Many Red Sox fans are familiar with Carl Yastrzemski’s tenure with the Raleigh Capitals, the team’s affiliate in the Carolina League. For a few short months, Yaz plied his trade in the City of Oaks before moving on to Minneapolis and ultimately to the big league club. Many of us are familiar with that story. But what about the rest of the city’s affiliation with the Sox? On Tuesday, I looked at the Red Sox’s brief tenure in Durham. Today we take a brief trip to the east on Interstate 40 to North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, to look at the Red Sox’s affiliation with the Raleigh Capitals of the Carolina League, which existed for three short seasons.
Before the Red Sox shifted their Carolina League affiliation from Greensboro to Raleigh prior to the 1958 season, the Capitals had been dormant, having ceased play after the 1953 season. The Red Sox’s move meant the return of professional baseball to Devereaux Meadows, the team’s historic home in downtown Raleigh. The Red Sox promoted its arrival to Raleigh on April 11 by playing a preseason game against the Capitals at the Meadows, defeating them 6-0. Ted Williams, who appeared in the game as a pinch hitter, would appear at the annual banquet for Raleigh Hot Stove League to present an award to a local baseball coach.
The 1958 Capitals were led by Len Okrie, who was in his 6th season as a manager of the Red Sox minor league system, having previously managed teams in Lafayette, Indiana, Bluefield, West Virginia, and had managed the Sox’s Carolina League team in Greensboro the previous season. The team’s first season did not very well and the team finished 63-73, good enough for 6th in the 8 team league. Okrie would find himself reassigned at the end of the season and moved to the Corning Red Sox of the New York-Penn League. His replacement was Ken Deal, who had spent 1958 managing the Waterloo Hawks, the Red Sox affiliate in the Midwest League, to a league championship.
1959 also saw the arrival of an infielder from Long Island by the name of Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz had been signed to a $100,000 contract during his sophomore year at Notre Dame and thrust into the Sox minor league system. He was quickly a major contributor for the Capitals and a clear standout at the plate, a fact that the local media quickly took note of and wrote about regularly. On May 30, the Raleigh News and Observer noted Yaz’s work ethic by writing that “he plays the game like he doesn’t have a dime and is desperate to look good,” a quality that they felt was in contrast to other “bonus babies.” Yaz would ultimately finish the year as the top hitter in the Carolina League, posting a .377 batting average and .472 on-base percentage. He was far and away the best hitter on the team, with his nearest competitor Thomas Agosta posting a .317 average. He was the only player on the team to reach at least 100 RBI. He was also the 2nd best home run hitter on the team, having hit 15 home runs.
The team as a whole improved in 1959, posting a 78-52 record, good enough for a first place finish in the Carolina League and the league championship.
The team would lose Yaz in 1960 as he continued rocketing up the ranks in the Red Sox minor league system and would regress appropriately. The 1960 team began with promising pitching prospects Dick Radatz and Guido Grilli but would love them as the two men progressed up the minor league ladder. The team would finish 70-65, good enough for 3rd in the league. The Red Sox would leave Raleigh after the 1960 season and the expansion New York Mets would begin an affiliation with the Capitals.
I once again want to give credit for Baseball Reference and newspapers across North Carolina, namely the Rocky Mount Telegram, Daily Times-News, and Raleigh News and Observer for their reporting on the Capitals. Without them, this article would not have been possible.