This is the first article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Boston Red Sox. In this installment, catchers and managers.
The term Red Sox has become synonymous with Boston sports history, but ironically, the franchise began its existence wearing blue. The team went by the Americans (since they were in the American League) from 1901-07 until team owner John Taylor met with a local sporting goods company. He was informed that Boston’s other team, the Doves (later the Braves), were not going to wear red socks anymore, so Taylor decided to use them and change the name of the team.
Whatever the name, the team was a solid contributor to the early success of the American League, winning five World Series in the decade’s first 18 years. However, little did fans at the time know that they would never see another title in their lifetimes. The team’s then-owner Harry Frazee was also a Broadway producer and, in order to pay his debts, sold talented pitcher and outfielder Babe Ruth to the rival Yankees for $100,000 on December 26, 1919. In what has become known as the “Curse of the Bambino,” the Red Sox didn’t win a World Series until the 21st century while the Yankees would win seven just while Ruth was in pinstripes and 27 overall.
In between the sale of Ruth and the end of the 20th century, the Red Sox went to the World Series four times and lost in seven games each time (to the Cardinals in 1946 and 1967, the Reds in 1975 and the Mets in 1986). There were also four losses in the ALCS (to the Athletics in 1988 and 1990 and to the Yankees in 1999 and 2003). Boston finally exorcised the demons by coming back from three games down against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, becoming the first team in history to win four consecutive elimination games after being down 3-0. The Red Sox then swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years. Since the start of the 21st century, Boston has enjoyed similar success to their early years, making the playoffs 11 times and winning four championships in 22 years.
The Best Catchers and Managers in Boston Red Sox History
Honorable Mentions – Bill Carrigan was a strong defender and a good hitter at the position during the first decade of the 20th century. He played 37 games with the Americans in 1906, spent all of the following season in the minors and returned in 1908 when the team had been renamed the Red Sox. Nicknamed “Rough” for his style of play, Carrigan had his best season in 1909 when he posted career highs in games (114), runs (36), hits (85) and runs batted in (53). In 709 games over 10 seasons, he hit .257 with 506 hits and 235 RBIs. However, his biggest contributions to the team came as a manager, which will be discussed below.
5. Rich Gedman – A two-time All-Star in 11 seasons with Boston, he was known for being behind the plate for the team’s run to the 1986 World Series. Gedman played in just 62 games in 1982 but finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Dave Righetti. He had a solid three-year stretch, hitting 24 home runs in 1984, then smacking 18 more the following year while setting career highs with 80 runs batted in and a .295 average. Gedman had his second straight All-Star selection in 1986 and then hit two home runs and drove in seven runs during the playoffs. He added another homer in an ALCS loss to Oakland two years later and was traded during the 1990 season.
4. Sammy White – He was another solid hitter, but his strength was his ability to handle the Red Sox pitching staff during the 1950s. White had double-digit home run totals four straight years and drove in at least 60 runs in three consecutive seasons. He earned his only All-Star selection in 1953 when he posted a.273-13-64 stat line. In 991 games with Boston, White had 881 hits, 404 RBIs, and hit .264.
3. Rick Ferrell – One of the better defensive catchers during the 1930s and 40s, Ferrell earned four All-Star selections in his five seasons with the Red Sox (1933-37), including playing the entire game in the inaugural event in 1933. He also could hit, posting 541 hits and 240 RBIs while hitting .302 in 522 games with Boston. Ferrell retired after playing in 1,806 games as a catcher, a record for the time (and will soon be held by another player on this list). He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1984.
2. Jason Varitek – Like White, “Tek” was great at handling pitchers, as evidenced by the fact that he caught four no-hitters. Varitek and fellow Mariners minor leaguer Derek Lowe were traded to the Red Sox in 1997, a move that led to big things in Boston. Varitek was selected to three All-Star Games, including 2003 when he set career-highs with 25 home runs and 85 runs batted in.
Two years later, he posted a .281-22-70 stat line and added a gold glove and a silver slugger to his All-Star selection. However, it was what happened that year in between that will forever be etched in the memories of Red Sox fans. In the regular season, Varitek hit a career-high .296 with 18 homers 73 RBIs. He homered against the Angels in the ALDS, then smacked two more home runs and drove in seven runs, helping the Red Sox become the first team to ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit and beat the Yankees in the ALCS. Varitek drove in two runs in Boston’s sweep of St. Louis as the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years. He had 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 63 career postseason games.
