Story of the Week
He played in the major leagues for 19 years, all with the Boston Red Sox. He had a career batting average of .344. He had a career on-base percentage of .483. He had a career slugging percentage of .634. He had 521 career home runs. And the list goes on and on. He is arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history. His name is Ted Williams.
The incredible stats would have been greater were it not for the fact that Williams served in two wars, World War II and Korea.
Such was the status of one of the most revered sluggers ever to wear a major league uniform. In addition to being called the greatest pure hitter ever, Williams was also one of America’s most familiar faces.
Much copied but never mastered was that sweet swing that terrorized American League pitchers. Despite interruptions by the two wars noted above, plus numerous injuries which wreaked havoc with his playing career, Williams was nonetheless a permanent fixture in front of Fenway Park’s most infamous "green monster" left-field wall.
Williams’ superior hitting was a great accomplishment in itself, but it was made greater by several factors. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, there was no sacrifice fly rule; the hitter was still charged with a time-at-bat which obviously did not help his batting average. Williams was a pull hitter; he was a left-handed hitter who hit to the right side. Fenway’s right field foul line was a comparatively short poke, but right-center field, his "power alley", was anything but, and he still managed 521 home runs. And finally, defenses played Williams to pull, employing three infielders and two outfielders to the far right side in the "Williams shift", and he still managed a .344 batting average.
Williams had great eyesight, and prides himself that he never swung at bad balls. Legend has it that he once took a pitch that was called a strike. He then turned to the umpire to advise him that if he doesn’t swing at a pitch, it’s a ball.
Ted Williams is the last player to record a .400 batting average for a season. He hit .406 in 1941. It could be the last .400 season we’ll ever see in baseball. But Joe DiMaggio, with less impressive stats than Williams, was voted the league’s MVP that year. That was a great injustice to Williams, who was very aloof to the very sportswriters who voted the honor, and these same writers showed their obvious displeasure with his treatment of them. The writers were not terribly objective when it came to Ted Williams.
Williams once wrote his own preferred epitaph: "I want people to say that Ted Williams is the greatest hitter who ever lived." We’ve seen great hitters down through the years, but I’ve never seen any hitter better than Ted Williams.
Last Week's Trivia
The Brooklyn Dodgers had great power hitters. Who is the only player ever to hit a ball over the roof at Ebbets Field? If you said Campanella or Snider or Hodges or Robinson or Furillo, you were wrong. It wasn’t a Dodger. It was Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves.
Trivia Question of the Week
What is the "palpably unfair play" rule? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.