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In case you didn’t know, the 2018 Boston Red Sox are a pretty good team. While the ultimate success of the squad is yet to be determined, there’s no doubt that this is one of the best regular seasons in franchise history. On Wednesday night, the Red Sox recorded their 100th win behind a fantastic start by David Price and two solid innings of relief by the bullpen. To truly appreciate just how rare this feat is, let’s take a look back on the last time the Boston Red Sox won 100 games.
The year is 1946. The war is over, AT&T announces their first car phones, and the United Nations meets for the first time. The Boston Red Sox are also in the midst of an incredible season, led by 27-year old superstar Ted Williams.
In his first year back from serving in the war, Williams shows just how special a player he can be. The young lefty finishes his season with a .342/.497/.667 slash line, absurd numbers especially when considering the era. His OBP and SLG lead the league, and Williams finally brings home his first MVP award. He had finished second in MVP voting in 1941 and 1942 (the last two seasons in which he played), but now the greatest player of his time finally earns his first MVP award.
Williams didn’t do it alone. That 1946 offense had five of their eight starters (not counting the pitcher) hit above .270. Most notable were shortstop Johnny Pesky and outfielder Dom DiMaggio. Pesky was never a power hitter, but the 27-year old shortstop still put together a strong .335/.401/.427 slash line for the season. DiMaggio meanwhile finished his season with a .316/.393/.427 slash line.
These three players led one of the best offenses in all of major league baseball. On the season, the Red Sox led the league with 5.1 runs per game. While the offense was prolific, the Red Sox pitchers were also among the best in the league.
The 1946 Boston Red Sox had a four-man rotation without any weak link. Tex Hughson, Joe Dobson, Dave Ferriss, and Mickey Harris all had strong seasons during that 1946 campaign. Hughson posted a 20-11 record with a 2.75 ERA over 278 innings. While Ferris’ numbers weren’t quite as good as that, he still managed to throw 274 innings, compiling a 3.25 ERA over 40 games (35 starts).
Complete games were far more common in those days (the 1946 Red Sox combined for 79 complete games), but Bill Zuber and Bob Klinger were there whenever the starter couldn’t go all nine innings. Zuber finished his 1946 season with a 2.54 ERA, and also made seven spot starts. Klinger, meanwhile, finished his age-38 season with a sterling 2.37 ERA and nine saves.
Altogether, this was one of the most complete teams in the history of the franchise. The Red Sox finished their season with a 104-50 record, advancing all the way to the World Series. They took on the St Louis Cardinals, who were coming off a 98-68 season and owned a league-leading 3.5 runs allowed per game.
Despite holding a 3-2 lead in the series, the Red Sox fell in seven games to the Cardinals. Ted Williams, who suffered a wrist injury prior to the series, was held to just a .200/.333/.200 slash line. The Red Sox were unable to break the then-28-year old curse, and the Sox would remain without a title until 2004.
The 2018 Red Sox have a chance to finish what the 1946 team couldn’t. The 2018 Red Sox own a 10-game division lead over the New York Yankees and will likely host home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It won’t be easy to get through the Yankees, Astros, Indians, Athletics, and whichever NL Team makes it to the World Series, but they have the talent to do it. Hopefully, the Red Sox can stick the landing to one of the greatest regular seasons of all time.