The Boston Red Sox were one of the original eight American League franchises which began play in 1901. For the first seven seasons, the franchise was known as “Boston,” the “Bostons,” or “Bostonians,” and wore dark blue socks before being known as the “Boston Americans.”
The National League team in Boston wore red trim and went to the all-white uniform in 1907. In 1908, the American League team adopted the nickname “Red Sox,” which has remained ever since.
Let’s take a look at the history of the Boston Red Sox:
1901–1919: Early Success
Boston finished second in the league in 1901 and third in 1902. Cy Young was among the earliest stars, winning 33 games with a 1.62 ERA in 1901. The team won their first American League pennant in 1903 and defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series five games to three.
After a couple of down seasons, Boston began a resurgence in 1909, with Tris Speaker taking the reigns as the star player. The Red Sox won a then club-record 105 games in 1912 and won the American League Pennant and the World Series over the New York Giants.
The Red Sox took down the Philadelphia Phillies for another World Series title three seasons later. A young Babe Ruth led the Red Sox to defeat the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 World Series.
Ruth Sale and the 1920s and 1930s
A day after Christmas in 1919, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Ruth had just come off a season-breaking single-season home run record with 29. The two teams continued to make trades in the following couple of seasons, resulting in the Red Sox going into a tailspin.
Over the next decade, the Red Sox never sniffed the leaders, finishing at least 20 games out of first place each year. Things got so bad in Boston that the team posted a 43-111 record in 1932, still the worst in franchise history.
The Red Sox acquired Wes Ferrell, Joe Cronin, Lefty Grove, and Jimmie Foxx the following season. Five seasons later, Foxx hit a franchise-record 50 home runs while driving in 175.
1939 – 1960: All About Ted Williams
Little did the Red Sox know at the time, but when they purchased the contract of Ted Williams from the San Diego Padres of the PCL, they would have perhaps the greatest all-around hitter in league history.
Williams is still the last player to hit over .400 in a season, posting a .406 mark in 1941. Williams missed a few seasons due to serving in World War II but returned to help the Red Sox to the 1946 World Series, where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. Although Williams was the star of the Red Sox, the team had other great players during the decade, including Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr.
The Red Sox were very competitive in 1948 and 1949 but fell short of winning the AL pennant both to the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, respectively. After Williams returned from the Korean War in 1953, the bulk of the players from the strong 1940s teams had either been traded or retired. Williams continued to produce and even hit .388 as a 38-year-old in 1957.
He retired following the 1960 season, ending his career with a home run in his final at-bat.
Carl Yastrzemski and the 1960s
The highlight for the Red Sox during the decade was the 1967 season following a ninth-place finish the previous year. Replacing Ted Williams was a near-impossible task, but Carl Yastrzemski did an outstanding job, becoming one of the best hitters during an undoubtedly pitching-dominated era.
Yastrzemski took the Red Sox on his back, leading the league in home runs (44), RBI (121), and batting average (.326). Besides winning the Triple Crown, “Yaz” was named AL MVP. An excellent season for the Red Sox ended up in a World Series defeat to Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals.
1975 AL Pennant and 1978 Pennant Race
The Red Sox remained competitive during the latter part of the 1960s into the early 1970s but failed to win their division. That all changed in 1975 when the team won the AL pennant. The team had a great outfield featuring Yaz, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans. Catcher Carlton Fisk and pitchers Bill Lee and Luis Tiant were other prominent players.
The most memorable moment of Fisk’s career came in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. With the score tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the 12th, Fisk hit a deep drive to left that was hooking toward the foul pole. As the ball was sailing, Fisk was waving his arms towards fair territory. The ball stayed fair, and the Red Sox won the game to force a Game 7. They lost the final game, however, but the Fisk home run is etched in the mind of all Red Sox fans for eternity.
In 1978, the Red Sox appeared to have a very comfortable lead in the AL East, up 14 ½ games halfway through the season. However, after getting swept by the Yankees in a series in mid-September, the lead was gone. With both teams winning on the season’s final game, the teams entered a single-game playoff to decide the AL East.
The game’s most memorable moment was Bucky Dent’s three-run bomb off Mike Torrez to give the Yankees the lead. A home run by Reggie Jackson in the 8th gave the Yankees the lead, which they held to win the AL East.
1986 World Series
The Carl Yastrzemski era ended with the Red Sox finishing a dismal sixth in the AL East in 1983. Three years later, the Red Sox were relevant again, featuring a solid offense led by Rice, Evans, Don Baylor, and Wade Boggs. On the mound, a young gun named Roger Clemens dominated to go 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA. He won the Cy Young Award and the MVP, becoming the first pitcher to win both in the same season since 1971.
New York was a big favorite after winning 108 games during the season. This talented Red Sox team won the AL East for the first time since 1975 and took down the Angels in seven games to advance to the World Series to face the Mets. The teams both won two at home, entering game five even at 2-2. After winning Game 5 at home, the Red Sox looked to win the series in New York.
However, the infamous error by Bill Bucker on a slow grounder by Mookie Wilson allowed Ray Knight to score to even the series at 3-3. The Mets came from three runs down in Game 7 to win the World Series and yet another collapse from the Red Sox.
1988 – 2001 Yield Mixed Results
The first half of the 1988 season saw the Red Sox in fourth place and seemingly going nowhere. The team’s first manager, John McNamara, and minor-league manager, Joe Morgan. He led the team to 19 wins in his first 20 games, vaulting the team to an AL East title. Unfortunately, the Red Sox fell to the Athletics in four straight games in the ALCS.
