Celebrating Boston Red Sox baseball great Carl Yastrzemski.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Ultimate Grinder

Bob Ryan in Baseball Digest, November 2000

What Yaz did was last long enough at a high enough level to construct a new image, that of the Ultimate Grinder. He came, as he often pointed out, from tough Polish stock, and he was not afraid of work. The game never came easy for him, but had the combined body and will (one disabled list visit in 23 years) to simply Be There, day-in, day-out, for 16 post-`67 years.

The appropriate milestones, which always meant more to everyone else than to him, came and went. He got his 400th home run and 3,000th hit seven weeks apart in 1979, and when the cheers had died down, he went back to work, playing fiercely and aggressively from the end of the Carter administration to the three-quarters mark of the first Reagan administration.

His toughness, his consistency, and his unmatched work capacity remain his legacy, but also consider this, again courtesy of Gammons: In the 22 biggest games of his career (games played for a pennant in `67, `72, and `75, the 1975 ALCS, and his two World Series), he batted .414, slugged .702, and knocked in better than a run a game.

He knew what he wasn't (Ted Williams, for example), but he also knew what he was. How's this for an honest self-appraisal at the time of his 1983 retirement?

"I think the best way to sum it up," Yaz said, "is that I wasn't the greatest home run hitter that ever lived. But I hit home runs. I have the extra-base hits. I have the total bases. I have the RBI. I wasn't the greatest average hitter that ever lived, but I wasn't too bad. Three thousand, four hundred base hits. I had walks starting innings, and they help win ballgames. Defensively, I wasn't bad.

"I'd go against anybody in a seven-game series," he concluded. "You put eight Yastrzemskis out there, I'll take my chances."


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