An Introduction to the Legends of Baseball
| Hank Aaron
| Yogi Berra
| Ty Cobb
| Joe DiMaggio
Lou Gehrig | Rogers Hornsby | Mickey Mantle | Willie Mays | Stan Musial | Cal Ripken Jr
Jackie Robinson | Pete Rose | Babe Ruth | Ted Williams | Cy Young | The Baseball Hall of Fame
I want people to say 'There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived'.
Throughout the 1940s and the 1950s, Ted Williams was one of baseball's giants in hitting and became a legend to a generation of baseball fans. He was an incredibly talented hitter, but because of occasional strife with the Boston newspapers, he perhaps wasn't as honoured as many think he should have been. Awards were given to other players during some of Williams' best years, including the year he hit his way to a Triple Crown.
Williams greatest claim to fame was his hitting. He was a fair fielder, but never collected any great records in it. He was not a great baserunner, only stealing 24 bases in his career and hitting one inside the park home run. Many think that if he had had faster footspeed, then he would have been a much better player, or at least had even better averages. Williams was a natural hitter, but nothing else in baseball came natural to him.
One unique characteristic of Williams was his unusually good eyesight. Military doctors said he had one in 100,000 eyesight. He had a great ability to tell whether a ball was going to be inside or outside the strike zone, and rarely swung at balls. Williams waited patiently for the right pitch to swing at- a quality that most sluggers don't possess. Largely because of this, Williams had an impressive three to one walks to strikeouts ratio. There are some legends of his eyesight, for instance, that he could read the label off of a spinning record, but most are false. He once said 'The reason I saw things was that I was so intense... it was discipline, not super eyesight.'
He also had an occasional nasty temper tantrum. In the 1950s, Williams is well known for spitting at the press box, throwing a bat into the crowd and accidentally hitting an old lady and many other such things. He was very opinionated and did not hesitate to express his views. Perhaps what he was most infamous for was the smallest thing. He never tipped his hat to fans when he trotted around the bases for a home run after they booed him in 1939. Williams was a controversial player through his bad behaviour, but was also well known as a giving person. He often donated large amount of money to combat children's cancer and other good causes in Boston.
He didn't make every game, but he was consistently terrific. Only in one season did Williams slip below .300 - a mark that most baseball players strive for. His lifetime batting average is an impressive .344, he hit 521 homers in his career and 1,839 RBI. If he had not lost almost a full five seasons to military service, who knows what he might have accomplished. Williams spent a large amount of time at working to make his swing the best. The only player more determined to succeed was probably Ty Cobb. Williams played his whole career for the Boston Red Sox.
Life and Career
Teddy1 'Ted' Williams was born on 30 August, 1918, named in honour of US President Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt.
As a Junior in high school, Williams attracted attention from scouts for hitting a .583 average. He played semi-professional ball through his early life. Around this time, Williams was offered an opportunity to sign on with the Yankees. His mother however wanted him to continue his studies, and rejected the offer. At age 17, Williams was first signed for the San Diego Padres, who were at the time in the Pacific Coast League. He did considerably well in the minor league but his attitude made him the boy who was disliked by sportswriters, (this would never change and Williams would suffer from it), but when Red Sox manager Eddie Collins went to San Diego, he was impressed with Williams and signed him.
He was sent to Minneapolis in the American Association for the 1938 season, the 20-year-old won the AA Triple crown, batting .366 with 43 home runs and 142 RBI. Boston brought him up in 1939.
In 1939, Williams became a Major Leaguer with the Boston Red Sox. He had a great rookie season, hitting a .327 batting average, 31 home runs and 145 RBI, making him the first rookie to lead the league in RBI. Williams probably would have won the Rookie of the Year award if it had been around then. Williams was an eager hitter for the Major Leagues and quickly attracted attention to himself, earning the nickname, the 'Splendid Splinter'.
1941, in only his third year in the Major Leagues, Williams had his best season and in fact one of the best seasons a player could have. Going into the final day of the season he had a .3996 average. Rounded off to 3-digits, it would have been credited as a .400 average. Joe Cronin, Red Sox manager, asked Williams if he wanted to sit out the double-header to clinch the .400 mark. Williams refused, played both games and went 6-for-8 to raise his average to .406 (the highest in his career). He also recorded 37 homers and 120 RBI. Despite having his best season, he was not voted Most Valuable Player nor did he earn the Triple Crown that year. The American League MVP Award that year went to Joe DiMaggio, possibly because of Williams' constant battles with the Boston Press, but also this was the year of DiMaggio's record 56 game hitting streak.
His contempt for the press, especially the Boston reporters, became rampant in 1942. That year, he asked for his military service to be deferred so that he could play baseball - he was the sole support of his mother, a Salvation Army worker. The Press took it as an opportunity to voice their opinions of him. He had to enlist in the military, but not before he played a stellar 1942 season. He won his first Triple Crown this year, by leading the league with a .356 average, 36 home runs and 137 RBI.
Once in the military, he became a flight instructor in naval aviation, and he missed three seasons to World War II. Williams returned to baseball in 1946 to find a great team had formed in his absence. He and the great offense of the Red Sox led them to a pennant and four seasons that ended close to earning a pennant.
In 1946, just after he got back from the war, Williams was almost traded for Joe DiMaggio with the Yankees in what would have been one of the most important trades in baseball history. But when DiMaggio injured his foot, the trade was killed.
