In the wake of the 1975 season, a new electronic scoreboard was built above the bleachers in center field and the press box was enclosed with glass. The left-field wall was also reconstructed as part of the team's offseason improvements. On the field however, the Red Sox struggled and won just four more games than they lost in 1976, a year in which the organization also lost owner Tom Yawkey when he passed away in July.
Record: 83-79, 3rd in American League East
Manager: Darrell D. Johnson (41-45), Donald W. Zimmer (42-43)
Following their pennant-winning season the previous year, the Red Sox struggled through a hangover season in 1976. The team failed to sign Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn to new contracts by the March 10, 1976 deadline. As a result, each player had his contract automatically renewed and entered an option year. All three eventually signed new deals with the club but some believed that their contractual situations were a distraction to the team.
An early 10-game losing streak deposited the Red Sox in last place by May 11. Nine days later, Bill Lee suffered a torn shoulder and ligaments during a brawl at Yankee Stadium.
On June 15 the Red Sox purchased Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers from the A's for $1,000,000 cash apiece. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn subsequently squelched the deal, claiming it was "not in the best interest of baseball." Less than a month later on July 9, Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey passed away after a battle with leukemia, leaving his widow Jean as the primary benefactor.
After starting the season with a 41-45 record, the Red Sox fired manager Darrell Johnson on July 19 and replaced him with Don Zimmer. The team rallied a bit under Zimmer's leadership and crawled back into third place by season's end.
The team's offensive leaders included Fred Lynn (who hit a team-leading .314), Carl Yastrzemski (21 homers and 102 RBIs) and Jim Rice (25 home runs and 85 RBIs). Butch Hobson took over for Rico Petrocelli at the hot corner and hit an inside-the-park home run in his first game of the season at Fenway Park on June 28.
During the offseason, the Red Sox signed a million dollar contract with reliever Bill Campbell, one of the first high-profile free agents in baseball after the reserve clause, which forced players to remain obligated to their former team once their contract expired, had been ruled invalid.
After the 1975 season, a new electronic scoreboard was placed above the center-field bleachers. Costing $1.5 million, Fenway Park's new scoreboard measured 40 feet wide and 24 feet high. It showed film and videotape, offering Fenway crowds a chance to see instant replay. In addition, the wall behind each bleacher section was raised to provide for a more symmetrical look and advertisements were placed there. It was first time commercial advertisements had appeared in the park in three decades.
In addition to the new scoreboard, the entire left-field wall was rebuilt before the 1976 season and the scoreboard was re-situated on the wall towards center field. With the new center-field board able to display the lineups, the electronic scoreboard on the wall, which was installed in 1962, was removed along with National League scores.
The reconstruction of the Green Monster addressed the dead spots and unpredictable bounces when batted balls struck the wall. A new tin covering with Styrofoam backing was placed inside the wall to ensure more consistent caroms. The new exterior replaced the old tin panels, which had covered the wooden railroad ties that made up the skeleton of the wall. In addition, six -foot high padding was added to the lower portion of the wall after reigning MVP and Rookie of the Year winner, Fred Lynn, crashed hard into the wall during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.