It’s fitting that on his second day in the major leagues, Nick Castellanos was confronted with one of the most iconic physical structures in all of sports.
The Green Monster.
For decades, Fenway Park’s left field wall has served as the backdrop for some of the greatest players in baseball history – three left fielders who ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Castellanos, a converted left fielder, might be well served to learn a little bit about the great left fielders who have worn out the grass in front of the Green Monster in Boston.
First, there was Ted Williams, the tall, lean kid from California who debuted with the Red Sox in 1939 and quickly established himself as the best hitter in the game. With a gorgeous swing, quick wrists, and eyesight that was later tested to be 20/10 when he was in the Marines during World War II and Korea. Williams is the last man to hit .400, and he won a triple crown. Like current Tiger star Miguel Cabrera, Williams could hit for a high average and hit for power. His long stated goal was to be known as “the greatest hitter that ever lived,” and it would be hard to argue that he wasn’t.
As Teddy Ballgame’s career was winding down in the early 1960s, the Red Sox had a young left fielder ready to take his place. Carl Yastrzemski was nothing like Williams, not in temperament, not in his approach to the game, not in style. But he did have something in common with his left field predecessor: he was a natural at hitting a baseball. Yaz won a triple crown too, in ’67 when he almost single-handedly carried the Sox to the AL pennant. A left-handed batter who tinkered with his batting stance with an obsessive tenacity, Yaz was probably the best defender to ever play in front of the famous Green Monster. He mastered the technique of playing the carom off the wall.
When Yaz was growing long in the tooth, Boston moved him to first base and DH to make room for their next Hall of Fame left fielder: Jim Rice. Unlike Williams and Yastrzemski, Rice was a right-handed slugger. During his prime, in the 1970s and early 1980s, Rice was one of the most feared hitters in the game. In 1978 he won the MVP Award, and he’s in the Hall of Fame.
With those three great players, the Red Sox fielded a Hall of Famer in left field almost continuously from 1939 to 1987 – nearly 50 years!
If the Green Monster could talk, imagine the advice it would give to young Nick Castellanos.