In 1994, the Red Sox replaced General Manager Lou Gorman with Dan Duquette, who immediately went to work, producing great talent in the minor league system, such as Carl Pavano, David Eckstein, and Nomar Garciaparra, while adding free agent Manny Ramirez after the 2000 season.
As the Red Sox won the AL East in 1995, results quickly followed, but they fell to the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. On a sour note, the sweep extended the Red Sox playoff losing streak to 13 games.
In one of Clemens’s final games with the Red Sox, on September 18, 1996, he struck out 20 against the Tigers, tying his MLB record. After missing the playoffs in 1997, the Red Sox made some trades and won the AL Wild Card but again lost to the Indians in the ALDS. Although turning their fortunes around against the Indians in the 1999 ALDS, they fell to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS.
2004 World Series Championship
Following the 2003 season, the Red Sox acquired Curt Schilling and closer Keith Foulke. They also traded Nomar Garciaparra and acquired Doug Mientkiewicz, Orlando Cabrera, and Dave Roberts. The moves proved to be successful, as the team won 22 of their next 25 games following the trades. The team qualified for the playoffs as an AL Wild Card team. Their first task was to take on the AL West champion Anaheim Angels in the ALDS.
A walk-off home run by David Ortiz in the 10th inning of Game 3 gave the Red Sox a sweep to advance to the ALCS against the Yankees. Things went south quickly in the series, as the Yankees won the first three games, including a 19-8 pounding in Game 3. Facing elimination, the Red Sox trailed 4-3 in the ninth and faced the improbable task of keeping the game alive against Mariano Rivera.
Following a leadoff walk and stolen base, the Red Sox tied on a single by Bill Mueller. A two-run bomb by Ortiz in the 12th extended the series to Game 5. Another game-winning hit by Ortiz, this time in the 14th, kept Boston in the series. The comeback continued when Curt Schilling threw a gutsy seven innings with a blood-stained sock from sutures to stabilize an injured tendon in his right ankle.
The historic comeback was completed in Game 7, taking down the Yankees 10-3. Boston continued to roll, beating the Cardinals in four straight for the first World Series title in 86 years, ending the “Curse of the Bambino.”
2007 World Series Championship
After losing to the Chicago White Sox in the first round of 2005, the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs in 2006, despite a 54-home run season by David Ortiz. The move that helped propel the Red Sox back to the top was the signing of pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka in November 2006.
In 2007, the Red Sox vaulted to the top of the AL East by the middle of April and cruised the rest of the way. Rookie Dustin Pedroia won AL Rookie of the Year. Josh Beckett won 20 games, while Hideki Okajima had an ERA under one for the first half, earning an All-Star appearance. September call-up Clay Bucholz threw a no-hitter in his second start.
Boston took little time eliminating the Angels in the ALDS before facing the Indians in the ALCS. After winning the first game, the Red Sox dropped the next three and were on the brink of elimination.
Boston returned with a vengeance, outscoring the Indians 30-5 over the next three games to win the advance to the World Series against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were not a contest for the Red Sox, who swept in four games for their second World Series title in four seasons.
2013 World Series Champions
The Red Sox advanced to the ALCS in 2008 but fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, who then lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. Boston became the eight-team in a row to fail to repeat as world champions.
Returning to the playoffs in 2009, the Angels swept the Red Sox in the ALDS. The slide continued to a third-place finish in 2010, missing the postseason. A monumental collapse occurred in 2011, as the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead with a month to play, winning just 7 of 27 games in September. The franchise hit rock bottom following a 69-93 in 2012, their worst since 1965.
The resurgence was quick for the Red Sox, going from worst to first when they clinched the AL East on September 20, 2013. Off-season moves to add veterans David Ross, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Jonny Gomes made the difference. Other notable acquisitions included Jake Peavy, and the bench depth of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr put the Red Sox over the top.
The Red Sox earned home-field advantage in the playoffs with a 97-65 regular-season record. Advancing through the playoffs with relative ease, the Red Sox took down the Cardinals four games to two. They became the first team since the 1991 Minnesota Twins to win the World Series after being in last place the previous year.
2018 World Series Championship
After the World Series title of 2013, the Red Sox plummeted to the basement for the following two seasons. A highlight for the franchise was the 500th home run by David Ortiz late in the 2015 season. Ortiz would retire following a stellar 2016 season in which the Red Sox advanced to the ALDS before falling to the Indians in four games.
A dominating regular season performance in 2018 led to 108 wins and their third-straight AL East title. The victory total broke the franchise record of 105 in 1912 and was the first time the team won at least 100 games since 1946.
The 2018 Red Sox featured the likes of All-Stars Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez. Kimbrel saved 42 games, Betts led the league in batting average, and J.D. Martinez topped in RBI. Sale posted a 2.11 ERA while striking out 237 in 158 innings.
Entering the playoffs as the top seed, the Red Sox took down the Yankees, who won 100 regular-season games, in four games. The impressive run through the playoffs continued by defeating the 103-win Houston Astros in five games to advance to the World Series. After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the World Series, the Red Sox won the World Series for the fourth time in 15 years.
2019 – Present
The Red Sox won 24 fewer games in 2019, despite fielding a broadly similar team as in 2018. The team finished third in the AL East and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
In January 2022, it was reported that the Red Sox used video replay to steal signs during the 2018 season. A week later, the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora agreed to part ways after being named in the Astros sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season.
Mookie Betts and David Price were traded to the Dodgers a month later, and the team struggled throughout the COVID-19-shortened season, finishing 24-36.
In 2021, Alex Cora returned to the bench, leading the Red Sox to a 92-win season and a Wild Card berth. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees and the Rays before falling to the Astros in the ALCS.