers; this is not a
quiz, it’s your opinion, but you must have seen the players in action, either in person or
on television. So, for example, if you are just a teenager, you might never have actually
seen Pedro Martinez pitch, thus he wouldn’t be eligible for your personal all-time Red
Sox team. If, on the other hand, you are as long in the tooth as I am, anyone who played
from the mid 1940s on qualifies. But Tris Speaker and Jimmie Foxx do not because I
never saw either one of them play.
Let’s establish one other ground rule: a player must have spent at least three years in a
Red Sox uniform. Under this rule Chris Sale would be ineligible until next year.
That said, this is my own choice for the all-time Red Sox team.
Right-handed pitcher – Pedro Martinez. He is the best pitcher I have ever seen. Period.
The only other name in the conversation is Roger Clemens, who, as great as he was,
wasn’t Pedro. No one else comes close to those two.
Left-handed pitcher – Mel Parnell. He’s the winningest left-hander in Red Sox history,
having led the team in victories every year from 1949 through 1953. Jon Lester, if the
Red Sox had kept him, would have been my choice, but they didn’t and he isn’t. I’d also
have considered Babe Ruth in the southpaw category but, believe it or not, I never saw
him play even though he retired only eighty-four short seasons ago.
Catcher – Carlton Fisk. An easy choice. He was great when he played here, and he was
great for more than another decade after he played here. Letting him get away was one of
the most colossal blunders in Red Sox history. My back-up catcher is Jason Varitek.
First base – Carl Yastrzemski. Huh?! He’s remembered, and rightly so, as a great left-
fielder, but people tend to forget that he moved to first base to make room for Jim Rice in
1975 and that he played the position masterfully. He played 765 games at first, the
equivalent of five full seasons and more than anyone else in my time other than George
Scott. Yaz is my choice for first base, besides, I have someone else in mind for left field.
Second base – Bobby Doerr. I love Dustin Pedroia, his fielding, his hitting, and his
attitude, but I’m a Bobby Doerr guy. Perhaps it’s just a matter of me being young and
impressionable when Bobby played. Doerr was quiet and never uttered a profanity, while
Pedroia is chippy, but both are solid as a rock in the field and at bat. In any case, there is
no one other than those two in the discussion.
Third base – Wade Boggs. A hitting machine who made himself, through constant work,
into a Gold Glove defender. He was never appreciated for what he was when he played in
Boston, but he’s the best third baseman we ever had. Having said that, Mike Lowell was
great, and Frank Malzone, underrated because he played for lousy Red Sox teams, was
the best third baseman in baseball until Brooks Robinson came along.
Shortstop – Nomar Garciaparra. What a wonderful player he was. The way he would
sling the ball across the diamond was unforgettable. Until his bat slowed down because
of a wrist injury, he was perhaps the best hitter in the game. It ended badly for him in
Boston but during the good times no player was ever loved more.
Left field – Ted Williams. Surprise! No one who saw him play will ever forget the
beauty of his swing. He was not only the best hitter I ever saw, but he was also the most
charismatic character. I’m glad to have found another position for Yaz on my team, but
feel bad about leaving Jim Rice off. Think about how lucky Boston fans have been; for
half a century, beginning in 1939, when Ted broke in as a rookie, until the late eighties,
left field at Fenway Park was manned by a Hall of Fame player, first Williams, then Yaz,
Center field – Dom DiMaggio. The most underrated great player of my lifetime. He
retired from the game more than sixty-five years ago, but still holds the record for most
putouts per game by an outfielder over the course of his career. He is one of only three
outfielders in American League history to record more that 500 putouts in a season, and
he was the only one to have done it before the schedule was expanded from 154 to 162
games per season. In the years he played, 1940-1942 and 1946-1952 (discounting 1953,
when he had only three at bats), he had more base hits that anyone else in baseball. He is
the only player in the twentieth century who averaged more than one hundred runs scored
per year who is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fred Lynn played center with grace and
style, and he had a perfect Fenway Park stroke, but I give the nod to Dom in a squeaker.
Right field – Mookie Betts. Mookie is the perfect player. He excels in every aspect of the
game, hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and throwing. In addition, he has
great instincts. He gets such joy out of the game that it’s contagious; he’s almost never
without a smile on his face. Appreciate him while you can; players like Mookie don’t
come around very often. Dwight Evans was my chaice for this position for three decades
until Mookie burst upon the scene.
Designated hitter – David Ortiz. It’s been only forty-five years since the American
League adopted the dh rule. But it could be much longer than that before anyone tops
Ortiz’s record. For example, J.D. Martinez had a great year this season, but he’ll need
about ten more of them to challenge Big Papi.
Manager – Terry Francona. He broke the curse of the Bambino. He won two World
Series. Alex Cora has put himself into a position where he might challenge that. Let’s
hope that he does and that Red Sox Nation reaps the benefits of it.
Well, that’s my team. What’s yours?