regarded by many as the best hitter ever. Whatever you wish to call him ("The Kid
", "The Splendid Splinter
", "Teddy Ballgame
", and "The Thumper
" were among his nicknames), Williams holds a place high in the baseball legend stratosphere, along with names like Ruth
, and DiMaggio
Williams (born August 30, 1918 in San Diego, California) spent his entire playing career (1939-1960) with the Boston Red Sox. As a rookie, in 1939, The Kid exploded onto the scene, hitting .327 with 31 home runs and 145 RBIs (leading the league in the latter category).
Two years later, Williams hit .406, the last time any player hit over .400 in a season and winning his first of 6 batting titles. He walked 147 times, while only striking out a remarkable 27 times. His 37 homers also led the American League, yet Williams finished second in the 1941 MVP voting to Joe DiMaggio (in the year of his 56-game hitting streak).
The next season, The Splendid Splinter won the Triple Crown, leading the league with a .356 batting average, 36 home runs, and 137 RBIs. In fact, no one else was even close (teammate Johnny Pesky finished second in average at .331; Chet Laabs of the St. Louis Browns was second in homers with 27; DiMaggio was runner-up in RBIs with 114). Yet, astonishingly, the New York Yankees’ Joe Gordon was selected league MVP. Reasons for this range from a possible pro-Yankees media bias to Williams generally not getting along with writers. Also, the Yankees won the American League, and making the postseason is often a major positive in MVP voting.
Williams spent the next 3 seasons fighting with the U.S. Navy in World War II, but didn’t show any signs of rust when he returned to baseball in 1946. Batting .348 with 38 homers and 123 RBIs…all numbers quite similar to 1942, and all good for second place in the league. The media couldn’t ignore Williams this time, naming him AL MVP. Perhaps more importantly, his Red Sox won the pennant for the first time since 1918. The Sox lost the 1946 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. Williams hit only .200 in what would turn out to be his only postseason appearance. Maybe some of it can be credited to the Curse of the Bambino.
In 1947, Williams won the Triple Crown for a second time (.343, 32 homers, 114 RBIs), but he yet AGAIN lost the MVP vote, this time to DiMaggio by a single vote (202-201). Several ballots omitted Williams completely while others had him far down on the list, again highlighting Williams’ testy relationship with the media.
Two seasons later, he won his second (and final) AL MVP award, by batting .343 with 43 homers and 159 RBIs (the latter two stats led the league, and also ended up being career highs).
Williams missed most of 1952 and 1953 to serve in the military during the Korean War, but continued to pile up impressive numbers until his retirement in 1960. In 1958, at the age of 40, he won his sixth (and last) batting title, hitting .328. And in his final season (1960), despite turning 42 years old, he still hit .316 with 29 homers and 72 RBIs.
He homered in his final at-bat, but refused to doff his cap or acknowledge the cheers. As author John Updike explained "Gods do not answer letters." Still, throughout his career, Williams and the Boston fans had a bit of a love-hate relationship, with Williams alienating some fans with perceived arrogance.
For his career, The Splendid Splinter hit .344 with 521 homers and 1839 RBIs. He was an All Star 18 times. His keen batting eye was legendary, with Williams only striking out 709 times over his career (compared with 2021 walks, including leading the league in walks 8 times). His eyesight was so keen that he claimed to be able to see the baseball's stitches as a pitched ball approached him.
He also led the league in batting average, runs and total bases 6 times, and home runs and RBIs 4 times each. His .482 career on base percentage is #1 all-time. And on and on…
Williams managed the Washington Senators (1969-1971) and Texas Rangers (1972), but his players couldn’t approach their manager’s hitting prowess as his managerial record was only 273-364.
Away from baseball, he became known as a great fisherman and outdoorsman. But it was baseball where Williams was a legend.
Williams had health problems for much of the 1990s. His ever-decreasing public appearances were met by awe from fans and current players alike. This was especially the case in 1999, when Williams was honored at the All Star Game, which was held in Boston that year. That same year, ESPN’s SportsCentury named Williams the 16th greatest athlete of the 20th century.
Ted Williams passed away on July 5, 2002, at the age of 83. Many who saw him play have said he had the perfect baseball swing, a thing of beauty. Williams said he smelled his bat burning when he fouled balls back with his crisp, smooth swing. Despite his abrasive personality and not ever winning a World Series, he’ll be remembered as one of the game’s greatest legends.
Williams once said "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street, folks will say, 'there goes the greatest hitter that ever lived'." Many would say he succeeded.
http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/williams_ted.html (bio info)
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/sports/ted_williams (bio info)
http://www.baseball-reference.com/w/willite01.shtml (for stats)
http://www.baseballprimer.com/articles/malcolm_2001-11-23_0.shtml (for info on MVP votes)
And various other websites and news/radio reports.