Sunday, April 17, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 17: Ted Williams

Years with Boston: 1939-1942, 1946-1960 (.344/.482/.634, 521 home runs, 1,839 RBIs)
Best Year in Boston: 1941 (.406/.553/.735, 37 home runs, 137 RBIs)
What is there really to say about Ted Williams?  There are multiple books already written about him.  I own several myself and just finished reading one a few weeks ago.  Ted Williams was, quite simply, the greatest player in Red Sox history.  He holds the all-time Major League record with an incredible .482 on-base percentage.  He also holds the team record for home runs in his career.  And of course, he was the last player to this date to hit over .400 in a season.  Williams is an inner-circle Hall of Famer.

Ted Williams arrived in the Majors in 1939 and immediately took the league by storm, hitting .327 and leading the league in RBIs with 145.  That happened as a rookie.  1940 saw his power numbers slip a little, but his rate stats improved.  Then of course in 1941, he hit .406 on the season.  He finished second in the MVP race to Joe DiMaggio.  He followed that up by winning the Triple Crown in 1942.  Somehow he missed out on the MVP award that season too.

Williams missed the next three seasons due to service in World War II but came back strong in 1946, leading the Red Sox to the World Series for the first time since 1918.  He was injured shortly before the World Series though and his injury hampered his ability to hit in the Series.  He did win his first league MVP in 1946 though.

1947 saw Williams win his second Triple Crown, and once again, not win the MVP.  He won the batting title again in 1948 and the Red Sox lost in a one-game playoff to determine the league champions.  Then, in 1949, he finally won another MVP by leading the league in home runs and RBIs, while just missing out on the batting title.

In 1950, Williams suffered another injury that decreased his power for the rest of his career.  Williams was recalled to military service in the Korean War for much of the 1952 and 1953 seasons.  Williams once again came back strong in 1954.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox were no longer very good as a team and Williams was the major reason to watch the team.

After a few years of impressive hitting, Williams had a terrific season in 1957 that saw him just miss another .400 season, hitting .388, while also hitting 38 home runs.  He was second in the AL MVP vote that season too.  He won his sixth and final batting title in 1958, at the age of 40.  Williams had a lackluster year in 1959, but bounced back in a big way for his final season in 1960 and hit a home run in his final at-bat.

Williams was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame and sailed in on his first ballot.  He spent his entire playing career in Boston, winning two Triple Crowns, two MVPs (and should have won more if there had not been some bizarre voting), and six batting titles.  He was one of the greatest hitters, if not the greatest, to ever play the game.

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