09/27/12 12:05 AM ET
As Fenway greats honored, Yaz talks Triple Crown
By Jason Mastrodonato / Special to MLB.com
It's been 45 years since he won it, smashing 44 home runs and 121 RBIs while hitting .326 for the Impossible Dream Red Sox team of 1967.
No one has accomplished the feat since.
Holding such an achievement for 45 years, one would think, is something to be proud of, something that cements your name in history.
But Yaz, 73, seems numb to it all now.
The Red Sox announced their All-Fenway team before Wednesday's game with the Rays, the last home game of the 2012 season in which the team has celebrated 100 years at the historic park by turning in its worst home record (34-47) since 1965.
Yastrzemski wasn't even listed on the All-Fenway starting lineup, instead making the roster as a "First Reserve," but he trotted out to the field to a roaring celebration and stood amongst peers like Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans, who called Yastrzemski the best leader he's ever been around.
Then, sitting back in his chair during a press conference, fielding questions about the one thing that has always headlined the Hall of Famer's resume and followed him wherever he went (even prompting such ridiculousness as a bobblehead giveaway at a Minor League game in Rochester, N.Y.), Yaz treats the Triple Crown like most other ballplayers would discuss a solid day at the plate.
So no, he's not amazed that Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is close to adding his name to the history books.
Before Wednesday's games, Cabrera was first in the American League in batting average (.329), second in home runs (41) -- one shy of Josh Hamilton's 42 -- and first in RBIs (133).
"Someone is going to do it," Yastrzemski said. "Whether it's Cabrera this year or next year. I'm surprised it's gone on this long to be perfectly honest. When [Pete] Rose broke [Ty] Cobb's hit record, I never thought that was going to happen. And when [Cal Ripken Jr.] broke [Lou] Gehrig's consecutive game record, I never thought that would happen either. So it's going to happen."
Back when Yastrzemski played, the Triple Crown didn't seem quite as special.
In a 33-year span from 1933 to 1967, the Triple Crown was won nine times by eight different players (Ted Williams won it twice in '42 and '47). The year before Yaz took the honors, Frank Robinson had done it with a .316 average, 49 homers and 122 RBIs.
Yaz said he didn't even know he had won it until reading about it in the next day's newspaper.
"The only person that mentioned anything at all during the course of the season," Yastrzemski said, "the last couple weeks of the season -- I think he referred to the batting title -- was [right-handed pitcher] Jim Lonborg.
"He came up to me, we were playing in Baltimore the last few weeks and Frank Robinson was ahead of me in batting average by a few points. And [Lonborg, also on the All-Fenway team] says, 'Get some hits today because I'm going to give Frank an 0-fer'. And he did: 0-for-5.
"Like I said, I thought somebody would win it a long time ago."
Yastrzemski and Evans also took some time after Wednesday's ceremonies to reminisce.
Both of the former outfielders were known for having strong arms, each collecting 15 outfield assists in a season at least once.
So far in 2012, Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur (19) is the only player in the Majors with at least 15 assists.
Evans said he and former catcher Jason Varitek were talking about that during the on-field ceremonies, wondering why outfielders' arms aren't as good as they used to be.
"When I came here in 2002 as a hitting coach, we were taking infield in Spring Training," said Evans, who threw out 157 runners from the outfield over 19 seasons. "And we came here and we're not taking infield. I said, 'When are we taking infield?' They said, 'We haven't taken infield in three or four years.' And I said, 'You have to be kidding me.'
"I think there are some good arms out there. I just don't think we hone that skill enough. I don't think we need to take infield every day, but I think it needs to be taken a couple of times a week.
"Just throwing the ball to a guy behind second base during batting practice, behind the screen, you're not lining up your cutoff man, you're not working on your arm strength, and I think that has a lot to do with it. And you know what, what drives the game right now is not great arms and great defense -- it's offense. We know that."
But as good as the offense has been over the past 20 years, there has still yet to be a Triple Crown winner.
Yaz thinks that'll change, perhaps as soon as next week.
But he's been thinking that for 45 years.
All Fenway Park Team
|Starting Lineup||First Reserves||Second Reserves|
|Carlton Fisk - C*||Jason Varitek - C*||Rich Gedman- C*|
|Jimmie Foxx - 1B**||Mo Vaughn - 1B||George Scott - 1B|
|Dustin Pedroia - 2B*||Bobby Doerr - 2B||Jerry Remy - 2B*|
|Wade Boggs - 3B||Mike Lowell - 3B||Frank Malzone - 3B*|
|Nomar Garciaparra - SS*||Johnny Pesky - SS**||Rico Petrocelli - SS*|
|Ted Williams - LF**||Carl Yastrzemski - LF*||Jim Rice - LF*|
|Fred Lynn - CF*||Dom DiMaggio - CF**||Reggie Smith -CF*|
|Dwight Evans - RF*||Trot Nixon - RF*||Tony Conigliaro - RF**|
|Pedro Martinez - RHP*||Roger Clemens - P*||Babe Ruth - P**|
|Lefty Grove - LHP**||Luis Tiant - P*||Smoky Joe Wood - P**|
|Jonathan Papelbon - Closer||Tim Wakefield - P*||Curt Schilling - P|
|David Ortiz - DH*||Dennis Eckersley - P*||Bill Lee - P*|
|Terry Francona - Manager||Dick Radatz - P**||Jim Lonborg - P*|
|Joe Cronin - Manager**||Dick Williams - Manager**|
|Pinch Runner/Pinch Hitter|
|Bernie Carbo - PH*|
|Dave Roberts - PR|
Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.