Red Sox call on Yaz for first pitch
Boston's 1967 pennant squad honored throughout season
BOSTON -- If the Red Sox are hoping to resurrect some of the magic that led them to their World Series championship in 2004, they took the right first step Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski is not unfamiliar with the pomp and circumstance that so often surrounds his baseball alma mater. But in the last three years, he's thrown out two very special ceremonial first pitches. He was on the mound prior to Game 1 of the World Series in 2004, and on Wednesday, he repeated that honor with a toss of a ball to open the '07 Fall Classic.
Yastrzemski's presence is requested and appreciated regardless of the year, but considering the Red Sox have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of their 1967 American League pennant all season, it was only that much more appropriate that Yastrzemski, a Triple Crown winner in '67, was the first Sox hero recognized at this year's World Series.
The Hall of Fame outfielder wasn't alone as he strode to the mound Wednesday night. Many of his former teammates from the '67 "Impossible Dream" team were also invited to walk out with Yastrzemski, as was Dick Williams, the manager of that AL championship club.
"It's been great all year," Yastrzemski said, referring to the many tributes to the '67 team. "This is my second time back this year -- second, third. A lot of them have been back five, six times. It's a great thing, bringing it back."
The Red Sox haven't been shy about dipping into their past in an effort to give a spark to their current club. Although the '67 Red Sox lost to the Cardinals, that Boston team ended a 21-year World Series drought and was considered to be a spark that brought respectability back to a formerly struggling franchise.
"Not only did it bring the franchise back to life, but I think it changed the whole attitude in the Red Sox organization," Yastrzemski said. "I think the organization became winners. I think after '67, you expected to go out and win, and I thought we were going to have a dynasty in '67, [but Tony] Conigliaro got hit [by a pitch and never truly recovered], [Jim] Lomborg had a skiing accident, José Santiago popping his elbow [at the] beginning of the '68 season. ... You don't replace players like that."
Yastrzemski and the '67 Red Sox were part of a short but classy pregame ceremony that included a performance by the Boston Pops, which, led by multiple Academy and Grammy Award winner John Williams, played the national anthem.
Williams is best known for scores in films such as Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terresterial, Schindler's List, the Indiana Jones series, and the original Star Wars trilogy.
Following the anthem, Red Sox fans were treated to a flyover by several F-16 fighter jets from the Vermont Air National Guard of the 158th fighter wing.
The first pitch ball delivery was made by Jasmine Mills, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America "National Youth of the Year." The program is designed to promote a club member who displays service to the community, academic performance and contributions to family and spiritual life.
The seventh-inning stretch featured actress, singer and songwriter Ashanti singing "God Bless America." Ashanti burst onto the music scene in 2002 with her self-titled debut album that landed her the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts. The album also won her the Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album.
Asked which team she was rooting for during the World Series, Ashanti played the neutral card, claiming "I'm a fan of them all." She appears to be a baseball fan, however, and admitted to playing softball while in junior high. Just don't ask her what position she played.
"I hit, and I caught," she said with a laugh.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.