Any Yaz mention gives us an excuse to remind you of this moment. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
Games of Note: Starter Jack Kramer threw three innings against the Browns on this day in 1948 before departing with a sore shoulder, but he still picked up the win. This was his 11th-straight victory, but the streak would go no further than that. Boston won his next start on August 10, but he didn't pick up the W, and he lost to Washington his in the following appearance. Wins are fairly whatever when it comes to having meaning, a fact that Kramer's numbers during this lengthy win streak remind us of: over 99 innings, Kramer posted a 4.26 ERA and walked more batters (35) than he struck out (33). Despite a season in which he finished with a 101 ERA+, Kramer led the American League in winning percentage at .783. He's credited with helping to propel Boston back into the pennant race, but it's the lineup, anchored by Ted Williams and his .369/.497/.615 line, that deserves the kudos, as they scored over eight runs of support per game during the win streak, and 7.4 runs per game for the season.
You might still be stuck on the first sentence of this entry, where it states that Kramer picked up the win in a game he started despite lasting just three innings, but that's how baseball worked back then. There were no strict and enforced laws surrounding pitcher wins -- and who had actually earned it each game -- until 1950, when it was no longer at the discretion of anyone except for the rules. Ergo, 11-game win streak, despite the obvious issues through the lens of today's game.
It's fascinating that there's this infatuation with win totals from pitchers of old, and there are many who lament the lack of 300-game winners in the present, when the same rules don't even apply -- it's more difficult to rack up wins in today's game, and not just because of shorter starts, or pitchers who just can't handle an old-school workload. The rules themselves get in the way,and that's without even talking about the age of bullpen specialists.
Transactions: The 1967 Red Sox were 58-36 at the end of the day on August 3, in second place and two games back of the Chicago White Sox. To that point, their backstops had not hit well, with starting catcher Mike Ryan putting together a .230/.306/.287 line, and backup Russ Gibson sporting a .211/.266/.281 double slash. To be fair to these two catchers, your average backstop in 1967 hit .229/.296/.332, or 10 percent worse than the overall league average, but the pair failed to reach even those meager heights with their play.
This led Boston to make a deal with the Yankees -- it's weird to even read that sentence, isn't it? -- that brought them Elston Howard in exchange for Pete Magrini and a player to be named later, who, when named five days later, turned out to be Rom Klimkowski. Howard was 38 years old, nearing the end of what would be a 14-year career, and had a putrid .196/.247/.271 line that made it easy to forget that he owned a career 112 OPS+ with the Yankees heading into his second-to-last campaign. He was even worse after replacing his pinstripes with red hosiery, limping his way to a 409 OPS that had him over 80 percent worse than a league-average hitter.
Despite Howard's debilitating presence in 42 of the team's remaining 58 contests, Boston realized the Impossible Dream, and won the pennant in 1967. You can thank Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski for that one, as he was so far above and beyond the average production of your typical left fielder that it, in a way, made up for the trio of catchers who were, as a unit, half as good as your average backstop.
Birthdays: Former Red Sox reliever Rod Beck would be 44 years old today, had he not passed away in 2007 at the age of 38. Beck and his trademark goatee spent parts of three seasons with Boston, tossing 135 innings of relief that resulted in a 137 ERA+ and, in an odd twist given he finished 44 games and was a Closer with a Capital C back in San Francisco, just nine saves. He was a revelation down the stretch in 1999, after he was acquired in exchange for Mark Guthrie on August 31, the last day to make a trade of any kind. Beck would throw 14 innings and post a 1.93 ERA for Boston, then threw two scoreless frames in the ALDS against the Indians.