The Boston Red Sox lost 5-2 to the Kansas City Athletics on Opening Day. Boston collected 10 hits but stranded 12 men on base. So began the post-Ted Williams era in Boston, a brave new world that lacked the presence of arguably the greatest hitter to ever live.
The Sox had new left fielder that day, as necessitated by Teddy Ballgame’s retirement. A 21-year-old from New York, the kid struck out twice and registered his first big league hit, and was promptly caught stealing for the third out of the inning. His name was Carl Yastrzemski, and the hit was the first of 3,419 he would record in the big leagues.
It boggles the mind that the Red Sox so easily transitioned from one Hall of Fame-level franchise cornerstone to the next. Yaz’s first season was relatively unremarkable, but he leaped from a 91 OPS+ to a 120 the next year and didn’t look back. He didn’t register an OPS+ under 100 for a season until he was 41, and went back to above-average marks for his final two years in the league.
Yastrzemski’s crowning achievement came six years after his debut. His 1967 season saw him post a hilarious .326/.418/.622 line and take home the Triple Crown and the MVP award. He added a Gold Glove for good measure, because why not? Yaz then lead the league in two of the three Triple Crown categories the following year, and did the same in 1970.
Yastrzemski played until he was 43 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame with 94.63% of the vote.
Another fun note in April 11th baseball history: Mike Leake made his big league debut on this day in 2010. Leake is the last player to have debuted in the majors without playing a minor league game, and was the first to accomplish the feat since Xavier Nady did it in 2000.