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Bobby Doerr




Few fielders could compare to Bobby Doerr in the 1940's. In 14 years with the Boston Red Sox, the second baseman from Los Angeles, California led the A.L. in fielding percentage among second baseman four times. But his legacy went beyond simply catching grounders. Over the years, he built a reputation as an intelligent player, as well as a leader and a gentleman. This is his story.



The Early Years


Robert "Bobby" Pershing Doerr was born to a telephone company supervisor and his wife on April 17, 1918 in Los Angeles, California. He fell in love with baseball early in life and before he finished high school, young Bobby was already a professional ballplayer, having signed on with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League after his sophomore year in the summer of 1934. After graduating from Fremont High School in 1936, he immediately dove into life as a full-time baseball player, eschewing a college education.


While there, he welcomed a new teammate into the fold: Ted Williams. It was the beginning of a long, memorable friendship. Although the Stars lost to the Oakland Oaks in the first round of the playoffs that year, Doerr's .342 average and league leading 238 hits impressed the Red Sox enough to sign him to a major league deal the following year.


Boston



While it took him a while to really make an impact in Boston's offense, Bobby Doerr immediately made a difference in the Red Sox infield, recording 94 putouts in 55 games with a .973 fielding percentage. In 1938, Bobby Doerr enjoyed his first full season as a member of the Boston Red Sox major league squad.


While he only recorded five home runs, he did record 147 hits and 80 rbi with a reliable (for him) .289 batting average. He even led all second basemen in the American League with 118 double plays. The only downside? He committed 26 errors all year. He wouldn't make as many mistakes ever again.


He steadily improved over the next couple of years, hitting .318 in 1939 and crushing 22 homers in 1940. But neither year resulted in a pennant or an All-Star Game appearance. That changed in 1941. Despite hitting less homers (16) than the year before, driving in less runs (93) compared with the previous year's 105, Bobby Doerr made his first All-Star Game that year, beginning a seven years stretch of dominance for the second baseman.


From 1942 through 1944, Bobby Doerr steadily hit at least 15 homers in each of those seasons, capping off that run with a career best .325 average and league leading .528 slugging percentage. Everything was going well for him until life intervened.


While he continued his ascendance as one of the league's best fielders, many of his fellow players were shipped off for military service in World War II. By late in 1944, it was Bobby Doerr's turn to join the Army. As the war wound down to a close in 1945, he spent most of his time in San Miguel's Camp Roberts playing baseball for their service team.



He was only gone for a year and returned to Fenway Park rejuvenated and ready to help America heal from the trials of war. Picking up right where he left off, Bobby Doerr hit 158 balls, slammed 18 homers, drove in 116 runs and batted .271, all the while earning another All Star appearance. To top it off, the Red Sox won the A.L for the first time since 1918.


But their luck hit a wall in the World Series. even though he was excellent as a fielder, recording 49 defensive changes and 18 put-outs with no errors, Doerr couldn't prevent the Cardinals from breaking his Boston teammates in seven games. It would be his only chance to win the World Series as a player.


After that magical yet disappointing year, Bobby Doerr enjoyed five more years of productive play, including four more All-Star appearances. During that time, he was often compared to Joe Gordon as one of the best second basemen in the A.L. But unfortunately for Doerr, he had yet to win a single World Series while Gordon went on to win five with the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees, making Gordon the justifiable favorite in the position over Doerr.


Still, Bobby Doerr continued to amaze and impress, even hitting 27 home runs in 1948, the highest total of his career. But late in his career, he suffered a major back injury. After grinding through 1951 with 13 homers and 73 rbi, he just couldn't take the pain anymore and retired at the young age of 33. But he was far from done with the game that he loved.


The Later Years



Right after retiring as a player, Bobby Doerr leaped into the Red Sox scouting department, learning the finer points of what made a competent player from the hard benches of minor league parks all across America. In 1967, he began the Red Sox the finer points of hitting and fielding. Led by Doerr's prized pupil, A.L. MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, the Red Sox returned to the World Series that year where they would again lose to the Cardinals in seven games. Til the day he died, Bobby Doerr would always claim that winning a championship would have made his life complete.


In 1977, Doerr left his longtime team and the city of Boston for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays and became their first hitting coach. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and would return each year to revel in the spoils of an illustrious career, rub elbows with his fellow baseball compadres and welcome the new class of baseball's greatest into its hallowed ground.


In addition to his many visits to the Hall of Fame, Bobby Doerr also enjoyed numerous trips to Fenway Park, his old stomping grounds. the Red Sox returned the love by retiring his jersey number 1 jersey. He made his final Fenway appearance for the ballpark's centennial celebration as well as the anniversary of his first home game for his beloved Red Sox.


As the years went on bye, Bobby Doerr waved adieu to his former colleagues. By 2017, he was the last living player to have played against Lou Gehrig and was also the last living member of the 1946 Red Sox with his close friends Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and his old Hollywood Stars teammate Ted Williams having passed away years earlier. Bobby Doerr died on November 13, 2017 at the age of 99.




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