He's the greatest living Red Sox player, but Carl Yastrzemski kept a conspicuously low profile during Boston's championship run last fall--no ceremonial first pitches, no �minence grise interviews, no public beaming over that long-awaited World Series title for the franchise he joined in 1958. Yaz was mourning his son, Mike, the second of his four children, who died last September at age 44 from complications following hip surgery. "I still don't talk about it. It's just very difficult," Yastrzemski, 65, said in spring training, during which he worked as a Red Sox minor league instructor. "Life will never be the same for me."
The healing process became more difficult when Yastrzemski discovered that Mike, in his last few years, had passed himself off as his father and run up thousands of dollars in debt. The IRS and creditors are now seeking repayment--the debt includes $46,000 in unpaid taxes and tens of thousands in credit card balances--from the elder Yastrzemski. Last month a Florida judge ordered him to pay more than $28,000 to one of the credit card companies.
Yastrzemski says he had no knowledge of the identity theft by his son, who apparently had fallen on hard times. In the early 1980s Mike was a switch-hitting outfielder at Florida State, and as the elder Yastrzemski's career wound down, Yaz harbored a dream of one day playing in the big leagues with his son. Mike was drafted by the Braves in 1984 and eventually climbed to Triple A in the White Sox organization. But in 1988, after a string of injuries, he retired to go into the produce brokerage business in Florida. "I have an opportunity to earn money which I know I could never earn in baseball even if I made it to the major leagues," he said at the time. "I'm like most people--I love money, and an opportunity like this could set me up for life."
When he died, Mike, who was divorced and had one son of his own, was living in Holyoke, Mass., and working at a supermarket. "Carl isn't responsible for his 40-something-year-old son's debts," Yastrzemski's lawyer, Neil Abbott, told the Boston Herald. "But it's hard. It's his son, God rest his soul."