Their roots can be traced to Toledo, Ohio, where in the late 1800s they were formed as a minor league team, playing in the Ban Johnson-led Western league. At the turn of the century, when the Western League became the American League, the team moved to Boston and became known as the Boston Americans. The Americans played their first game in Bean Town in 1901 at the Highland Avenue Grounds, a venue they would call home until 1911.
A charter member of the American League, the team was a dominant force during the early years of the 20th century. They won the very first World Series in 1903 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, changed their name to the Red Sox in 1907, and went on to take the crown four more times within a six-year span.
After their championship season of 1912, they left the Highland Avenue Grounds for their new home – Fenway Park, famous for its left field wall, dubbed the Green Monster. At Fenway, they captured World Championship titles in 1915 and 1918. The team’s 1918 Championship was largely credited to their young pitching ace – a guy by the name of Babe Ruth.
The following season, when Boston did not make it back to the World Series, team owner Harry Frazee, could not come to terms with Ruth when they tried to renegotiate his contract. He and Ruth had never gotten along and Frazee, a Broadway producer, needed to raise some capital for a show he was producing. And so, without giving it much thought, Frazee shipped The Bambino off to the New York Yankees prior to the 1920 season for $100,000. This move would deeply haunt the Boston franchise, as Ruth would go on to become a legendary hitter, and arguably the greatest player of all time. The Yankees would go on to win an unprecedented 26 World Series.
That move would also be credited for conjuring up one of the world’s most legendary curses – the famous “Curse of the Bambino”, coined by Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy, that would deny the boys from Bean Town another World Series win for 86 long years.
By the early 1930s, the once great Red Sox were hobbling along, when a wealthy young man named Tom Yawkey bought the franchise. Determined to transform his team into a contender, he pumped huge sums of money into the organization.
In 1939, the Red Sox signed a player they hoped would be the spark to ignite their second coming. Ted “The Splendid Splinter” Williams was one of the greatest hitters to ever step into the batters box. He turned in an unbelievable performance during the 1941 season, finishing with a .400 average and was a major force in leading the team back to the World Series in 1946. Boston fans embraced Williams as the curse breaker and as the Sox began the ’46 Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the feeling was that the birds would fall at the mercy of William’s lumber. But that wasn’t to happen. The Cards shifted their defense whenever Williams came to the plate and took the Championship in 7 games.
By the 1950s, even the most die-hard Red Sox fans were starting to believe in the curse. Not only were they losing more games then they were winning, they were also embroiled in a public relations nightmare of their own doing. Perceived as a racist organization for their resistance to sign a black player, they continued to be stubborn and defiant until 1959, when they finally named Pumpsie Green to their roster. The team’s owner hoped that the inclusion of Green would end the furor over their unwillingness to hire a black player. The dust did eventually settle, but it would leave a permanent scar on the team who will forever be known as being the last Major League team to sign a black player.
The Red Sox hoped that the 1960s would prove to be a better decade than the previous one, and things were definitely looking bright when they signed Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski, who would go on to be one of the best hitters during that pitching-dominated era.
The big wins however, still eluded the team, with the only highlight coming in 1967, when Yaz won the Triple Crown – leading the AL in home runs, RBIs and batting average. The 1967 season is also remembered as one of the great pennant races in baseball history with Boston, Baltimore, Minnesota, and Detroit all in a position to win the American League Pennant. Yaz’s power at the plate led the Red Sox back to the World Series, which had fans convinced the curse was as dead and buried as The Bambino himself.
Once again however, they would be wrong. The St. Louis Cardinals denied Boston a Championship in seven games, and the bellowing sound of The Babe’s revengeful laughter continued to haunt New England. Eight long years would pass before Boston won another pennant.
The 1975 Red Sox was a team bursting with young talent such as Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, and pitchers Luis Tiant and Bill Lee. In the World Series, they would face the powerful Cincinnati Reds with their superstar lineup of Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, and Johnny Bench. It was a back and forth Series, and when Game 6 went into extra-innings, Bostonians began to think the veil of the curse was about to be lifted when Carlton Fisk smacked a ball out towards the left field foul pole that stayed in play by inches. The crowd at Fenway erupted in jubilation and poured out onto the field, tempting the fates by declaring the curse to be exorcised. One can only imagine The Babe’s ghost taking in that jubilant display, and then smugly beginning the incantation that would see the Reds soundly defeat the Red Sox in Game 7.
