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The Red Sox had stars – Williams, Jensen, Runnels, Malzone – but it was like a handful of stars never coming together as a team. And in 1959, they started to slip.

They moved to the Cactus League for spring training, based in Scottsdale, Arizona. After playing a couple of exhibition teams in Williams’ native San Diego, Ted decided to drive himself back to Arizona and got a bad cold and a stiff neck, which resulted in a pinched nerve. He didn’t start a game until May 24, but was sub-par the whole season. In the only season he ever hit below .300, he was a long way below – batting .254, 90 points below his career average.

Opening Day only drew 16,467. The team drew less than 1 million fans to Fenway Park, for only the second time since the Second World War.

Joe Cronin was hired as president of the American League (running the league out of an office in Boston), and Bucky Harris took Cronin’s place as general manager.

The team still had Pinky Higgins as manager, and his leadership style was perhaps wearing thin, with him maybe more interested in post-game refreshments than the business at hand. He was replaced as manager in mid-year by Billy Jurges; less than three weeks later, the Red Sox brought up Pumpsie Green – their first black ballplayer. Pumpsie played on the road, and was soon joined by pitcher Earl Wilson. Then at Fenway Park on August 4, Green tripled off the left-field wall in his first home at-bat.

The team won less than half its games, putting up a 75-79 record. They finished in fifth place, the first of eight seasons in a row they finished under .500. It wasn’t until 1967 that they emerged from the second division.

Jensen led the league in RBIs with 112, one more than Rocky Colavito. He led the Red Sox in homers with 28. Pete Runnels hit .314, for the best batting average on the ballclub.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Billy Jurges, Bucky Harris, Earl Wilson, Frank Malzone, Jackie Jensen, Joe Cronin, Pete Runnels, Pinky Higgins, Pumpsie Green, Ted Williams

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