1950s to the end
The 1950s weren’t kind to the Red Sox, hindering Williams’ chances for another MVP. The superstar outfielder broke his elbow making a catch against the wall in the 1950 All-Star Game, limiting him to 89 games. Two years later he left to serve in the Korean War and missed the bulk of the 1952 and ’53 seasons.
By the time he returned from the war for a full season, Williams was 35 years old and no longer capable of playing every day. He never again played more than 136 games in a season and topped 130 games only twice in his final eight seasons after returning from Korea.
He was still earning MVP votes every year but 1957 was the only season that decade where Williams was a serious candidate. He hit .388 that year and saw his power briefly return with 38 homers, marking the first time since his elbow injury that he hit more than 30 in a season.
Williams finished second on the ballot behind Mickey Mantle that year. It was the fourth time that the Splendid Splinter settled for being the runner-up and each time it was to a Yankee. This time was warranted though.
Williams: .388/.526/.731/1.257, 38 HR, 87 RBI, 96 R, 9.7 WAR
Mantle: .365/.512/.665/1.177, 34 HR, 94 RBI, 121 R, 11.3 WAR
Williams had Mantle beat in the slash line categories but the difference wasn’t as wide as it was in previous instances where he lost the MVP to a Yankees hitter. Mantle played in 12 more games that year, giving him a boost in some of the counting stats and he had a comfortable lead in WAR.
Boston finished 16 games behind the 98-win Yankees but this doesn’t feel like a year where the MVP was gifted to someone from the best team. It was a tight race with Mantle receiving only one more first-place vote than Williams. You can make a case for the ballot going the other way but Mantle was a worthy recipient in an excellent season.
Williams retained his All-Star status in his final three seasons but didn’t finish higher than seventh on the MVP ballot. He retired after the 1960 season at the age of 41, conceding his spot in left field to a youngster named Yaz who would carry on the MVP tradition later that decade.
Winning two MVP awards is a great honor that anyone would be proud of but when the player is as great at Ted Williams you can’t help but wonder why he didn’t win more. His team’s record had a lot to do with it and his prickly attitude with the media members who voted on the award certainly didn’t help.
Still, based on his production during seasons when the Red Sox were among the top AL teams, Williams was cheated out of at least two MVPs (1942, 1947) and had a strong case in one or two other seasons.