Bobby Doerr, Red Sox Retired #1
Robert Pershing Doerr (born April 7, 1918) is a former second baseman and coach in Major League Baseball who played his entire fourteen-year career with the Boston Red Sox from 1937 to 1951. He led American League (AL) second basemen in double plays five times, tying a league record, in putouts and fielding percentage four times each, and in assists three times. He held the major league record for career double plays at second base (1,507) until Nellie Fox surpassed his mark in 1963, and his career fielding percentage (.980) was a major league record until Red Schoendienst passed him in 1953; Fox broke his AL mark in 1956.
Doerr also ended his career ranking fifth in career games (1,852), putouts (4,928) and total chances (10,852) at second base, and sixth in assists (5,710). He set Red Sox records for career games (1,865), at bats (7,093), hits (2,042), doubles (381), total bases (3,270) and runs batted in, all of which were later broken by his longtime teammate Ted Williams. His 223 home runs were then the third most by a major league second baseman, with his 1,247 RBI ranking fifth.
Doerr was born the son of Harold Doerr, a telephone company supervisor, and his wife, the former Frances Herrnberger; his middle name was a tribute to General John J. Pershing, then the commander of U.S. military forces in World War I. He graduated from Los Angeles' Fremont High School in 1936, after having already begun his professional career with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1934. Doerr broke into the majors in 1937 at the age of 19 and went 3 for 5 in his first game. In 1938 he became a regular in a powerful Red Sox lineup that included Jimmie Foxx and Joe Cronin. Early in his career Doerr was often called upon to bunt and was so proficient at it that he led the league with 22 in 1938. In 1939, Ted Williams' rookie season with the Sox, Doerr began a string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more home runs and 73 or more runs batted in; in 1940 the Red Sox became the 12th team in major league history to have four players with 100 RBI, with Foxx, Williams, Cronin and Doerr each collecting at least 105.
In 1944 Doerr led the league in slugging percentage. The same year, his .325 batting average was good enough to allow him to finish second in the league, two percentage points behind Lou Boudreau of the Cleveland Indians. He was named the AL's Most Valuable Player by The Sporting News, although he finished only seventh in voting for the AL MVP Award, being named on only 13 of 24 ballots and receiving nothing higher than a third-place vote.
Doerr missed the 1945 season while serving in the Army during World War II, being stationed at Camp Roberts, California.
Doerr was an offensive force for the Red Sox in 1946 as they won their first pennant since 1918, driving in 116 runs despite a .271 average, and finished third in the MVP vote (won by Williams). He hit .409 in the 1946 World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, with a home run and three runs batted in. Williams referred to Doerr as "the silent captain of the Red Sox."
Doerr hit for the cycle twice in his career, on May 17, 1944 in a 12-8 loss to the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader, and again on May 13, 1947 in a 19-6 win over the Chicago White Sox. In 1950 he led the league in triples with 11; on June 8 of that year, he hit three home runs in a 29-4 romp over the Browns.
Regarded as one of the top defensive second basemen of his era, with observers divided between him and Joe Gordon of the rival New York Yankees, Doerr set an American League record in 1948 by handling 414 chances in a row over 73 games without an error.
Doerr batted over .300 three times, with six seasons of at least 100 runs batted in. Never playing a game at a position other than second base, he retired at age 33 in September 1951 due to a back injury, having 8,028 plate appearances, 1,094 runs, 89 triples, 809 walks, 1,349 singles, 1,184 runs created, 693 extra base hits, 2,862 times on base, 115 sacrifice hits and nine All-Star Game selections. He had enjoyed tremendous success at Fenway Park, hitting .315 there with 145 home runs, compared to a .261 average and 78 HRs on the road.
Doerr became a scout for the Red Sox from 1957 to 1966, then was the team's first base coach from 1967 to 1969, including the 1967 World Series loss to the Cardinals, Boston's first pennant since 1946. As Boston's unofficial batting instructor during 1967, Doerr worked with Carl Yastrzemski to convert the seven-year veteran from an opposite-field "doubles" hitter who had never before hit more than 20 homers in a season to a pull-hitting slugger who belted 44 home runs and won the Triple Crown and AL Most Valuable Player award that season. Doerr resigned from the Red Sox when Dick Williams was fired as manager in September 1969, but later became the hitting coach for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays from 1977 to 1981.
Doerr was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. He has lived in Oregon since the late 1930s, residing in the vicinity of Agness for much of his career before relocating to Junction City in the 1950s. His jersey number 1 was retired by the Red Sox on May 21, 1988. Since then, Doerr has lived a relatively quiet lifestyle at his Junction City home. He makes annual trips to the Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, New York, and when home, regularly fishes large game fish. Doerr married Monica Terpin on October 24, 1938, and they had one son; the union lasted 65 years until she died at age 88 on December 17, 2003 after suffering a number of strokes. He has carried on his quiet life since then.
On July 29, 2007, the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Doerr after the induction of Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn into the Hall. On August 2, 2007, the Red Sox held "Bobby Doerr Day" at Fenway Park where he rode along the warning track in a car, threw out the first pitch, and gave a speech.
Upon the death of former New York Yankee Phil Rizzuto in August 2007, Doerr became the oldest living player in the Baseball Hall of Fame, although Lee MacPhail, a member for his contributions as an administrator, is older.
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