#1 Bobby Doerr - played 14 seasons, all with the Red Sox from 1937-1951 with two years off for World War II. Hit .409 in the 1946 World Series to lead all Red Sox hitters, Career .288 average, named The Sporting News AL Player of the Year in 1944
#4 Joe Cronin - With the Red Sox for 24 seasons as a player/manager, manager, and general manager, career .301 average in 20 MLB seasons, leads all Red Sox managers with 1,071 wins, played in six all-star games and managed/coached in six more, first modern-day player to become a league president
#6 Johnny Pesky - With the Red Sox for 21 seasons as a player, coach, and manager, career .307 average, known as “Mr. Red Sox”
#8 Carl Yastrzemski - Named to Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 with 95 percent of the vote (the 7th highest in history at that time), Won AL Triple Crown in 1967, Most lifetime games in the AL with 3,308, AL MVP in 1967, Only AL player with 400 home runs and 3,000 hits, Tied MLB record with 1.000 fielding percentage in 1977, .285 career batting average
#9 Ted Williams - AL MVP in 1946/1949, Won AL Triple Crown in 1942/1947, Led AL in batting six times, home runs four times, total bases five times, walks eight times, and slugging percentage nine times, voted Greatest Red Sox Player of All Time by fans, holds MLB record for most successive times reaching base safely (16) in 1957, .344 career batting average
#14 Jim Rice - Won AL Silver Slugger in 1984 and 1985, was named to eight All-Star teams, led AL in home runs in 1977, 1978, and 1983.
#27 Carlton Fisk - 11-year career with the Red Sox, first unanimous winner of AL Rookie of the Year Award, seven-time All-Star, all-time Red Sox leader in games caught with 990, waved his home run fair to beat the Reds in game 6 of the 1975 World Series
Looking at that list of seven players, a couple of things jump out at me. First, they are all hitters. Not a single pitcher in the history of the Red Sox deserved to have their uniform retired? Will Pedro Martinez become the first pitcher to have his number retired once he gets elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Second, these players all seem to have either outstanding statistics (Yaz, Teddy Ballgame, Cronin, Rice) or seem to be exceedingly likable Red Sox connected to memorable moments in their history (Pesky, Fisk, Doerr). Third, no Babe Ruth. Apparently, if you violate the “likable” or “tied to Red Sox memorable moment” category, it doesn’t matter how great your stats are.
This led me to do a little research into the criteria used for consideration of having your number retired at Fenway Park. According to the Red Sox website, there are only two:
- Must be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Must have played for the Red Sox for at least 10 years
There goes the Pedro Martinez number retirement. Pedro only played for the Sox for seven seasons (and the Babe Ruth question as well, having only played for the Sox for six seasons, as well as Cy Young and Smoky Joe Wood). And if Pedro doesn’t get his number retired, I don’t know which pitcher ever will (side note: while Boggs‘ #26 has been issued several times over the years, recently to Scott Podsednik and Brock Holt, Roger Clemens‘ #21 has never been re-issued since The Rocket left in 1996. Makes you wonder if the Red Sox are holding out for Clemens to be elected to the Hall of Fame to retire his number. If so, they’re going to be waiting a long time as this year’s HOF vote seems to indicate that he won’t get in in this lifetime). Also, I seem to remember during a tour of Fenway Park a couple of years ago that there was another piece of criteria...that the player must have finished their career as a Boston Red Sox. Apparently, that requirement was dropped so they could retire Fisk’s number. This memory of mine is confirmed by Wade Boggs, who claims the team told him he had to retire as a member of the Red Sox to have his number retired.
(Side rant: why are 10 seasons with the Red Sox and once upon a time retiring as a Red Sox criteria for this honor at all? I suppose it lends some form of objectivity to the selection of numbers, instead of subjective criteria like, “was he a memorable/lovable Red Sox?” or “was he one of the best Red Sox players ever?”, or “did pitchers/hitters crap their pants a little when they had to face him?”. If it were me, there would be a committee of Red Sox experts (including Deacon Art) who vote on these things. Because making 10 years with the team and retiring with the team weights longevity over production or memorability...and which is more important? Being great, being beloved, being connected to Red Sox lore, or sticking around a long time?)
Which brings this post back to Boggs. Where does he fit in? Should his number 26 be retired? First, full disclosure: Boggs played for the Red Sox from 1982-1992. I was born in 1984. I have only the faintest memories of watching Boggs play for the Sox, and so all I really have to go on are his stats and some stories I’ve read that make him out to be a petulant a-hole. Nevertheless, let’s dive into some reasons for and against retiring #26:
Reasons the Red Sox should retire #26:
His statistics are eye-popping. Especially now that OBP is valued even more than when he was playing. Check out the following stats (with the Red Sox, not career stats) with place in Red Sox history in parentheses:
- .338 batting average (second)
- .428 OBP (third)
- 2,098 hits (fifth)
- 1,067 runs scored (sixth)
- 1,625 games played (seventh)
- .890 OPS (ninth)
- 71.4 WAR (third)
- During his peak from 1983-1988, he hit .356/.448/.489 (.448 OBP!!! The MLB leader in 2012 was Joe Mauer with a .416 mark. Boggs had a .415 OBP for his entire career even with .348 and .377 marks his last two years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
- 3,010 career hits
- more career extra-base hits (757) than strikeouts (745)
- How about the argument that Boggs left the Red Sox and played for the hated Yankees for five seasons? According to Boggs, he had an agreement with Mrs. Yawkey in 1991 to sign a 7 year, $35 million contract which would have made him a career Red Sox player, but she slipped in her bathtub and died before the contract could be signed.
- Look at the above criteria again. Boggs was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. He chose to wear a Red Sox hat into the Hall. He played for the Red Sox for eleven seasons. In other words, he meets the criteria.
- If you were starting a baseball team and had the seven retirees plus Boggs to choose from, Boggs would probably go third, right?
Reasons why the Red Sox should not retire #26:
- Wade Boggs is a prick
- Wade Boggs seems to have always held a grudge against the Red Sox organization
- Boggs isn’t really seen as one of the best players of his generation like Williams, Yaz, and Rice were (this might not be true, again, I was four when Boggs’ prime ended). He seems to be remembered as a guy who hit a ton of singles, drew a ton of walks, never struck out, and was pretty average at everything else. With today’s sabermetrics, he would have been better-appreciated. In the mid to late 80’s? I don’t know. I was four.
- Once again, Wade Boggs is a prick
The argument boils down to whether or not the Red Sox really mean it when they say they only have two criteria to have your number retired, or whether there is really an un-written third criterion: be a likable, fan-favorite player connected to Red Sox lore (like Fisk and Pesky).
If you want my opinion, here it is: having your number retired for the Red Sox should come down to one question: “would the telling of the history of the Boston Red Sox be incomplete without mentioning this player?” You have to mention Yaz and Teddy Ballgame and Fisk and Pesky and Rice. You have to mention Joe Cronin. Bobby Doerr? I don’t know. Pedro? Absolutely. Babe Ruth? Of course. Roger Clemens? Yup. David Ortiz? Yessir. Wade Boggs? Meh. Not really. And I guess that’s why his number is being issued to Brock Holt for spring training instead of hanging from the right field facade.
Do you think Wade Boggs’ number should be retired? Do you think any of the other players I mentioned should have their numbers retired? Do you think there are players I didn’t mention that should have their numbers retired? Let’s discuss in the comments section below: