Boston Red Sox: 50 greatest players of all-time
Ted Williams was introduced after his retirement from the Red Sox in 1960 as “the greatest hitter that ever lived.” It’s fairly easy to make an argument in his favor.
Power? Williams hit 521 career home runs over 19 seasons, missing significant time in 1952 and 1953 while serving in the Marine Corps in Korea. Average? Williams hit .344 lifetime. Bat control? Teddy Ballgame walked 2,021 times in 9,788 career plate appearances and his .482 on-base percentage is the highest of all-time.
The Red Sox signed Williams from the Pacific Coast League’s San Diego Padres in the spring of 1938 and he arrived in the majors the next season with a splash.
Williams was fourth in the MVP voting as a rookie, leading the American League with 145 RBI and also topping the circuit in total bases.
He became the last major leaguer to hit .400 in a qualifying season in 1941, posting a .406 average, and won the Triple Crown in both 1942 and 1949.
Williams was criticized for his approach at the plate, refusing to swing at pitches out of the strike zone and letting strikes go if he didn’t think he could drive the ball. But what he did worked for him, as he was almost maniacal in his approach to hitting.
He homered in his final at-bat at Fenway Park as a 42-year-old in September 1960, won six batting titles — the last in his age 39 season in 1958, led the AL in home runs and RBI four times each and scored the most runs seven times.
Given he lost three full seasons to World War II (1943-45) and most of 1952 and 1953 serving in Korea, playing in a total of 43 games in those campaigns, the question of what his career numbers could have been will always linger.
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As it was he played 19 seasons in Boston and hit .344/.482/1.116, an OPS+ of 190, with 521 homers, 1,839 RBI and 1,798 runs scored.
Not loved by the media of the day, Williams won just two MVP awards (1946 and 1959), finishing second four times, third once and fourth once. He was a 19-time All-Star.
Williams played in the postseason just once, the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and hit just .200/.333/.533 with one RBI and two runs scored.
He was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. In retirement he managed the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise for four seasons, 1969-72, winning Manager of the Year honors his first year.
Per the Society for American Baseball Research, Williams got very active in memorabilia in his later years. After a stroke, his health declined and he died July 6, 2002 at the age of 83.