From 1946 to 1951, Williams earned two home run crowns, two batting titles and three RBI titles. In 1946, he won the League MVP award with a .342 average, 38 homers and 123 RBI. He helped lead them to the World Series in 1946, but was injured in an exhibition game just before it and disappointingly hit only .200 in the World Series. The loss of Williams' power in the Series might have kept them from the World Championship. Another disadvantage for Williams was that St Louis strategically put more outfielders in right field, where Williams hit. They lost the championship in a close seven game series against St Louis. The strategy of putting as many as six fielders in the areas where Williams hit became a popular method after the 1946 Series and was known as the 'Williams shift'. Williams won his second Triple Crown in 1947 with a .343 batting average, 32 home runs and 114 RBI. Again in 1947, DiMaggio won the American League MVP (by only one vote) in one of Williams' best seasons.
In 1950, Williams had a good start for the season. He and the Red Sox were battling the New York Yankees for first place in the American League (which ended up happening quite a lot, making the Yankees' leader Joe DiMaggio a rival of Williams). He was in the All Star game that year, as usual but crashed into the outfield wall running for a fly ball. It fractured his left elbow and Williams sat out more than 60 games. His career could have been over at age 32, but he returned in 1951 to hit a reasonable .318 batting average. The Red Sox were seriously reduced in power by this season though, and fell to fifth place in the American League.
After only six games in the 1952 season, Williams was called away to service again to fight in the Korean War. A 'Ted Williams Day' was held in Fenway Park, and he left in style with a home run in his final at-bat. Most popular ballplayers serving in the military such as Joe DiMaggio played exhibition games for the troops or on military service teams, but Williams did not. He served in uniform as a pilot (he also happened to be in the same unit as John Glenn, who would become the first American into orbit) and flew 39 missions in Korea. Hit by small-arms fire during one run, he crash landed and had to escape from the flaming wreckage. Shortly after, he contracted pneumonia and was shipped home.
He returned to baseball in 1953, late in the season and without any spring training. He hit a homer in his first game at Fenway Park. Many had their doubts that Williams could continue to dominate baseball after being injured in war. He played 37 games that season, hitting an impressive .407 batting average.
Through the mid-1950s Williams was frequently injured. He broke his collar bone in 1954 Spring Training and missed much of 1955 for other injuries. Although his total numbers of RBI, hits and homers went down, his batting average stayed high in the mid-1950s despite nagging pains. He wouldn't have another .400 season after 1943 but kept his career average relatively high. But Williams announced that he would retire after 1954.
After announcing his retirement, Williams went into a train station in July 1954. There he encountered a fan called Eddie Mifflin2 who remarkably convinced him to stay in the game in order to get the lifetime totals that were necessary for a swift induction into the Hall of Fame. He decided not to retire, in large part because of his encounter with Mifflin. Although a costly divorce settlement and the Red Sox $98,000 contract offer may also have had a bearing on his decision.
He never played as many games as he did when he was younger, but was still an active, consistent player. He hit .356 and 28 homers in 1955, which was impressive for any player, especially for a baseball veteran at the age of 37. He had a similar year in 1956, but no one expected his offensive renaissance in 1957. The 1957 season was arguably the best year played by an older player. By that season, he was 39 years old, but hit an amazing .388 average and 38 homers (his second best number of home runs in his career). He wanted to hit a .400 average again, and actually managed to hit .453 in the second half of this season, but fell short by only five hits. Williams was almost League Most Valuable Player, but fell behind Mickey Mantle in the voting. He was extremely popular around this time, as an older player rarely played so well.
In 1958, he won the batting title, despite having a decreased .328 average. His worst season was 1959 with a .254 average (which was the only year he slipped below .300 in the averages) and ten home runs. He was advised to quit by more than a few people, but it was not Williams' style to end on a bad note. He came back for his last season in 1960 stronger and more determined. The major highlight of his 1960 season was becoming only the fourth member of the 500 home run club on June 17. He hit a .316 average and 29 home runs. With that, his career ended on 28 September, 1960, celebrated as 'Ted Williams Day'. In the ceremony, several thousand dollars were awarded to a local charity in Williams' honour. Williams helps win the game for the Red Sox, hitting a home run at his last at bat ever in a 4-5 Red Sox victory.
In retirement, Williams followed his other real passion- fishing. He became a full time fisherman and even briefly had a television show. He was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, 19663, and in 2000 was inducted to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame, too.
Williams later wrote My Turn at Bat, an autobiography that was published in 1969. He also co-wrote The Science of Hitting, a guide to hitting a baseball published in 1970.
On 18 January, 1969 Williams became manager of the Washington Senators. He helped bring them from behind to winning 86 - 76 record and was named Manager of the Year in his first year. He resigned his position at the end of the 1972 season when the team's record declined significantly.In the 1980s and '90s Williams started his own Hitters Hall of Fame, and received America's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the summer of 1991, he finally made peace with the fans and media in Boston by tipping his hat on Ted Williams Day at Fenway. And on New Year's Eve of 1999, he was named New England's top sports figure of the century by The Boston Globe.
Williams suffered several strokes and health conditions in his last years and underwent open heart surgery in early 2001. He died on 5 July, 2002 in a Florida Hospital at the age of 83. The remains of his body actually formed a strange controversy in 2002. His will states that Williams should be cremated and his ashes be spread in an area he liked to fish in near the Everglades in Florida. His son contended that he wanted to be cryogenically frozen and has documents to prove his fathers wishes.
Some people contend that Williams' son intended to save his fathers DNA for cloning this athletic talent. After extensive legal battles, Williams body and head were cryogenically frozen separately on 12 August, 2003.
Career Hitting Statistics
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