Red Sox star Ted Williams missed five seasons for military service.
Ted Williams is responsible for several of the greatest individual seasons in Boston Red Sox history. While he ranks among the elite in most offensive categories from the numbers he piled up over 19 seasons with the franchise, his legacy would have been even more impressive if he hadn’t missed nearly five years of his prime to serve in the military.
The United States joined World War II in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Williams was initially drafted with a 1A status but received a deferment because he was the sole supporter of his mother. The Splendid Splinter was harshly criticized by the fans and media for what they perceived as a lack of patriotism. Williams brushed off the heckling to capture the Triple Crown in 1942 and finish as the runner-up for the MVP award.
After the 1942 season, Williams joined the Navy reserve and was called to active duty in November of that year. He would miss the next three seasons while training to be a fighter pilot.
While he never saw combat during WWII, the experience prepared him for his stint as a Marine pilot during the Korean War. Williams missed the majority of the 1952-53 seasons while serving his country in Korea, where he became a war hero.
That’s nearly five years of his career between the ages of 24 and 34 that Williams was away from the Red Sox. His resume is unmatched by any position player in franchise history but how could the perception of his career be improved if he hadn’t missed those seasons during his prime?