Yastrzemski says his career is over by his choice. "There's no doubt in my mind I could play next year," he says. "But I've had enough working out and doing what I had to do. I never really accepted the DH role. If I really wanted to go all out, dedicate myself all winter, I could come back and play in the field. I don't think I would at this stage. I think I've just had enough. We've been in the hunt the last four or five years and it keeps you going. I never understood until this year that that's what keeps you going."
He realized it in late August. "We were 14 games out and something went out of me," he says. "Can't explain it. It's like everything inside me went out—all my energy, all my desire. I still try to do the best I can, but somehow I know I'm lacking something."
What is missing is the quest for The Grail, the chance for the ring. Boston missed in 1967, '72, '75 and '78, when Goose Gossage popped up Yaz in the last of the ninth to win an American League Eastern Division playoff for the Yankees. "It's the one at bat I'd like back," he says. "It tore me up inside."
Yastrzemski lives in a big seaside house outside Boca Raton, Fla. that he happily lifted from Sam Snead for $300,000 seven years ago. He sounds a lot like Bench. "I want to see the United States outside of an airplane," Yaz says. "I'm sick of airplanes. I want to see the country. I want to see everything. Call Bobby Doerr and spend a couple of weeks with him in Oregon. Spend a couple of weeks on the Snake River and fish for salmon. Go to Minneapolis and float down the St. Croix or Mississippi rivers, float with the current, cast for bass, walleyes, northerns. Just get off a schedule after 23 years. I don't want a schedule."
He will continue to work for Kahn's & Co., which is headquartered, ironically enough, in Cincinnati, marketing meat products, not promoting them. "I'm not a——jock hanging around. I know the meat business," he says. "We're going to be Number One. We're going to beat out Oscar Mayer! We're going to do it."
That's all he ever wanted the Red Sox to be. No. 1, and now some of that fervor will be given over to Kahn's. He won't fall asleep, however, counting hot dogs.
"Would you give your place in the Hall of Fame for a World Series ring?" Yastrzemski was asked in the Cleveland bar. The waitress had brought another beer. Twilight was near. "What?" he inquired. The question was repeated. He paused. He nodded. "Probably," said Yaz.