Who are the best first basemen in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5
Carl Yastrzemski played so long, only four players in Red Sox history appeared in more games at first base — Jimmie Foxx, Mo Vaughn, George Scott, and 1920s fixture Phil Todt, whom the Yankees reportedly tried to acquire for Lou Gehrig in 1925 (whoops).
As we break down the top players at each position across more than 100 years of Red Sox baseball, Yaz could easily crack the list at first, since he made five All-Star teams and delivered his second greatest season — .329-40-102 in 1970 — there.
But we're limiting each player to one appearance in this exercise, so we'll revisit Yaz when it comes time to rank the left fielders. In the meantime, there's no shortage of outstanding talent at a position known for power, with MVPs, batting champs, and sluggers galore. To the list!
5. George Scott
Boomer was an imposing slugger who led the AL in homers and RBIs with the Brewers in 1975, but was best known for his defensive prowess, which produced eight Gold Gloves and a reputation as one of the best fielding first baseman ever. He arrived in Boston in 1966 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year race, starting his career with 27 homers (or as he called them, "taters," a term that remains part of the sport's lexicon) and an All-Star berth.
He'd spend nine years in Boston over a pair of stints that included two of the most eventful seasons in club annals — 1967 and 1978. He hit .303 and won his first Gold Glove during the former, but after returning to Boston in 1977 and hitting 33 homers during an All-Star campaign, injuries hastened his decline in 1978 and he was out of baseball a year later.
4. Kevin Youkilis
Close your eyes and you can still hear the low rumble: "Yoouukkkkk!" Fenway fans loved chanting the gritty infielder's name, and Youkilis transformed himself from a bad-bodied third baseman into an All-Star and MVP candidate at first base through sheer hard work. Christened "the Greek God of Walks" in the best-seller "Moneyball" — a nickname Youkilis despised — he arrived as a nondescript eighth-rounder in 2001 and promptly posted a .504 on base percentage in his pro debut.
As tenacious a perfectionist as has ever donned a Red Sox uniform — with the shattered bat racks to prove it — Youkilis earned three All-Star nods and a Gold Glove, finishing third in the 2008 MVP vote on the strength of a monster .312-29-115 breakout campaign. He earned World Series rings in 2004 and 2007 and was an integral member of the lineup from 2008-11, when he averaged .296 with a .933 OPS.
3. Pete Runnels
A decent hitter during the first seven years of his career in Washington, Runnels became an elite one in Boston under the tutelage of teammate and all-time great Ted Williams, winning a pair of batting titles and famously taking his mentor to the final weekend of the 1958 season. With the two in a dead heat on the penultimate day of the campaign, Runnels went triple-single-homer in his first three at-bats. Williams, meanwhile, went walk-single-homer-single, prompting Runnels to lament, "I don't think he's going to let me win."
Williams claimed the title the next day. Runnels won his first batting title two years later, hitting .320, and his second in 1962 with a career-high .326 average. He ended up hitting .320 over five seasons in Boston, good for fifth on the team's all-time list, trailing only luminaries Williams, Wade Boggs, Tris Speaker, and Nomar Garciaparra.
2. Mo Vaughn
Until David Ortiz came along, it was hard to imagine a hulking left-handed slugger capturing the imagination of Red Sox fans more than the Hit Dog. A three-time All-Star, Vaughn won the 1995 MVP award during a terrific campaign, hitting .300 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs.
Vaughn described his attitude in the batter's box as "going to war" and he rarely let opposing hurlers off easy. He hit from a coiled crouch that saw him lean exaggeratedly over the plate before exploding with an uppercut that produced some of the longest, most majestic home runs in Fenway Park's history. From 1993-98, he averaged 36 homers and 110 RBIs a year, and when he left Boston to sign a free agent contract with the Angels in 1999, Red Sox fans were devastated, though he never reached the same heights in Anaheim that he did during eight seasons here.
1. Jimmie Foxx
When old-timers discussed the most feared sluggers they ever faced, inevitably talk would turn to Double-X, who grew up on a Maryland farm and arrived in the big leagues with the muscles to prove it. Alternately known as "The Beast," Foxx had already won a pair of MVP Awards when Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey bought him from the struggling A's for $150,000 in 1936.
Over the next seven years, Foxx would win another MVP, set a franchise record for home runs (50) that lasted until David Ortiz dethroned him in 2006, and hit .320, tying him with Runnels for fifth in franchise history. He might've reached even greater heights, but drinking problems took their toll and he was waived halfway through the 1942 season. Still, what a legacy. Foxx still holds the club record for RBIs (175 in 1938) and during seven years in Boston, he blasted over 200 homers with nearly 800 RBIs.