Boston Red Sox: Most important players in franchise history

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 02: David Ortiz
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 02: David Ortiz /
2 of 8
(Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images)
(Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images) /

Ted Williams

This one is most likely the least surprising entry on the list as Ted Williams is generally considered to be the greatest player in Red Sox history. His exploits both on and off the field are legendary and would make a fantastic Hollywood movie (and it’s shocking that in 2020 no one has made a film that told the story of Williams’ incredible life).

For the purposes of this slide show, the focus won’t be on Ted’s accomplishments; no discussion of his hitting .406 in 1941, winning two Triple Crowns, or clubbing over 500 home runs. Instead, the discussion will be on why Williams was one of the most important Red Sox players in their history.

From 1920 when they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees until Williams’ rookie season in 1939, the Red Sox were bad. Until 1938 when they finished second in the American League, the Red Sox spent the post-Ruth years as one of the worst teams in league. They only finished fourth place or better three times during that span. The addition of Williams instantly made them relevant and one of the greatest teams of the 1940s to never win a World Series.

From 1940 to 1949, the Red Sox finished second five times and won the American League pennant in 1946. In 1948 and 1949, the Red Sox lost the pennant in heartbreaking fashion on the last day of both seasons, but there’s no denying that Williams made the Red Sox contenders in the 1940s. In the three years he missed due to his service in World War II (1943-45), they dipped to two seventh place finishes and one fourth place finish.

Upon his return, they instantly came back to be one of the AL powerhouses. Unfortunately, once the 1950s hit the Red Sox went back to being one of the worst teams in all of baseball. They spent the final decade of Williams’ career never finishing better than third place and for that entire decade, Williams was the only reason for Sox fans to bother coming to Fenway Park.

Having lost their other star players to trades or retirement, Ted was the only attraction on those awful 1950s Red Sox teams and fans came to the ballpark just to see what he would do. He rewarded them one last time in storybook fashion when he hit a home run in his final at bat in his last game in September 1960.

Ted Williams was the first Red Sox superstar since Babe Ruth and made the team exciting and relevant after two decades in the wilderness. Without him, it may have been forty-five (or more) years before Boston became a factor in the American League and for that alone, The Kid’s importance cannot be overstated.