You don't have to be from Boston to know that the Red Sox are not just one of the most famous baseball teams in the world, but they also have a storied history that few teams can match.
If you're a fan of this very special team, you may already own Red Sox sports memorabilia, but how much do you know about their history?
The history of the Boston Red Sox is a long and interesting one and dates back over 100 years. Let’s dive into the story behind one of the original franchises of the American League.
The History of the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox were founded in 1901 and were originally known as the Boston Americans. They were one of the original eight members of the American League, and won their first pennant in 1903, and then adding another one the following year.
The Boston Americans played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds from 1901 until 1911. It was the site of the first World Series game between the modern American and National leagues in 1903.
The team officially took the name the Boston Red Sox in 1908. It was a shortening of "Boston Red Stockings." The name was soon shortened further, unofficially, to "BoSox" or just "the Sox."
The team moved to Fenway Park in 1912, which is now the oldest of all current major league ballparks, even older than the famous Wrigley Field in Chicago. The park is known for some distinctive features, but most especially the 37.2 foot left field wall known as the "Green Monster."
The Green Monster has become a target for right-handers and is the tallest amongst current walls Major League Baseball.
The Early Years
The Red Sox enjoyed early success with the help of their first superstar, Cy Young. He was the best pitcher of his generation, eventually having the Pitcher of the Year award named for him, throwing the first perfect game in the modern era on May 5, 1904.
The Red Sox continued to be successful throughout the 1910s, winning four more championships in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. This early success was in no small part due to the Red Sox star center fielder, Tris Speaker, who played with the Sox from 1907 until 1915.
The sale of Tris Speaker to the Cleveland Indians in 1915 was a blow to some Red Sox fans, but this was soon overshadowed when a new pitcher-turned-outfielder by the name of Babe Ruth joined the Sox.
George Herman Ruth Jr. started as a pitcher for the Red Sox in 1914, and he was pretty good too. However, a loaded roster meant that he struggled to find regular playing time in the beginning of his career.
It soon became apparent that not only was Babe Ruth a pitcher to be reckoned with, but he could also be pretty devastating at the plate. For fans and coaches alike, people believed his talents as a slugger were what could send the Red Sox to glory.
By 1918, not only was Ruth a daily player, but he also led his team to another World Series victory.
In 1919 Ruth broke the single-season home run record, hitting 29. Little did he know, that was to be his last season with the Red Sox. Ruth was sold to the Red Sox's rivals, the New York Yankees in December 1919, by new owner Harry Frazee.
This move confused Red Sox fans everywhere and started a fierce and ongoing rivalry between the Sox and the Yankees. A rivalry that remains very much alive to this very day.
The Wilderness Years
Following Babe Ruth's departure to the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox's fortunes changed dramatically. It became known as the "Curse of the Bambino" (The Great Bambino being one of Babe Ruth's nicknames).
Frazee decided he was getting out of baseball, and started selling the Red Sox star players, including the manager Ed Barrow, and the team suffered a series of appalling seasons in the 1920s.
The loss of so many of their star players sent the Red Sox into free fall. During the 1920s and early 1930s, they were fixtures in the second division, never finishing closer than 20 games out of first.
Frazee eventually sold the team to Bob Quinn in 1923. During an eight-year period from 1925 to 1932, the Red Sox averaged over 100 losses per season, bottoming out in 1932 with a record of 43-111. It's still the worst record in franchise history.
In 1933, Tom Yawkey bought the team. He started to acquire talent and brought in pitchers Wes Ferrell and Lefty Grove, considered to be one of the greatest in the game at the time. He also acquired slugger Jimmie Foxx whose 50 home runs in 1938 stood as a club record for 68 years.
The Ted Williams Years
The years 1939-1960 in Red Sox history are often called the Ted Williams years, or "The Ted Sox."
Widely considered to be one of the best hitters who ever played the game, Williams is still the last player to hit over .400 for a full season, batting .406 in 1941.
With Williams, the Boston Red Sox reached the 1946 World Series, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. This was largely due to the use of the "Williams Shift," a defensive tactic in which the shortstop moves to the right side of the infield, making it harder for the left-handed hitting Williams. This defensive tactic is still widely used today against the best left-handed hitters in the league.
The 1950s were also a difficult time for the Red Sox. Ted Williams was away fighting in the Korean War, and a number of their star players of the 1940s had been traded or retired.
The Impossible Dream
For many Red Sox fans, the majority of the 20th century was tormented, with the 1950s being a particularly troublesome time. Yawkey refused to sign any African-American players, even turning down the opportunity to sign future Hall-of-Fame stars Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
The Red Sox were eventually the last Major League baseball team to field an African-American player when they promoted infielder Pumpsie Green in 1959.
