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Robert Pershing Doerr (April 7, 1918 – November 13, 2017) was a former Major League Baseball (MLB) second baseman and coach. He played his entire 14-year baseball career for the Boston Red Sox (1937–51). A nine-time all star, Doerr batted over .300 three times, drove in more than 100 runs six times, and set Red Sox team records in several statistical categories despite missing one season due to military service during World War II. Doerr is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After he retired as a player, Doerr served as a scout and a coach, including work with Carl Yastrzemski before his Triple Crown season. As of April 25, 2017, Doerr is the oldest living former major league player. He was also the last living person who played in the major leagues in the 1930s, and the oldest of only three living people who made their MLB debut before U.S. involvement in World War II, the other two being Chuck Stevens and Fred Caligiuri.Contents
Doerr was born the son of Harold Doerr, a telephone company supervisor, and his wife, the former Frances Herrnberger; his middle name was a tribute to General of the Armies John J. Pershing, then the commander of U.S. military forces in World War I.
He graduated from Los Angeles' Fremont High School in 1936. He had already begun his professional career with the 1934 and 1935 Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League (PCL).
While playing for the San Diego Padres of the PCL in 1936, Doerr met Ted Williams. The future Red Sox teammates became close friends for many years. Doerr played in 175 games for San Diego that year, batting .342. He recorded 238 hits, including 37 doubles and 12 triples.MLB playing career Early career
Doerr broke into the majors in 1937 at the age of 19 and went 3 for 5 in his first game. In 1938 he became a regular in a powerful Red Sox lineup that included Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, and Dom DiMaggio. Early in his career Doerr was often called upon to bunt and was so proficient at it that he led the league with 22 sacrifice hits in 1938. In 1939, Ted Williams' rookie season with the Sox, Doerr began a string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more home runs and 73 or more runs batted in (RBIs); in 1940 the Red Sox became the 12th team in major league history to have four players with 100 RBIs, with Foxx, Williams, Cronin and Doerr each collecting at least 105.All-Star seasons and the World Series
In 1941, Doerr was an All-Star, the first of nine times he was a selected for the AL All-Star team. In 1944, Doerr led the league in slugging percentage. The same year, his .325 batting average was good enough to allow him to finish second in the league, two percentage points behind Lou Boudreau of the Cleveland Indians. The Sporting News named him Most Valuable Player for the American League (AL), although he finished only seventh in Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award voting for the AL, being named on only 13 of 24 ballots and receiving nothing higher than a third-place vote. Doerr hit for the cycle twice in his career, on May 17, 1944 in a 12–8 loss to the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader, and again on May 13, 1947 in a 19–6 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Doerr missed the 1945 season while serving in the Army during World War II, being stationed at Camp Roberts, California. In 1946, Doerr finished third in MVP voting for the AL (won by Williams) as Boston won their first pennant since 1918. Doerr drove in 116 runs despite a .271 average. He hit .409 in the 1946 World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, with a home run and three RBIs. Doerr's average dropped to .258 in 1947 as he grounded into a league-high 25 double plays, but he had 95 RBIs. He hit .285 with 27 home runs and 111 RBIs in 1948. Doerr had set an AL record in that year by handling 414 chances in a row over 73 games without an error.Final years as a player
In 1949, Doerr hit .309 with 18 home runs and 109 RBIs. At the start of the 1950 season, Doerr was in a slump; he was only batting .232 as of June 2. However, he finished the year with a league-leading 11 triples, and batted .294. On June 8 of that year, he hit three home runs in a 29–4 romp over the Browns. He set career highs that year in triples, runs (103) and RBIs (120); he tied his career high in home runs (27). Doerr appeared in only 106 games in 1951 and he retired that September after suffering from a spinal problem for two years.Career totals
Doerr retired with 8,028 plate appearances, 1,094 runs, 89 triples, 809 walks, 1,349 singles, 1,184 runs created, 693 extra base hits, 2,862 times on base, 115 sacrifice hits and nine All-Star Game selections. At Fenway Park, he hit .315 with 145 home runs, compared to a .261 average and 78 HR on the road. Doerr batted over .300 three times, with six seasons of at least 100 RBIs. He never played a game at a position other than second base.
Regarded as one of the top defensive second basemen of his era, Doerr led AL second basemen in double plays five times, tying a league record, in putouts and fielding percentage four times each, and in assists three times. Doerr held the major league record for career double plays at second base (1,507) until 1963, and his career fielding percentage (.980) was a major league record until 1953. Doerr also ended his career ranking fifth in career games (1,852), putouts (4,928) and total chances (10,852) at second base, and sixth in assists (5,710).
He set Red Sox records for career games (1,865), at bats (7,093), hits (2,042), doubles (381), total bases (3,270) and RBIs (1,247), All of Doerr's offensive Red Sox records were later broken by Williams, who referred to Doerr as "the silent captain of the Red Sox." His 223 home runs were then the third most by a major league second baseman, with his 1,247 RBIs ranking fifth in Red Sox history.Later MLB career
After spending a few years as a cattle rancher in Oregon, Doerr returned to baseball. He became a scout for the Red Sox from 1957 to 1966, also serving as a minor league hitting instructor for the team for the last six seasons of that span. He was hired as the first base coach for the Red Sox in 1967 under new manager Dick Williams. The Red Sox won their first pennant in 20 years and played in the 1967 World Series.
As Boston's unofficial batting instructor that year, Doerr worked with Carl Yastrzemski to convert the seven-year veteran from an opposite-field "doubles" hitter who had never before hit more than 20 homers in a season to a pull-hitting slugger who belted 44 home runs and won the Triple Crown and AL Most Valuable Player award that season.
Doerr resigned from the Red Sox when Williams was fired as manager in September 1969. He became the hitting coach for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays from 1977 to 1981.Later life Bobby Doerr's number 1 was retired by the Boston Red Sox in 1988.
Doerr has lived in Oregon since the late 1930s, residing in the vicinity of Agness for much of his career before relocating to Junction City in the 1950s. Doerr was married to Monica Terpin from October 1938 until her death in 2003; she had lived with multiple sclerosis since the 1940s. They had one son.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. His jersey number 1 was retired by the Red Sox on May 21, 1988. He made annual trips to the Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, New York until 2008, after which he stopped attending. On July 29, 2007, the Hall of Fame honored Doerr after the induction of Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn into the Hall. Reflecting on being inducted into the Hall of Fame and having his number retired by the Red Sox, Doerr said, "If I had played on a world champion, that would have made my life complete."
On August 2, 2007, the Red Sox held "Bobby Doerr Day" at Fenway Park where he rode along the warning track in a car, threw out the first pitch, and gave a speech. Doerr had what was characterized as a minor stroke on August 11, 2011. He attended the Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebration on April 20, 2012.Longevity and records
Upon the death of former New York Yankees executive and American League president Lee MacPhail in November 2012, Doerr became the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He became the oldest living former Red Sox player upon the death of Lou Lucier in October 2014. On November 4, 2016, Doerr became the oldest living former major leaguer upon the death of Eddie Carnett.
Doerr was also the last living person who played in the major leagues during the 1930s, and the last living person who played against Lou Gehrig.Doerr (left) alongside Johnny Pesky at Fenway Park's 100th anniversary in 2012. Awards