Entering his seventh season in the majors, Carl Yastrzemski had a reputation as a solid but not spectacular player. He was averaging 16 homers and 76 rbi’s with a .293 batting average. He had a batting title to his credit (.321 in 1963) and had led the AL three times in doubles. It helped that Yaz could go the other way and use the left field wall.
However, Carl had many detractors. A piece by Ray Fitzgerald in early March of 1967 is entitled “Yaz Will Drag Bunt for Hits To Avoid Smashing into DP”s”. It begins: “Somebody once said in discussing Carl Yastrzemski: ‘if you want to get him on the telephone, the area code is 4-6-3.” The reference was to the many times, apparently trying to pull the ball, Carl had hit hard grounders to second base, many resulting in double plays. But this season, vowed Yaz, things would be different. “I’m going to drag bunt for base hits, ” he was quoted as saying…I’m sick and tired of hitting one-hop line drives to the second baseman who is laying back. If I can learn how to bunt, I will make the infield honest.”
Fitzgerald’s article went on to say that all winter there had been talk that Carl would be traded. GM Haywood Sullivan admitted that the White Sox had called several times. He told Ed Short of Chicago that it would take a first line pitcher, such as Joel Horlen, Gary Peters, or (pre-surgery) Tommy John, plus “another good player.” Short backed off.
The piece continued that Yaz admitted that he hadn’t lived up to his potential (i.e. a successor to number 9) but did mention working out in the offseason in Lynnfield with a trainer named Gene Berde. No one knew at the time how important those workouts would be.
It wouldn’t take long to see how much Yastrzemski and the team had changed. By June, Carl would already have 10 homers and 31 rbi’s and be batting close to .300 on the way to a Triple Crown season. The Sox were in the hunt for first place. His grounders to second had become homers into the stands. The bunt idea had already been forgotten.
Let us thank the baseball gods that Ed Short didn’t offer enough.