If you had to name one of the most beloved Red Sox players in team history, chances are Robert Pershing “Bobby” Doerr would make the top 10. Doerr, a second baseman, spent his entire 14-year MLB career with the Red Sox earning nine All Star appointments and a seat in the Hall of Fame.
Now, a quick glance at his stats are curious. How could a player with 2,042 hits, 223 career home runs, and 54 career stolen bases with 14 seasons under his belt make the Hall of Fame. Well, it may be because in a lineup filled with giants, he was dubbed the “unofficial captain” of them all by none other than the great Ted Williams.
Doerr was born April 7, 1918 in California and attended LA’s Fremont High School. His story is much like Williams’, he grew up in sunny CA, played baseball whenever he could (including for a semi-pro team while he was just a teenager), and made a quick jump to the MLB at a ridiculously young age. He graduated in 1936 and in 1937, at the age of 19, promptly made his way to the pros batting .244 in 55 games for the BoSox–he had the starting job from the get go but after being beaned by a pitcher and took time off.
By 1938 though he was a regular in the Sox lineup and quickly and despite his diminutive size (5’11” at 175lbs) became a force at the plate as he became a run producing machine driving in 100+ runs six times in his career. By the time his teammate and friend Ted Williams made it to the majors in 1939 the Sox featured a powerful lineup that struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitching staffs.
You can see his full stats here!
In 1945, like many of the top MLB stars, Doerr served in the armed forces to fight in WWII as he missed a crucial year in his career development, though he got right back to it in 1946 as he hit .271 while driving in 116 runs in 1946 as the Sox went on to the World Series. Facing the Cardinals, Doerr lead the charge as he batted .409 in the series, though the Sox went on to lose in part to an overtaxed pitching staff and an injured Williams.
In 1951 Doerr had been humming along in his prime, yet became injured bending down to field a slow roller. He sensed something give in his back, yet played through it and sadly that was what did him in. Doerr could barely get out of bed, and never recovered despite receiving treatments. At the age of 33, Red Sox Nation had lost their star, and one of the greatest second basemen in team history.
Doerr retired to a farm in Oregon where, after his back healed, he was able to herd cattle while remaining in the Sox organization as a self-described “roving coach”/scout in the minor league system starting in 1957 on to 1966. Doerr earned a promotion of sorts, serving as a first base coach alongside Dick Williams from 1967-1969 as he returned to Fenway for his first full time position since his playing days. Doerr bounced around a bit from then on, always staying in baseball, and was named to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1986 and had his number “1” retired by the Sox in 1988. You can see his HOF bio here along with his induction speech:
Doerr currently lives in Oregon, and has the honor of being the oldest living Red Sox player and one of the most beloved in team history.