Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 604
This is the grave of Bobby Doerr.
Born in 1918 in Los Angeles, Doerr was given his middle name of Pershing after John J. Pershing, World War I general. Doerr generally did a better job of chasing down balls in the infield than Pershing did chasing Villa in Mexico. Anyway, Doerr became a star ballplayer. He graduated from high school in 1936, but had already been playing minor league ball since 1934, with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He and Ted Williams played for another PCL team, the San Diego Padres. Both became fixtures for the Boston Red Sox for years.
Doerr got called up to the big leagues in 1937, struggling a bit as a 19 year old. As one would expect, Doerr improved dramatically and by 1940 was one of the league’s best second basemen. He made his first All-Star game in 1941 and remained an extremely consistent hitter the rest of his career. Doerr’s career ended in 1951, with one year off for military service in 1945, with very little variation in his stats. Some years he hit for a little more power than others, once leading the AL in slugging percentage, an unusual thing for a middle infielder. Every year from 1940-1950, he hit between 12 and 27 home runs and drove in between 75 and 120 runs, never having a down year. He made the All-Star team 9 times. He was only once a serious MVP candidate, finishing third in 1946, but he received votes in 8 different seasons. As late as 1950, he led the league in triples. Even in 1951, his last season, his stats only slipped because of some injuries, limiting him to a career-low 106 games, but he was still quite effective, on par with the rest of his career. But as that injury was a spinal problem, he retired at the end of the 1951 season. Speaking of his consistency, he had six different seasons with a WAR, according to Baseball Reference’s method, of over 5, but never one over 6. He remained a very solid glove over his career as well. He also had huge home/road splits, being a dominant player in Fenway and only a pretty average one on the road.
At some point, Doerr had decided to spend his off seasons in Oregon and he bought a cattle ranch there. But baseball still beckoned. He was a scout for the Red Sox from 1957-66. In 1967, Dick Williams hired him to be Boston’s first base coach and he stayed there through 1969. The expansion Toronto Blue Jays hired him to be their first hitting coach in 1977 and he stayed in that role through 1981. Doerr was named to the Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Red Sox retired his #1 jersey in 1988. He managed to make it to every Hall of Fame induction ceremony until 2008. He still got to a Red Sox game in 2012, Fenway’s 100th anniversary. He had been around for most of it. In 2016, he became the oldest living major league player. He died in 2017, at the age of 99.
Here’s a short documentary about Doerr, filmed shortly before his death.
Bobby Doerr is buried in Rest Lawn Memorial Park, Junction City, Oregon.
If you would like this series to visit other second basemen, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. According to Baseball Reference, Doerr is the 22nd best second basemen of all time. At #21 is Billy Herman, who is in Martin County, Florida and at #23 is Nellie Fox, who is in Saint Thomas, Pennsylvania. Previous posts in this series are archived here.