Thoughts on Yaz by guest blogger Jim Houhoulis.
Editor’s note: I often wore a #8 Yaz jersey while coaching Babe Ruth baseball in Acton, MA, this spring. Yaz was my favorite player when I was a kid. Jim, whose son was on my team, shared these memories with me by email and graciously let me republish them here. – @ErikJHeels
Yaz is one of my all time favorites. I was fortunate to see him have maybe the greatest year any ballplayer ever had in 1967. My son is undoubtedly tired of my Yaz stories.
I probably have a few years or so on you some let me share some of my Yaz recollections.
Yaz came up in ’61, I believe, with a lot of hype as Williams’ replacement. He hit for average more than power in those days; a lot of hitting to the opposite field off of the wall. Yaz remained a favorite for the next few years even though the Sox had dreadful teams and sparse fan attendance. By the third inning of games, my father and I would walk down from the cheap seats to the first base box seats.
In ’65 the Sox lost 100 games. In ’66 they lost 99. As a kid you got used to the Sox loosing but you would focus in on your favorite ballplayers. When playing baseball, most of my friends would emulate Yaz at the plate with hands held high.
The winter between ’66 and ’67 was a turning point. There was the hiring of Dick Williams, who convincingly told people there would be changes. Yaz was featured in a lengthy Sunday newspaper article about how he was working out intently in Lynnfield with trainer Gene Bearden. From then on Yaz became a power hitter. In spring training there were a lot of new faces: Reggie Smith, Joy Foy, George “Boomer” Scott, Russ Nixon, etc.
In April Yaz made what I think is the greatest catch I’ve ever seen on a ball hit over his head in the ninth inning. The catch saved, for the time, first time major leaguer Billy Rohr’s no-hitter. I only heard the radio version then but saw it years later on film.
Yaz won the triple crown, made unbelievable catches, and threw men out, almost always at crucial times. When I think of him in the field I think of him charging ground balls hard and throwing to the plate to nail someone. He was The Mister Clutch. Games changed because of him.
Boston went crazy for the Sox. During day games in the summer of ’67 you could walk the 1-2 miles of Hampton Beach and hear the game on radio the entire time. Most of their games weren’t televised then. I have a found memory of my dad and I going out to the car at night to listen to a few innings of a game. The car was parked facing out over the beach. In the far off distance there was an occasional lighting bolt and the resulting static on the radio. It’s been over 40 years but I still get goose bumps when I think of it.
Thanks again for taking the time to coach the team. I hope you and your son continue to share experience and develop fond memories.