Along with this less than proud record, there were long periods with no success, and when the team did make it to the World Series, it didn't end well.
The team made it to the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986. They lost each series in the seventh and final game.
The Red Sox finished the 1966 season in ninth place but had a new lease on life with hitter Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski. That year, the team won the pennant to reach the 1967 World Series. However, the Red Sox lost the series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
The Red Hats
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Red Sox never finished higher than second place in their division. The closest they came to a title was losing to the Detroit Tigers by half a game in 1972.
An interesting fact for collectors of Boston Red Sox memorabilia is that during the four seasons between 1975-1978, the team switched their traditional dark blue cap with a red "B", to a red hat with a dark blue "B." This gave rise to the 1970s being called the "Red Hat Era."
Tom Yawkey died in 1976 and ownership of the Red Sox passed to his widow, Jean Yawkey. She held control of the team until her death in 1992, when ownership was then passed to the Yawkey Trust.
1986 World Series
The 1986 season offered a glimmer of hope for fans, but in true Red Sox style, it was soon extinguished.
A best-of-seven World Series saw the Red Sox pitted against the New York Mets. The Mets won the Series in the seventh game, after overcoming a deficit of two runs with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6.
Twice in the game, Boston was only one strike away from victory. However, an error by Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, when he allowed a ground ball to go between his legs, has now become painfully infamous in baseball history. Because of this, Game 6 has been attributed to the "Curse of the Bambino."
2004: Success at Last
2002 saw another period of change for the Red Sox when the Yawkey Trust sold the team to a management group led by John Henry, former owner of the Florida Marlins. This brought 70 years of Yawkey ownership to a close.
Things started to look up for Boston, and the "curse" finally came to an end in 2004.
After 86 years since their last championship win, the Red Sox won the World Series in four games against the St. Louis Cardinals. The star players of the series were pitchers Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, and hitters Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
In order to reach the World Series though, they had to go through their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. After being defeated in the first three games of the series, the Red Sox rallied behind dominant pitching and timely hitting to be the first team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit. The Cardinals now awaited in the World Series.
The Red Sox started the series with a 3-run homer by David Ortiz. It would go on to be the highest scoring World Series opening game ever, beating the previous record set in 1932.
The Red Sox would win Game 2 in Boston after another great performance by Curt Schilling. In Game 3, Manny Ramirez got Boston going with a 1st-inning solo home run. Pedro Martínez, in his first ever World Series, shut out the Cardinals for 7 innings and led Boston to a 4-1 victory.
The night of Game 4 was given a memorable, if not surreal, atmosphere by a total lunar eclipse, giving the moon a reddish hue. What could have been more fitting for the game that clinched the World Series for the Red Sox?
Boston finally had their champions and 3 million people lined the streets to see their heroes process through the city. The Red Sox earned many awards and credits from the sports media for their triumphant season. That December, Sports Illustrated named the Boston Red Sox the 2004 Sportsmen of the Year.
Back on Top?
In the 2000s, it seemed as though the Red Sox were back on form. With the 2004 World Series win under their belt, expectations were running high.
Not only did the BoSox win the World Series, but just as important to many fans was beating the rival Yankees in the American League Championship Series. It seemed that Yankee dominance would soon be over.
In the 2007 World Series, the Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies in four games. In 2008, the Red Sox lost a seven-game American League Championship Series to the Tampa Bay Rays but stayed buoyant throughout the 2000s and a force to be reckoned with, with some hiccups along the way.
The next couple of years were tumultuous for the Red Sox, including blowing a 9 game lead in 2011, but the 2013 World Series came knocking once again, where they beat the Cardinals in six games to win their 8th World Series.
The rocky road was never far away though, and in 2014, only a year after winning the World Series, the Red Sox lost 91 games and finished last in their division.
A rebuilt and rejuvenated 2016 squad won a division title, but the following year lost the American League Division Series. However, things have started to look up once more for the BoSox.
2018 saw the Red Sox go into the postseason as the top seed in the American League. They beat the Yankees in four games in the ALDS to the delight of their fans.
The Red Sox then defeated the defending champion Houston Astros in five games in the Championship Series, going on to the World Series where they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
2018 was the ninth World Series title for the Red Sox. They've got a long way to go to catch the Yankee’s 27 Series wins, but it is cause for optimism from Red Sox fans everywhere.
Love the Red Sox? Love Their Memorabilia?
So, that's a history of the Boston Red Sox! Whether you're a new Red Sox fan, or have followed them your whole life, what better way to show your appreciation for one of the oldest sports franchises than to start collecting Boston Red Sox sports memorabilia.
Check out some of our top tips on collecting autographs and memorabilia to help you get your collection underway. Also, don't forget you can email Matt, your sports memorabilia guy, with any questions about collectibles.
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