Every new season bring with it new hopes and as well old concerns. Pablo Sandoval has come under scrutiny lately over his weight. Dan Ennis has decided to take a look at the rotund Red Sox through the years to get an idea of where Sandoval fits in.
Ah, Spring Training: The equipment truck arrives in Florida, the early accounts of promising youngsters, the optimistic predictions, the reports of a hero sporting a few extra pounds. This year, Pablo Sandoval, long a target of weighty speculation, reported to camp in a condition some found suboptimal. In so doing, he joined a long line of Red Sox ballplayers who made waves at training camp, like a boulder dropped into a pond. A round, heavy boulder.
Paunchy Player: William Garlow
Date of the Weight: 1914
Tale of the Tape: Baseball Reference lists him as 5’7” but does not indicate his playing weight. An account of his college football career at Carlisle describes Garlow as “squat.”
The Skinny: A full-blooded Tuscarora Indian, Garlow was invited to the Red Sox spring training in 1914, having previously pitched for Class B Lewiston. Prior to turning pro, Garlow had been a multi-sport star for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School alongside Jim Thorpe. A right-handed reliever, his repertoire included “a fast ball,” a “good drop” and a spitter. His first mentions in the Boston press labelled him “husky” and “chunky.”
Meaty Quote: “[Garlow]’s build is scarcely the proper one for the successful diamond warrior.” —Boston Daily Globe, 2/28/1914
In His Own Defense: “I am 5 feet 8 1/2 inches in height and weigh 180 pounds.” —Boston Daily Globe, 2/9/14
Just Desserts: Garlow failed to make the Red Sox out of Spring Training and finished his career with Elmira of the New England League. He appears to have served as a Marine during World War I. He died in 1959.
Paunchy Player: Bob “Junior” Kline
Date of the Weight: 1933
Tale of the Tape: 6’3”, 235
The Skinny: Broke in with the Red Sox in 1930 as a 20-year-old rookie. Secured a spot in the rotation at age 22 and went 11-13 for a team that went 43-111, one of the worst Red Sox seasons ever. The nickname “Junior” was ironic; Kline was one of the largest players of his era.
Meaty Quote: “He is a big boy, and could stand to lose a few pounds in weight before going to the training camp, and some more while he is there.” — The Boston Globe, 2/9/1933
In His Own Defense: “I’m in better condition right now than I’ve been since I began playing baseball.” — The Boston Globe, 2/9/1933
Just Desserts: In 1933 Kline went 7-8, 4.54 as a swingman for a Red Sox team that finished with a 63-86 record. He was traded to Philadelphia as part of the package that brought Lefty Grove to Boston, and reported to Philly at 246 pounds.
Paunchy Player: Mickey “Mickey Himself” Harris
Date of the Weight: 1948
Tale of the Tape: 6’0″, 212
The Skinny: An All-Star starting pitcher for the 1946 pennant-winning Red Sox, he posted a 2.44 ERA in 1947, but injuries limited him to 51 innings that season. The 1948 season was supposed to be his comeback.
Meaty Quote: “A big question mark among the 13 pitchers on the Red Sox roster arrived in camp this afternoon. And we mean big!” —The Boston Globe, 2/27/1948
In His Defense: “Two years ago I came into camp weighing around 214, I worked hard, got into great shape, and had my best season in the big leagues.” —The Boston Globe, 2/27/1948
Just Desserts: Harris went 7-10, with a 5.50 ERA in 1948 and was traded to Washington in 1949. He never regained his 1946 form, but in 1950 he was a workhorse reliever for the Senators, appearing in 53 games and posting 15 saves.
Paunchy Player: Carl Yastrzemski (really)
Date of the Weight: 1964
Tale of the Tape: Listed at 5’11”, 175, he probably played 1964 at 190-200.
The Skinny: Early-career Yaz (1961-1966) was nothing like the Yaz your grandpa told you about. Often criticized for not being Ted Williams, he had doubles power (in a good year he’d hit 20 homers) and was a shaky fielder — think Beatlemania Mike Greenwell. Because he was quiet to the point of introspection, the press of that era often assumed Yaz was indifferent to the team’s success, so even when he won the batting crown in 1963 he was viewed in some quarters as a selfish player. It didn’t help that the Red Sox were terrible in those years, a collection of unlikable personalities with mediocre talent.
Meaty Quote: “Yastrzemski is 15 pounds overweight and if you ask me he wasn’t even trying this spring.” —The Fort Scott Tribune, 4/13/1964
In His Own Defense: “I have to admit I wasn’t in real superb condition when I reported last season. I was 18 to 20 pounds overweight. I was only 23 and when I started putting on weight I thought it was only natural and I could carry it.” —Sarasota Journal, 3/16/1965
Just Desserts: In 1964 Yaz hit only 15 homers and grounded into a league-leading 30 double plays. The press called him “Calorie Cal.” After another mediocre year in 1966 (.278 with 16 homers) Yastrzemski worked hard over the 1966-67 offseason under the training regimen of Gene Berde, a former coach of the Hungarian Olympic boxing team. In 1967 Yaz became Yaz.
