BOSTON — In his first six years with the Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski suffered through losing season after losing season.
“We would be 20 games out at the All-Star break,” Yastrzemski said.
“Then ’67 came along and baseball was fun again.”
Yastrzemski, 74, was honored Sunday with the unveiling of a statue in front of Fenway Park.
The honor is for a man who played 23 seasons (and 3,308 games) for the Red Sox. He was named an All-Star for 19 seasons, and finished with 452 home runs.
The statue depicts Yastrzemski tipping his hat during his last major league at-bat in 1983.
But the year most Yastrzemski fans remember is 1967, when “Yaz” won the Triple Crown and led Boston to the World Series.
The comparisons of 1967 to 2013 are obvious.
This current Boston team did not have to reverse years of losing, just one stinker of a 2012 season (69-93).
“What a difference this year,” Yastrzemski said. And, yes, he does see similarities between ’67 and ’13.
“They’re playing as a great, great unit. Different guys doing something spectacular every day,” Yastrzemski said. “That’s the same as in ’67. “I’m looking forward to the playoffs because I think we have an outstanding pitching staff.”
Better than 1967?
“This (2013 team) is probably a better team because of the pitching,” he said.
There were a lot of references to this year’s success. The statue became an extension of the recent celebration of the AL East crown.
If this unveiling took place last year, Sox management would have been accused of trying to distract from the abysmal team on the field (remember the appearance of the 2004 World Series team last season — for its “eighth anniversary” of its title year?).
Among the crowd for the unveiling Sunday were Yastrzemski’s former teammates, including Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, and current Boston players Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, along with manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington.
Both Rice and Evans spoke glowingly of Yastrzemski. Evans also spoke of 2013.
“Ben Cherington, John Farrell, congratulations,” Evans said. “From last to first. It’s been fun to watch.”
On Sunday, the Red Sox remembered one of their greats of yesterday, with an eye on the immediate future.
Jacoby Ellsbury will likely be a part of that future. Feared lost of the year with a broken right foot, Ellsbury now might play as early as Wednesday in Denver, according to Farrell.
“That’s an optimistic view. Hoping to get him some at-bats that day,” Farrell said. “The baseball activities are starting to ramp up. There’s been no setbacks.”
Ellsbury has not played since Sept. 5.
Felix Doubront made his last start of the season Sunday. He’ll be in the bullpen for next weekend’s final series in Baltimore. But that does not given the Red Sox a lot of time to determine if Doubront can switch gears and become a reliever.
“The difficult thing will be how many opportunities can he get,” Farrell said. “Obviously we got some decisions to make when it comes to the postseason roster. All things will be taken into account.”
Boston’s turnaround can be attributed to many factors, including a huge improvement at home. Last year, the Red Sox were 34-47 at Fenway (and 35-46 on the road). This year, Boston finished its home schedule at 53-28, best in the American League
“In spring training there were questions: How do we make Fenway Park our advantage once again?” Farrell said. “It comes down to our roster and the guys who thrive in this environment.
“I think guys relish coming in here every day with an opportunity to do something unique.”