Remembering Ted Williams, one of the greatest MLB players that wore the Red Sox jersey for 19 years. Reflecting on the journey that led to his induction.
Growing up in Canada, I’ve always been engulfed in Toronto Blue Jays team news. Now I’m on a mission to learn more about the rich Red Sox history in which I’ve learned about David Eckstein, Luke Wrenn, and Koji Uehara. This week I’m moving onto one of the greatest outfielders in Red Sox history: Ted Williams.
BoSox Injection’s Rick McNair rated Ted Williams as having one of the top MVP All-Star Game heroics of the past. BoSox Injection’s Sean Penney named Ted Williams as one of the top five left fielders in franchise history. Who was Ted Williams? In his own words, 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.’”"
Williams had a big, powerful dream that one day came true. He was traded by San Diego in 1937 for three players and cash considerations. Williams spent 19 years with the Red Sox (minus an absence in which he couldn’t play because of his obligation to the military). Accomplishments for the left fielder include being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966, a 2-time MVP, 2-time Triple Crown, 19-time All-Star, 6-time Batting Title and 5-time ML Player of the Year.
He won 15 awards in total. He spent 13 seasons in the top-10 for Batting Average, On-base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage. He spent 5 seasons in the top-10 for Games Played, Hits, Doubles, and Total Bases. *Takes a moment to catch breath*, the list continues to go on. He spent 15 seasons in the top-10 for Home Runs and 4 seasons in the top-10 for Triples. He’s been on the top-10 board for being both the youngest and the oldest in MLB (5 seasons).
Williams had a remarkable career with the Red Sox. Many wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t lost those years to his military service. The accomplishments he could have made, the records he could have broken, the change to history that would have happened because of him.
Often he was compared to and competed against records made by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Williams ended his career with a .344 BA, .482 OBP, .634 SLG, 521 HRs, 24 Stolen Bases in 2,292 games. His last at-bat ended with that 521st homer. It was an extraordinary end to his career and it could have ended much better than that. Ted Lyons said,
"“Williams was a Ty Cobb as far as being an intelligent batter. He wouldn’t hit at a bad ball. All he’d want to talk about was hitting.”"
What kind of man was Williams? Anything he put his mind to, he achieved. Williams carried the weight of providing for his family on his shoulders. Knowing that he must provide for his family, this weight was a driving factor for him to be successful. Bearing this in mind, he prolonged fighting in the war for as long as possible. When he finally enlisted in the war, he flew 39 missions. As a result of his service he lost his hearing. Everything Williams did, he succeeded in.
"“As he did with baseball, he excelled at his new craft. During his training, he set records for hits, shooting from wingovers, zooms and barrel rolls. He also set a still-standing student gunnery record, in reflexes, coordination and visual reaction time.”"
Williams had a love-hate relationship with reporters and fans. When he decided to prolong enlistment in the military, it was a decision that fans and the press did not take lightly. In one particular instance during a game, he had a spitting incident when fans booed him. He was fined $5,000 for act. It was clear that Williams was a sensitive man and did not take well to criticism. His initial reaction when offended was to fight back.
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Baseball was his craft; it was his real passion, so he made sure to know it and to know it well. He used his memory to his advantage, he stored information about pitchers, the impact of the weather, how the ball was moving, and even how the conditions of the field would factor into the game.
In many ways, Williams was ahead of his time in understanding the importance that these elements would have in his game. All talented players understand the importance of memory, the importance of learning their craft. But what Williams trained himself to understand was more in-depth than that of his competition. Williams himself was a very humble man,
"“Everybody tries to make a hero out of me over the Korean thing, “I was no hero. There were maybe 75 pilots in our two squadrons and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did.”"
Williams had a remarkable career. He’ll always be remembered as one of the bests. He was talented on the field and a character off the field. He left behind him lessons of being a skilled player, but also left behind bigger lessons of humility and conduct off the field.
Williams always struggled with the harsh relationship that came from being a Red Sox player. He wasn’t always right in how he decided to conduct himself in those situations, but he did help to shed light on the situation from a player perspective. He was smart, driven, humble, and his accomplishments speak for themselves.