Carl Yastrzemski was born on August 22, 1939, in Southampton, New York. After his freshman season at Notre Dame, the Boston Red Sox offered him $108,000 to join the club. He developed into one of the greatest defensive left fielders in Red Sox history, as well as an excellent hitter. Yastrzemski retired in 1983 after compiling more than 3,000 hits in 23 big league seasons, and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Professional baseball player Carl Michael Yastrzemski was born on August 22, 1939, in Southampton, New York, before moving to Bridgehampton, a small working-class town on Long Island with a population of fewer than 3,000. His father was a potato farmer, and aside from selling potatoes for market, the Yastrzemskis were almost entirely self-sufficient: They cultivated their own vegetable garden and slaughtered their own cattle for meat.
Yastrzemski began working on the family farm at a very young age, passing his after-school hours lifting heavy sacks of potatoes onto tractor carts. "I used to love those little sacks," he recalls fondly. "Christ, I was like 12 years old, picking those things up. Seventy-five pounds. I kept saying to myself—and this is why I loved it—this is going to help me get strong, help me make it to the big leagues. It was going to help me in baseball."
Yastrzemski was addicted to baseball from the time he was big enough to swing a bat and throw a ball—a passion he inherited from his father. In fact, according to Yastrzemski, his father was a far more talented athlete than he ever was. Delivering his induction speech to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, Yastrzemski painted this portrait of his father: "Take my father. Super athlete himself. Possessing all the talent and dedication needed to make the big leagues but living at the time of the Depression. He had to suppress his own desires in order that his family could survive and prosper so he worked and labored toward that end. If ever there's living proof that some people make sacrifices for others it's my dad."
Perhaps ironically, considering his later status as a Boston Red Sox legend, Yastrzemski grew up a New York Yankees fan. Several times a season, he and his father would make the 200-mile round trip to the Bronx to see the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle play at Yankee Stadium. And every minute that he wasn't in school or working on the farm, Yastrzemski practiced baseball. He took a bat with him when he went out to do his farm work, and upon finishing he'd fill up a bucket with rocks and practice hitting them out across the fields. He also hung a baseball by a string from the ceiling of the family garage, and each night he took hundreds of practice swings before and after dinner.
Yastrzemski attended Bridgehampton High School, where he was a star athlete on the baseball, basketball and football teams. He posted a career batting average of .512 at Bridgehampton High, and during his senior year he set a conference record by scoring 628 points for the basketball team. It was also during his senior year that Yastrzemski's biggest childhood dream came true: a New York Yankees scout showed up at his front door and offered him a $60,000 contract. And while Carl desperately wanted to accept the offer, his father insisted that Yastrzemski accept nothing less than $100,000.
The Yankees refused to up their offer, and so Yastrzemski gave up his first shot at professional baseball, instead attending Notre Dame University on a full scholarship for baseball and basketball. His decision proved a wise one. After just his freshman season at Notre Dame, the Boston Red Sox flew him out to Fenway Park and offered him $108,000 to join the club. Yastrzemski accepted the offer and left school, although he eventually earned a business degree from Merrimack College in 1966.
Pro Baseball Career
In 1961, after one season in the minor leagues, the Red Sox called Yastrzemski up to the majors. Nicknamed "Yaz" by teammates and fans, the Red Sox's new left fielder had very large shoes to fill as the replacement for the legendary Ted Williams, who had retired the previous season in 1960. And while he could never quite match Williams' peerless production at the plate, Yastrzemski turned out to be one of the greatest defensive left fielders in Red Sox history.
Playing in front of Fenway Park's towering 37-foot left field wall, nicknamed "the Green Monster," Yastrzemski won seven Golden Glove awards as the league's best defensive left fielder. He also developed into an excellent hitter, winning three American League batting championships. In 1967, he won the Triple Crown as the American League leader in batting average (.326), RBIs (121) and home runs (44) and won the American League MVP award.
After 23 seasons with the Red Sox, Yastrzemski retired in 1983. At the conclusion of his final game at Fenway Park, Yastrzemski jogged his final lap around the bases to a standing ovation. He retired as an 18-time All-Star, and one of only nine players in Major League Baseball history to amass 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He also held eight different career Red Sox team records. Yastrzemski was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989—his first year of eligibility.
For his entire life, Carl Yastrzemski has lived and breathed baseball. He once said, "I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it." However, Yastrzemski also understands that he only has the luxury of focusing so hard on the game of baseball because of the sacrifices made by his parents.
He said during his Hall of Fame induction speech, "I've often been asked during my career how can you stand up to the rigors of big league baseball and its pressure packed situations, and I've always answered the same way. Pressure, what pressure? Pressure is what faces millions and millions of fathers and mothers trying to earn a living every day to support a family, to give it comfort, devotion and love. That's what pressure really is and that's what my dear mother whom I miss today and my father gave me."
Carl Yastrzemski married Carol Casper in 1960 and they had four children, Sue, Kara, Mary Ann and Mike, before their marriage ended in divorce. In 2002, he remarried, this time to Nancy Benson.
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