Boston would field competitive teams in the 1980s, and their most notable competitor was a fiery pitcher by the name of Roger Clemens. In 1986, Clemens won the MVP and the Red Sox won the pennant, to make it to the World Series where they faced the New York Mets. By this time, Red Sox fans had almost come to accept the curse, just knowing that things would all fall apart in the end.
Those who thought that way were not to be let down. Many Red Sox fans consider Game 6 of the ‘86 Series to be the lowest point in the team’s history. The Red Sox, up 3 games to 2, were just one strike away from claiming the title of World Champions and putting an end to the dreaded curse that had dogged them for so many years. And then, as the premature celebrating began in Boston, first baseman Bill Buckner allowed a ball to slip through his legs, on which the Mets scored the winning run and moved on to Game 7. The Mets went on to capture the title. The entire City of Boston went into a deep depression, and The Babe once again, got the last laugh.
In 2002, the Red Sox were purchased by a consortium led by John Henry. The new owners poured big bucks into the team, believing that they could buy their way out of the curse. And it looked like that would pay off when in the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees; the Red Sox were leading 5-2 in the 8th inning in the decisive Game 7.
Starting pitcher, Pedro Martinez was still on the mound and allowed three runs to tie the game. The Red Sox ultimately lost in 11 innings. Red Sox fans were outraged that the team’s manager, Grady Little, left Martinez in the game when he was showing obvious sign of tiring, and the team’s owners felt the same way booting Little during the off season.
In 2004, the Red Sox and their archrivals, the New York Yankees met again to battle for the AL Pennant. The Yanks won the first three games, priming Red Sox fans for yet another crushing loss.
The Babe then went about setting in gear what he believed would be his latest taunt. He allowed the Red Sox to engineer the greatest comeback in baseball history, winning four straight games, to earn the chance to once again face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Oh, how The Babe would revel in watching the Bean Town boys fall apart after that one.
And then…on October 27, 2004…The Babe blinked.
The 2004 Red Sox won the 100th World Series, completing a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Church bells rang throughout New England, horns honked on the crowded streets of the Hub, and, after its 86 year run, the “Curse of The Bambino” was finally broken.
If you are a serious Red Sox collector, there will be some incredible items offered on June 10th in a Sotheby’s/SportsCards Plus auction, including the items featured on the cover of this SMR. The featured item is, of course, the 1919 contract which represents the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the New York Yankees. No contract in baseball history stirs up more emotion than this one, a contract that made The Curse official and the Yankees a perennial winner.
When you think back over the history of the Boston Red Sox, some names immediately come to mind – Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens, Bill Buckner and Pedro Martinez. They are also names that most sportscard collectors are very well versed on, and that Sports Market Report has done voluminous stories about. But let’s say you wanted to round out a card collection of legendary Red Sox players. Who besides those players would you include? Here’s a good starting list:Wade Boggs
Boggs has three of the team's Top 10 all-time highest batting averages and is the only Red Sox to ever hit over .360 in four different seasons. Boggs won five batting titles with the Red Sox, including four straight from 1985-88. The most desirable of his cards is his rookie offering, the 1983 Topps #498.Rick Burleson
Nicknamed the Rooster, Burleson turned more double plays than any Red Sox shortstop in history, and still holds the major league single season record for most double plays by a shortstop with 147 in 1980. His “must have” card is the 1975 Topps # 302.Tony Conigliaro
Tony C. hit .267 with 162 HR and 501 RBI during his 802-game Red Sox career. He was the youngest AL player to reach 100 home runs. After a stint with the Angels in 1971, he returned to the Red Sox briefly in 1975 before retiring. One of the most wanted of Conigliaro’s cards is the 1964 Topps #287.Dom DiMaggio
