It is the numbers that are beautiful on the balloons surrounding Fred Lynn (right) and Jim Rice (page 44). As Boston rookies last season, they took off early—by May 1 they had a combined .311 average, six home runs and 22 RBIs—and did not come down until Lynn had swept every individual award in sight, prizes that in a Lynn-less year probably would have been won by Rice. And lest you think their reputations are somehow inflated, turn the page for comparisons between their rookie performances and those of a random sample of Hall of Famers—or Hall of Famers-to-be. The latter-day Babes of Boston outdid stars of every era, a good indication that for them in '76 the baseball bromide about sophomore slumps is likely to turn out to be a lot of hot air.

PAIR WITHOUT PARALLEL

Baseball is still reeling from the legendary 1976 feats of Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. Never before have mere rookies had such impact on the game. It was not just that Lynn was the first rookie to be named Most Valuable Player, but also that Rice finished third in the MVP voting and that the two led the surprising Red Sox to the American League pennant. And they reached back and smote history a lick, too. Statistically, Lynn and Rice were the finest rookie teammates in major league history, and Lynn was one of the very best first-year players of the century. He was the finest rookie hitter in more than two decades, and if his fielding is duly considered, he was the best all-round rookie since Ted Williams in 1939. Unfortunately for his teammate, Lynn's achievements were just good enough to outstrip the performance of the less acclaimed, but hardly less talented, Rice.

To compare Lynn and Rice with their predecessors, it is necessary to establish a single qualifying standard for all rookies. For the sake of argument, assume a rookie is any player who has had no more than 130 at bats in previous major league seasons. This is the most significant clause of the rule that has been used since 1957 to determine which hitters qualify as rookies.

Under this standard, Lynn and Rice were the first rookie teammates both to hit more than .300 and drive in more than 100 runs apiece. Quite a few pairs have topped .300, but the members of only two other twosomes—Al Rosen (116) and Luke Easter (107) of the 1950 Indians and Ken Keltner (113) and Jeff Heath (112) of the 1938 Indians-knocked in more than 100 runs each. Of the four, only Heath had an average above .300.

How does Lynn, who beat out Rice for 1975 American League Rookie of the Year, compare with past individuals? Again, a standard is in order that takes into consideration four categories: average, home runs, runs batted in and hits. In cases in which a comparison between Lynn and some earlier rookie results in each player winning two categories, the one with the higher average is given a slight edge.

By this criterion, Lynn's rookie performance outdistanced the first-year accomplishments of such players as Easter, Rosen, Minnie Minoso, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Tony Oliva and Dick Allen. You would have to go back a quarter-century to Walt Dropo, the mediocre-fielding, power-hitting first baseman of the 1950 Red Sox, to find a rookie who batted better than Lynn. Before Dropo, Lynn out-hit every rookie back to Williams in 1939. Here is how the Boston three match up.

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AVG.

H

HR

RBI

LYNN

.331

175

21

105

DROPO

.322

180

34

144

WILLIAMS

.327

185

31

145

Lynn's statistics had a purity of line to match his level swing at the plate and smooth gait afield. In hitting for average over anything approaching a full season, he outdid every rookie back to Richie Ashburn of the 1948 Phillies, who batted .333 in 117 games. In doubles, those classic marriages of sock and speed, Lynn set a league rookie record of 47. Power? He was the only rookie ever to lead baseball in slugging percentage (.566). In one game he set a league rookie record of 10 RBIs while hitting three homers and a triple.

Rice's year could also be described as prodigious. Henry Aaron watched him swing and pronounced all home-run records in jeopardy. Rice hit a 500-foot shot to the right of the flagpole in Fenway Park, a feat matched by only five others, including Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx. In a 56-game streak he had 45 RBIs and five four-hit games. And Rice's talents were more varied than reputed. Because he was used as a designated hitter for most of the first half of the season, he is widely thought to have been so-so on defense. In fact, Rice made no errors in 90 games as a leftfielder and saved one of those games, a 4-2 win over Minnesota, by robbing Glenn Borgmann of two homers. With a flair for the dramatic, Rice celebrated his permanent installation in left field on July 2 with a 450-foot homer.

