Red Sox World Series chances with Ted Williams
Would the Red Sox have won a World Series with Williams if he hadn’t lost those five seasons? That depends on how we want to twist the narrative of this hypothetical scenario. Other clubs lost star players to military service as well. If we pretend that WWII never happened, the Red Sox would still need to climb over Joe DiMaggio‘s Yankees.
If we assume that DiMaggio and other star players from rival teams still miss time between 1943-1945, does that mean we have to assume Williams would lose a few teammates? Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr each missed at least one season during WWII. Boston’s title chances would still be hindered if Williams didn’t have talent around him.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that every player who went off to war during that period still misses those years – except for Williams.
Boston finished second in the American League with 93 wins in 1942 but sank all the way to seventh in the eight-team league with 68 wins the following year while Williams went off to war. The Red Sox didn’t lose all their star players during that first season during WWII but they were without Pesky and DiMaggio. Williams alone wouldn’t have been enough to bridge the gap between Boston and the 98-win Yankees.
1944 may have been a different story. The Red Sox climbed to 77 wins and a fourth-place finish, 12 games behind the St. Louis Browns. While they won the pennant, the 89-win Browns weren’t exactly a powerhouse. Doerr had the best year of his career to that point while leading the league in slugging. Tex Hughson won 18 games with a 2.26 ERA. Add Teddy Ballgame to the mix and the Red Sox had a legitimate shot at the pennant. Boston would have been underdogs against Stan Musial and the 105-win St. Louis Cardinals but at least they would have a fighting chance.
The Red Sox fell back to seventh in 1945 as Doerr and Hughson joined the list of star players serving in the military. Not even the great Ted Williams could have overcome a 17.5 game deficit without those two All-Stars.
The 1950s was a miserable decade for the Red Sox. The aforementioned star teammates had moved on or retired by the time Williams left for the Korean War. Other MLB teams began integrating black players but the institutionalized racism created by owner Tom Yawkey and his front office cronies resulted in the talent on the Red Sox roster falling behind the competition. The team finished no higher than fourth in the AL in the two years Williams mostly missed and it’s safe to say that the pennant was out of reach even if they had their superstar.
Boston’s chances of ending their title drought decades earlier probably wouldn’t have increased dramatically if Williams stayed home during those two wars but he would have had one legitimate chance in ’44. The Cardinals were a better team that year but we could never count out Williams at his peak on that stage.
Williams certainly would have won the MVP if the Red Sox had won the pennant in 1944, giving him three trophies on his mantle. Five extra seasons worth of production would have allowed him to cruise to the top of the all-time list in several categories, in addition to the on-base percentage category he currently tops in major league history. While it was hardly a given, Williams may have won a World Series title during that span, forever altering his legacy and the history of the Red Sox organization.