Dom had a .298 career average for the 11 seasons he was a Red Sox. “The Little Professor” scored more than 100 runs seven times, leading the league in 1950 and 51. A 7-time All Star, Dom is among the all-time Red Sox leaders in several hitting categories, and had a 31-game hitting streak in 1949. His most desirable card is the 1941 Playball #63.Dennis Eckersley
The Eck, acquired in a trade with Cleveland, first rose to prominence as a 23-year old starting pitcher, going 20-8 in 1978. He went on to win 84 games in the Red Sox starting rotation before he was traded to the Cubs during the 1984 season for Bill Buckner. Eckersley returned to Boston to finish his career in 1998. “The” Eckersley card is the 1976 Topps #98.Dwight Evans
Dewey played in 2,505 games for the Red Sox, second most in club history. The 3-time All Star hit 379 HR and had 1,346 RBIs. The 8-time Gold Glove winner is remembered for his great catch in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series that robbed Joe Morgan of a home run. In two World Series, Evans hit .300 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 14 games. Dwight was named hitting coach for the Red Sox in 2002. Evans’ rookie offering is the 1973 Topps #614.Hobe Ferris
Ferris spent six seasons with Boston, compiling a 65-30 mark with a 3.64 ERA. It took him only 30 career appearances to win 20 games. Ferris’ career was cut short by asthma and arm trouble. He later served as a pitching coach for the Red Sox. The 1949 Bowman #211 is the Hobe Ferris card to have.Carlton Fisk
Carlton became the Red Sox starting catcher in 1972 and was the first unanimous AL Rookie of the Year, after hitting .293 with 22 HR and a league high 9 triples in 131 games. He also won the Gold Glove award. In his 11-year Boston career, he hit .284 with 162 HR and was a 7-time All Star. In July of 2000, Fisk was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Fisk’s most desired rookie card is the 1972 Topps #79.Larry Gardner
Gardner joined the Red Sox in 1908 and helped Boston win three World Series. He hit a sacrifice fly off the Giants’ legendary Christy Mathewson in the last of the 10th, as the Sox won the final game of the dramatic World Series in Fenway Park’s inaugural year of 1912. The left-handed hitting Gardner compiled a .283 average during his tenure in Boston, and is fifth in club history with 87 triples and 134 stolen bases. Gardner’s top card is the 1912 Brown Backgrounds T207.Tex Hughson
Born Cecil Carlton Hughson, “Tex” spent his entire 8-year career with the Red Sox, compiling a 96-54 record with a 2.94 ERA. An All Star for three straight seasons he led the AL in wins (22-6), complete games (22), innings (281), and strikeouts (113) in 1942. After spending 1945 in the military, Hughson helped pitch the Red Sox into the 1946 World Series, finishing with a 20-11 record. After that, arm problems took their toll and he won only 19 more games before his career ended in 1949. Hughson cards are tough finds. The1949 Bowman #199 is your best bet.Bruce Hurst
Hurst was one of the few left-handers in Red Sox history who excelled at Fenway Park, where he was 33-9 from 1986 to 1988. His 56 wins at Fenway are second among lefties only to Mel Parnell. In 1986, Hurst finished the regular season with a 2.99 ERA and led the Red Sox to the World Series. Hurst finished his Red Sox career with a 3-2 record and 2.29 ERA in 7 post-season starts. The 1981 Topps #689 is a popular Hurst card.Jackie Jensen
Jackie won the AL MVP award in 1958, a Gold Glove in 1959, and was named to the All Star team in 1955 and 1958. He played in 1,039 games for Boston, after three seasons with the Yankees and one with the Senators. In his first year with the Red Sox, Jensen led the AL in stolen bases, and he led the league in RBI three times during his tenure in Boston. The 1954 Bowman # 2 is the Jensen to look for.Duffy Lewis
Part of the legendary outfield trio that included Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper, Duffy won three World Championships in his eight years with the Red Sox. The most desired Lewis offering is the1912 T207 # 104.Jim Lonborg
Jim won the 1967 Cy Young Award when he went 22-9 with a 3.16 ERA and 15 complete games in 39 starts. He also led the league in strikeouts that year. He then went 2-1 with a 2.62 ERA while tossing two complete games, including a one-hit shutout, in the 1967 World Series against the Cardinals. His rookie card is the 1965 Topps Rookie Stars #573.Fred Lynn