Another rookie who generated excitement to compare with Lynn and Rice was Pete Reiser of the 1940 Dodgers, a .293 first-year hitter whose career was subsequently shortened by one war and 13 fences. There were many others before Reiser who were little noted but should have been long remembered. At one time or another rookies have led both major leagues in all important offensive categories. What should be known as the Golden Age of Rookies came between the two World Wars, when strapping farm hands and ex-doughboys fresh from saving the world for democracy began taking swats at the juiced-up ball that revolutionized the game during the '20s. And there was no Depression for young hitters, including players such as Dale Alexander of the 1929 Tigers, Johnny Frederick of the 1929 Dodgers, George Watkins of the 1930 Cardinals and Hal Trosky of the 1934 Indians who are rarely remembered today. Their accomplishments rank them right up there with the '30s' two most famous rookies, Joe DiMaggio, who came to the Yankees in 1936, and Williams.

AVG.

H

HR

RBI

ALEXANDER

.343

215

25

137

FREDERICK

.328

206

24

75

TROSKY

.330

206

35

142

WATKINS( 119 games)

.373

146

17

87

DiMAGGIO

.323

206

29

125

Even as rookies, DiMaggio and Williams could be described as one-man gangs. But neither turned a third-place team into a pennant winner, which is exactly what Lynn and Rice did. Last year's Boston stars proved that in rebuilding an outfield, as in other endeavors, two good heads invariably are better than one.

TWO PHOTOSJOHN G. ZIMMERMAN TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONSROY ANDERSEN

FRED LYNN

BEST ROOKIE SINCE TED WILLIAMS

ONLY ROOKIE MVP EVER

.331 AVERAGE BEST BY A ROOKIE SINCE '48

105 RBIs MOST BY A ROOKIE SINCE '50

3 HOMERS AND 10 RBIs IN ONE GAME

GOLD GLOVE FIELDER A RECORD 47 DOUBLES

FIRST ROOKIE SLUGGGING CHAMP .566

NEVER HITLESS IN 4 STRAIGHT GAMES

JIM RICE

SECOND IN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR VOTE THIRD IN MVP

OUTHOMERED LYNN 22-21

IN JULY-AUGUST HIT IN 43 OF 58 GAMES

NO ERRORS IN 90 GAMES AS LEFT FIELDER

28 RBIs IN A 31 GAME STRETCH

4 FOUR-HIT GAMES IN A 12 GAME STRETCH

174 HITS .309 AVERAGE 102 RBIs

HIT .332 AFTER ALL-STAR GAME

HONUS WAGNER 1897

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

61

38

83

17

4

2

39

.344

JOHNNY BENCH 1968

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

154

67

155

40

2

15

82

.275

LOU GEHRIG 1925

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

126

73

129

23

10

20

68

.295

STAN MUSIAL 1942

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

140

87

147

32

10

10

72

.315

MICKEY MANTLE 1951

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

96

61

91

11

5

13

65

.267

ROBERTO CLEMENTE 1955

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

124

48

121

23

11

5

47

.255

FRED LYNN 1975

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

145

103

175

47

7

21

105

.331

TY COBB 1905

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

41

19

36

6

0

1

15

.240

ROGERS HORNSBY 1916

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

139

63

155

17

15

6

65

.313

JACKIE ROBINSON 1947

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

151

125

175

31

5

12

48

.297

WILLIE MAYS 1951

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

121

59

127

22

5

20

68

.274

AL KALINE 1954

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

138

42

139

18

3

4

43

.276

HENRY AARON 1954

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

122

58

131

27

6

13

69

.280

JIM RICE 1975

G

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

PCT

144

92

174

29

4

22

102

.309

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)