Another year, another last-place finish – and yet attendance leapt more than 10%, despite the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. Even though it wasn’t a Sunday, the Red Sox booked Braves Field for the Patriots Day doubleheader with the Yankees, and fans saw the Sox take both games – giving them a 3-2 record. Following a well-established pattern, they lost the next day, the day after that, and a couple of more days, too, and never reached .500 again.

There was a new manager, Heinie Wagner, but the team lost 102 games, winning 52 while backsliding from the gradual upward trend of the last few years. Boston finished 50 games behind Philadelphia. It wasn’t as though they almost saw their way out of the cellar, either; they were 10 games behind even seventh-place Chicago. How far out of first this ballclub often was in the 1920s and early 1930s is almost inconceivable to Red Sox rooters in the 21st century.

This year, the team had two 20-game losers, but they were Milt Gaston and Jack Russell. Red Ruffing was traded to the Yankees for $50,000 (most likely the main attraction) and Cedric Durst. Milt won 13 games. Not one pitcher had a winning record.

Two new arrivals played well on offense. Boston traded Cambridge native Whispering Bill Barrett to the Cubs, and got Earl Webb, who led the team at .323. He also hit 16 homers, more than any Red Sox player since Mr. Ruth’s 29 back in 1919. Completing the triple crown trifecta, he drove in 66 runs to lead the team. Second in batting average was rookie outfielder Tom Oliver (.293), who set a still-standing major-league record for players after 1901. In 700 plate appearances, he only struck out 25 times – but that wasn’t the record in question (though it did tie a league record for fewest K’s by a rookie at the time. Beginning in 1930 and running through 1933 when he wrapped up his big-league career with 514 games and 1,931 at-bats, he never hit a home run. Not one. 101 doubles, 11 triples, and a .277 batting average over the four seasons, but not one home run.

By Bill Nowlin
Bill Barrett, Braves Field, Cedric Durst, Earl Webb, Heinie Wagner, Jack Russell, Milt Gaston, Red Ruffing, Tom Oliver


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