The first batter in brand-new Fenway Park was a Harvard student. The Red Sox beat Harvard, 2-0, in an April 18 exhibition game. The first regular major-league game was rained out, and so were the second and the third. On April 20, President John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, threw out the first pitch and more than 27,000 fans saw a satisfying 7-6 win in 11 innings as Boston beat New York. Steve Yerkes, a second baseman in his second full year with the Sox, was 5-for-6 and was pushed across with the winning run by Tris Speaker.
Left field was dominated by a hard-to-ignore wooden wall that rose 25 above a six-foot high berm or incline which served as a warning track, and became known as “Duffy’s Cliff”. The wall was so tall that most people thought no one would ever hit a ball over it – but on April 26, during just the fifth home game, Red Sox 1B Hugh Bradley did just that.
James McAleer had been able to cajole Jake Stahl back as the mainstay on first base, giving both a small share in the club and the position of manager. The team got off to a strong start, and by June 17 were ensconced in first place for the rest of the year, only building their lead as the season wore on. They finished 14 games ahead of the second-place Senators, with a record of 105-47 – still the best in team history, and 55 games ahead of the last-place New York Highlanders.
Smoky Joe Wood put up numbers that seem unbelievable today: he was 34-5. At one point, Wood wan 16 games in a row, tying the record. His best game was a highly-publicized duel with Walter Johnson on September 6, which Wood won, 1-0. When he finally lost a game a couple of weeks later, it had been 78 days since his last loss.
Tris Speaker came into his own in 1912, too, leading the AL in homers with 10. He drove in 90 runs, and built a .383 batting average in large part on three long hitting streaks – a 30-game streak, a 21-game streak, and a 20-game one. His 53 doubles led the league, as did his .464 on-base percentage. He scored 136 runs. Duffy Lewis led the team in driving in runs: 109.
Both rookie right-hander Hugh Bedient (20-9, 2.92) and effective rookie Buck O’Brien (he’d appeared in six 1911 games) won 20 games; O’Brien was 20-13 with a 2.58 ERA. Charley Hall (15-8) and Ray Collins (13-8) had fine seasons, too. The five of them won 102 of the 105 games the Red Sox won. The team finished 105-49, still the best record of any Red Sox ballclub.
The World Series had become an annual event beginning in 1905 and the fans in Boston were primed for a return to the Fall Classic for the first time since the first one, in 1903. This was a great deal, but little did they know the successes that lay ahead.By Bill Nowlin
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- Buck O'Brien, Charley Hall, Duffy Lewis, Duffy's Cliff, Fenway Park, Honey Fitz Fitzgerald, Hugh Bedient, Hugh Bradley, Jake Stahl, James McAleer, Joe Wood, Ray Collins, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, World Series