BOSTON – Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, the last player to hit for the Triple Crown, underwent heart bypass surgery Tuesday after experiencing chest pains.
The 68-year-old Yastrzemski was in surgery Tuesday evening after being admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital, said his spokesman, Dick Gordon.
The popular Yaz was an 18-time All-Star and spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox, taking over left field for Ted Williams in 1961 and playing through 1983.
In 1967, Yastrzemski helped revitalize the flagging franchise during the "Impossible Dream" season when the Red Sox went from ninth place in the 10-team AL in 1966 to the World Series, where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
And all over New England that summer, kids tried to imitate his unique lefty batting stance, with the bat held high over his head.
With calls of "Yaz" echoing around Fenway Park, he won the Triple Crown that year, hitting .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs. Behind the AL MVP, the Red Sox won their first pennant since 1946, but lost the World Series in Game 7.
Yastrzemski was elected to the Hall on the first ballot in 1989. He has often shied away from celebrity and rarely made public appearances, but drew a big ovation when he threw out the first ball before Game 1 of last year's World Series.
Yaz finished with 452 career home runs and 1,844 RBIs. He had 3,419 lifetime hits and batted .285. He also won seven Gold Gloves, expertly playing the caroms off the Green Monster.
Yastrzemski is one of five former Red Sox players to have his number retired by the team. His No. 8 is painted on the facing of the right field grandstands at Fenway, along with those of Williams, Carlton Fisk, Bobby Doerr and Joe Cronin.
Boston manager Terry Francona remembered when Yastrzemski visited spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
"He came over for a couple of weeks a couple of years ago," Francona said before the Red Sox played Tuesday night at Baltimore. "I was glad he did it. It was kind of an honor for us."
Former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, another Hall of Famer, faced Yastrzemski more than any batter. Yastrzemski's 197 plate appearances, 169 at-bats, 41 hits and 13 doubles where more than any other player had against Palmer, who held him to four homers, 21 RBIs and a .243 batting average.
"He could do everything," Palmer said Tuesday. "He could run the bases. He could hit for average. He could hit for power. He could hit your best pitch and he could hit your worst pitch. ... I just tried to keep the ball in the ballpark against him. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."
Palmer allowed what would have been Yastrzemski's final homer, but it was erased when the game was rained out.
Current Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy was one of Yastrzemski's teammates.
"I don't think he became the most talented of the Hall of Famers, but no one outworked him," Remy said. "Up until the day he retired, he wanted to be the best. ... He spent hours and hours and hours hitting."