In 15 seasons (1997-2011), Varitek ranked tenth in franchise history with 1,546 games and 757 RBIs, and he also had 1,307 hits, 193 home runs and 306 doubles.
1. Carlton Fisk – Imagine a catcher leading the league in triples. Well, that is just what happened in 1972, when Fisk had nine. He also hit .293 with 22 home runs and 76 runs batted in to unanimously win the Rookie of the Year Award, finishing fourth in the MVP voting, get selected to the All-Star Game, and (surprisingly) earn the only gold glove of his 24-year career. Fisk spent 11 seasons in Boston, hitting .284 and totaling 627 runs, 1,097 hits, 162 home runs, and 568 RBIs in 1,078 games.
However, his most memorable image occurred during the 1975 World Series, when he jumped down the first base line waving a home run fair over the Green Monster. He hit two homers and drove in four runs in the series, but the Reds beat the Red Sox for the championship. After seven All-Star selections with Boston, Fisk went to Chicago and played the next 13 years with the White Sox. He retired in 1993 after passing Bob Boone to take over the all-time record for most games caught with 2,226. Fisk was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Honorable Mentions – Jake Stahl managed the team for just two seasons, but he had a 144-88-3 record. Boston’s 105 wins in 1912 are the second-most in franchise history, and Stahl led the team to the championship that season. Ed Barrow went 213-203-2 in three seasons and led the Red Sox to the 1918 World Series title, which would end up being their last on in the 20th century. He later went on to become an executive for the Yankees, assembling a team that won 14 pennants and 10 World Series. Barrow was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953. Darrell Johnson went 220-188 in three seasons and led team to the World Series in 1975. Dick Williams went 260-217 in three seasons and led Boston to the World Series in 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
John McNamara had a 297-273-1 record and led the team to World Series in 1986 while earning the Manager of the Year Award. Joe Morgan went 301-262 in four seasons, and he led Red Sox to the ALCS in 1988 and 1990. So far, Alex Cora has a 418-334 record in five years. He has led the Red Sox to a pair of American League Championship Series appearances, and the 2018 season includes a franchise-record 108 and a 2018 World Series. However, Cora’s legacy will be tied to his role as an Astros coach in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, which resulted in him being suspended for the entire 2020 season. Michael “Pinky” Higgins went 560-556-3 (the third-most wins in franchise history) in two stints as manager (1955-59 and 60-62), but his teams never finished higher than third in the American League.
5. John Farrell led the Red Sox to three division titles and a 432-378 record in five seasons. After Boston went 97-65 and won the World Series in his first season in 2013, the club missed the playoffs twice and then bowed out in the Division Series two straight years before Farrell gave way to Cora.
4. Bill Carrigan‘s time as a manager was split into two sections. He had a very successful time as a player-manager from 1913-16, in which he led the team to back-to-back titles in 1915-16. Boston’s 101 wins in 1915 are the fourth-best in team history. When Harry Frazee took over the team in 1917, Carrigan retired and did not return until 1927. His three-year later tenure produced three bottom-dwelling outputs. Citing a changing attitude in players, Carrigan retired for good after the 1929 season after amassing a 489-500-14 record (the fourth-most wins in franchise history).
3. Jimmy Collins was a Hall of Fame third baseman who was a successful player-manager and the first skipper in franchise history. The Americans went 91-47-3 in 1903 and won the first modern World Series over the Pirates. Boston dominated the American League again the following year, but Collins and his team were robbed of the chance to compete for the title when the Giants refused to play. Collins and owner John Taylor constantly clashed for control of the on-field product and the manager left in 1906 after amassing a 455-376-11 record. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.
2. Terry Francona was another former player who became a successful manager. His 744-552 record gives him the second-most victories in franchise history. In eight seasons, “Tito” led the Red Sox to the playoffs five times, with three trips to the American League Championship Series and World Series titles in 2004 and ’07. Although Boston won only one division title, Francona led the team to a winning record every season he was at the helm.
1. Joe Cronin spent 11 of his 13 seasons as a player-manager, amassing a team-best 1,071-916-20 record. While the Red Sox won 90 or more game just twice and went to the playoffs once, the team was respectable, reaching the .500 mark ten times. In 1946, Boston went 104-50-2, posting the third-most wins in team history and going to the World Series, where they lost to the Cardinals in seven games. Cronin was a seven-time All-Star shortstop who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen – coming soon
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters – coming soon
Boston Red Sox Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks