A staid Boston institution
There has never been anything on a baseball field that Carl Yastrzemski couldn’t do well, at 21 or, now, at 40.
Soon, barring injuries, the ineffable Yaz will become the 15th major leaguer to accumulate 3,000 hits, just behind the 14th, Lou Brock. Both are relics of the days when player-team relationships less resembled one-night stands: Yaz has been with the Boston Red Sox since 1961, when he took over left field from Ted Williams. “I don’t feel that different physically from 10 years ago,” he says, “but I’ve paid the price.”
That includes the 15 to 20 hours a week he spends working out winters, plus a few cold wars with the impatient Red Sox fans. They heckled him when he slumped in 1971, only four years after he led the Red Sox to a pennant. Always aloof, he endured the criticism and now says, “I love the city. I love the people. If I had it to do again, I’d sign with the same team.”
A Long Island potato farmer’s son, Yaz signed with the Sox following his freshman year at Notre Dame, but only after promising his parents he’d finish college. (He plugged away for seven years off-season to earn a business degree at Merrimack College.) Today he owns a home in Highland Beach, Fla., a coal mine in Ohio and a Maine potato farm.
Despite his investments and more than $200,000 salary, Yaz never led a league in spending. On the field, he’s used the same glove for 14 years; off, his teammates recently fined him for wearing the same blazer three days in a row. (“But I changed my underwear,” he protested.)
Still among baseball’s top players, Yaz has no plans to retire. And he won’t speculate on a baseball future for college freshman son Michael (he has three daughters). “I’ve seen guys with only fair talent be outstanding and other guys with terrific talent only last a few years,” he explains. “It depends on whether Mike wants it.” Unspoken is the afterthought: “Like I did.”
The Peter Pan of baseball
Lou Brock was recalling one of his first major league games: “The batter was Stan Musial. Stan the Man. Imagine. And, wow, there at shortstop was Ernie Banks. I was thinking ‘Boy, I wish the guys in high school could see me now’ when Musial hit a fly ball to right center. I ran and caught it, and I’m still holding the ball when Richie Ashburn shouts from center field: ‘Hey, kid, throw the ball in.’ ‘Throw the ball in?’ I thought. ‘Throw it, hell. I ought to take the ball and run. Stan the Man!’ ”
That was 18 years ago, but Brock, 40, is still playing with the refreshingly boyish enthusiasm that led one writer to call him “the Peter Pan of baseball.” It was true even in 1978 when Brock hit only .221, but this season, which he says will be his last, Brock has been among the top National League hitters. “This year has been a Hollywood script for me,” says Brock.
Raised by his mother in Collinston, La. after his parents separated, Brock originally played for the Chicago Cubs but was traded to St. Louis in 1964. The Cardinals won three pennants in the next five years. Brock himself hit .391 in 21 World Series games and stole more bases than any player in history, including a record 118 in 1974. He says he’ll miss the locker room camaraderie, but finds it diminishing because of the sport’s “big-business thing.”
Though he might stay affiliated with the Cards, Brock may also pursue his own business interests, which include florist and gift shops, the BroccaBrella umbrella hat and a new marketing operation for athletes. For now, however, the Cards still have a shot at the pennant. “My fantasy was to go out in a blaze of glory,” Brock says, “and dammit, I’m doing it.”