BOSTON (AP) — Carl Yastrzemski always was a man of very few words, hardly showing any emotion during his playing days.
Yaz found a simple way to sum up his latest tribute: “Tremendous.”
The Boston Red Sox honored the 74-year-old Hall of Famer with a statue outside the right-field entrance of Fenway Park on Sunday morning.
“It means tremendous importance to me,” he said, standing at the base of the statue after a 30-minute ceremony that included some of his former teammates and current members of the AL East champions. “This is as important to me as being elected to the Hall of Fame and having my number retired. It’s a tremendous honor.”
It was fitting that the Red Sox did it this season, one that’s being compared to the club’s turnaround from last to first when Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967.
Boston, which clinched the AL East title on Friday night, won just 69 games and finished in the division’s basement last season.
“In a way there’s a lot of similarities, playing as a great, great unit,” Yastrzemski said. “Different guys doing something every day. That’s what you need to win the division, which they did. The comparisons I make is it was a very tight unit. I’m just waiting for the playoffs. I can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”
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Former teammates included Hall of Famer Jim Rice, outfielder Dwight Evans, Bill Lee and Luis Tiant. Current Red Sox players Dustin Pedroia, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and manager John Farrell were also on hand.
A few hundred fans circled an area outside Fenway’s Gate B, and Yaz’s statue is in between one of Hall of Famer Ted Williams and one called “teammates” with Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr.
“The greatest Red Sox player is Carl Yastrzemski,” Evans told the crowd, recalling how he lived with Yaz when he was a young player.
Rice, also a Hall of Famer, joked that Yastrzemski wanted things to be done quickly.
“Yaz is the type of person that believed in a couple of things — short, quick and direct,” said Rice, who replaced him in left.
Rice then told a story of how Yastrzemski wanted to teach him how to play in front of Fenway’s infamous Green Monster.
“He said, ‘Jimmy, I’m going to show you how to play left field,'” he recalled. “He folded his arms and dropped his head and said, ‘Jimmy, you’re going to have to learn how to play it yourself.”
Mayor Tom Menino proclaimed it “Carl Yastrzemski Day for the city of Boston.”
The statue is an image of Yaz tipping his cap before his final at-bat in 1983.
“I always said he was the greatest left fielder,” said 90-year old Herb Kurze from Deep River, Conn., standing in front near the Williams statue, wearing his white Red Sox home jersey with his last name on the back. “I have son-in-law that tries to tell me Manny Ramirez was, I say, ‘You don’t remember Carl Yastrzemski.'”
During his speech, Yastrzemski paused and remembered his late son, Michael, “He was my biggest fan. I wish he were here today.”
He was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Yastrzemski, wearing his No. 8 jersey, threw out the first pitch to David Ortiz before the game against Toronto.
Ortiz, a member of Boston’s 2004 and 2007 World Series teams, then met Yastrzemski about halfway between home plate and the mound, gave him a hug and the pair walked off the field to a loud ovation.
Yastrzemski talked with Farrell at the top step of the dugout before some players shook his hand.
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