Paunchy Player: George “Boomer” Scott
Date of the Weight: Pretty much every year between 1966 and 1979, but let’s go with 1978.
Tale of the Tape: Baseball Reference lists him at 6’2″, 200, but he probably never played at that weight. He showed up at Spring Training in 1967 at 227 pounds. He played the 1977 season at 245 pounds. He reportedly weighed 225 in his last year in the majors. Scott died in 2013 at a reported 400 pounds.
The Skinny: Integral to the 1967 Impossible Dream season, Scott was motivated to keep in shape by Red Sox Manager Dick Williams, who would weigh Scott in the clubhouse and bench him when he went off his diet. Traded to Milwaukee after the 1971 season, he was traded back to Boston in 1976 and finished his career in 1979 having hit 271 career homers. The Boomer was a terrific fielder despite his size, and called home runs “taters.”
Meaty Quote: “George Scott arrived in camp looking like a human parkerhouse roll. After the heat he took last year over his blubber, how could he break all records at 240 pounds?” —The Washington Post, 4/2/1978
In His Own Defense: “My wife put me on a strenuous diet during the off-season. Man, she almost starved me to death.” —Lakeland Ledger, 3/9/1978
Just Desserts: Had a poor season for the great 1978 Red Sox team, putting up a .684 OPS with only 12 taters.
Paunchy Player: Roger Clemens
Date of the Weight: 1996
Tale of the Tape: Baseball reference lists him at 6′ 4″, 205, which suggests the measurement was made when Clemens was in middle school. Baseball Almanac has him at 235.
The Skinny: Never scrawny, the Roger Clemens who joined the Red Sox in 1984 had a power pitcher’s tree-trunk legs and a thick — but not flabby — midsection. During his remarkable 1986-1992 run (three Cy Young Awards, MVP award, consensus best pitcher in the American League) his weight was never an issue. In his less effective 1993-1995 period, Clemens attracted criticism, especially when he scuffled his way through the 1995 season at 247 pounds.
Meaty Quote: “There was speculation that Clemens was going to waddle into camp looking like Teddy Kennedy after a traditional family feast. The Rocket hadn’t been seen since October, and when we viewed an ESPN clip last month, Clemens bore a remarkable resemblance to Chris Farley.” —The Boston Globe, 2/20/1996
In His Own Defense: “Every year I’ve come into camp I’ve been between 230-235. Nothing’s changed. No different. I weighed in today – 234. As long as I pitch anywhere under 225, I’m happy. This winter I never got over 235. I’ve never been over 235 in my life – even when I played defensive end. I can’t help what people think or write, guys. Weight’s never been a problem for me.” —The Boston Globe, 2/20/1996
Just Desserts: Clemens had a good year in 1996. Don’t be fooled by the 10-13 record — he pitched 242 innings (first time he’d topped 200 innings since 1992) with a league-leading 252 strikeouts. He signed with Toronto in the offseason, and won a Cy Young award in 1997. During his time with the Blue Jays, Clemens weighed only 17 stone.
Paunchy Player: Josh Beckett
Date of the Weight: 2008
Tale of the Tape: 6’5”, 230
The Skinny: When one thinks of “fat” and “Josh Beckett”, the great Fried Chicken and Beer controversy that ended the 2011 campaign and dogged the Red Sox for much of 2012 comes to mind. But that was a regular season fiasco, and it should be noted that on paper Beckett had an excellent 2011 season (193 IP, 149 ERA+). For classic “he-showed-up-at-camp-out-of-shape” drama, 2008 is the year.
Meaty Quote: “Beckett, working out at the Sox’ Minor League complex yesterday, looks like he spent the winter eating barbecue and drinking beer down there in South Texas.” —The Boston Herald, 2/13/2008
In His Own Defense: “What you do during the offseason is, first, build a base. That takes about three weeks, and then you try to get as strong as you can before you go to spring training. Once you get there, you taper down and it’s just a maintenance program for the next six or seven months.” —Men’s Fitness, 3/13/2008
Just Desserts: After a stellar 2007 season (20 wins, World Series), Beckett had a relatively disappointing campaign in 2008, posting a 4.03 ERA and being twice pummeled in the 2008 ALCS.
Charlie Ruffing, 1929 (“Ruffing, who will need to lose some 20 pounds before he will even appear to be in shape, was the pitcher worked hardest in the defense against the bunts.”)
Ted Williams, 1955 (“Williams is in no condition to play ball right now. He hasn’t done any running since he left the Red Sox last September at the conclusion of the season. He laughed at stories he had been working out in Florida, running and swinging bats.”)
Reggie Cleveland, 1973 (“When the Red Sox heard I was way overweight in Venezuela, it was the uniform more than anything. They were really tight, and hardly stretched at all.”)
Mo Vaughn, 1998, after a DUI arrest (“Now there are people saying that, just as we have no need for wife-beaters on this team, neither do we have a need for an overweight first baseman who endangers the lives of motorists at 2:15 in the morning. Who needs that?”)
Dan Ennis has written about prospect hype, an epic cage match, why the Red Sox win, sports media, and the original superfan.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DeanDanEnnis.