Fred won the AL Rookie of the Year, league MVP, and Gold Glove awards in 1975, a spectacular first year in which he hit .331, with 21 home runs, 105 runs batted in, and league highs of 103 runs and 47 doubles. In 1979, he led the league in hitting at .333. He was an All Star his first nine years. In six full seasons with Boston, Lynn hit over .300 four times. The 1975 Topps #622 is Lynn’s rookie card.Frank Malzone
Frank spent 11 seasons with the Red Sox, hitting .276 with 131 HR and 716 RBI in 1,359 games. In his first full season with Boston in 1957, he tied an AL record with ten assists in one game. He was an All Star eight times and won three Gold Gloves. The Malzone card to have is the 1955 Bowman #302.Bill Monbouquette
Bill was 96-91 with a 3.69 ERA and 72 complete games in 228 starts during his Red Sox career. He is fifth all-time in games started, sixth in innings pitched and strikeouts, and ninth in wins. He was a 20-game winner in 1963, pitched a no-hitter in Chicago in 1962, and was a four-time All Star. One of Monbo’s most popular cards is the 1964 Topps # 25.Mel Parnell
Mel spent his entire 10-year career with the Red Sox and compiled a 123-75 (.621) record with a 3.50 ERA. Parnell still holds the club career marks of left-handed pitchers with 1,752.2 innings pitched, 232 games started, and 123 wins. The 1950 Bowman #1 is a very desirable and tough card, very hard to find in PSA-7 or better.Johnny Pesky
Johnny hit .313, seventh on Boston’s all-time list. He held the Red Sox record for most hits by a rookie with 205, until 1997. Pesky was the first Red Sox to have three 200-hit seasons and tied the Major League record by leading a league in hits for three straight years. He also tied a Major League record by scoring six runs in a game in 1946. A popular Pesky card is the 1949 Bowman # 86.Rico Petrocelli
Rico hit 210 home runs in 1,553 games in12 years with the Red Sox, including a league-record for shortstops when he hit 40 homers in 1969. He was the starting shortstop for the AL in the 1967 and 1969 All Star games. He moved to third base in 1971. He hit two home runs in Game 6 of the 1967 World Series against St. Louis, and hit .308 in the ’75 Series versus Cincinnati. Rico’s rookie card is the 1965 Topps #74.Dick Radatz
In his rookie season, Dick led the AL in saves (24), games (62), and relief wins (9), earning Fireman of the Year honors. Overall he saved 104 games for the Red Sox, second all-time behind Bob Stanley. His nickname was “The Monster” and his rookie card is the1962 Topps #591.Jim Rice
Jim played his entire 16-year career for the Red Sox and is third all-time with 382 HR, 1,451 RBI, and 2,452 hits. He was named the AL MVP in 1978, when he led the Majors with 46 HR, 139 RBI, 15 triples, and 213 hits. The Rice rookie offering is the 1975 Topps #616.Pete Runnels
Runnels was the AL batting champion with Boston in 1960 (.320) and ‘62 (.326). He finished second in the league in batting in 1958 to Ted Williams. In five seasons with Boston, the left-handed hitting Runnels never hit below .314. One of Runnels most desired cards is the 1954 Topps # 6.Reggie Smith
Reggie made his Red Sox debut at the end of the 1966 season. In 1967, he hit two home runs in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. During his Red Sox career, Smith batted .300 or better three times, won a Gold Glove in 1968, and led the AL in doubles twice. His totals for the Red Sox were a .281 average, 149 HR, and 536 RBI. The Smith card to look for is the 1968 Topps #61.Bob Stanley
“The Steamer” compiled a 115-97 record in a team-record 637 appearances with a 3.64 ERA and a Red Sox record 132 saves during his career. The two-time All Star is Boston’s all-time leader in relief wins with 85, and ranks fifth in innings pitched and sixth in wins. The 1978 Topps #186 offering is a popular Stanley card.Luis Tiant
Luis won 122 games and compiled a 3.36 ERA in his nine years in Boston, which included three 20-win seasons. He won 18 games in 1975 and shut out the Reds 6-0 in Game 1 of the 1975 World Series. The 1965 Topps #145 is Tiant’s rookie card.Smoky Joe Wood
Joe compiled an amazing 117-56 mark with a 1.99 ERA in 218 games for Boston. In 1912, he went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA and led the Red Sox to a world championship. He pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns in 1911. A right thumb injury suffered when attempting to field a ball on July 18, 1913 at Detroit, affected his velocity, but despite the pain, he led the AL in 1915 with .750 winning percentage (15-5) and 1.49 ERA. The Smoky Joe Woods card most any collector would love to have is the 1912 Brown Backgrounds T207.