Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams
Ted Williams once claimed that his goal was to have people say, “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” You can certainly make a strong case that he’s worthy of being called the greatest in MLB history.
Williams is Boston’s all-time leader with a .344 batting average, winning six batting titles in his 19-year career spent entirely with the Red Sox. His .482 career OBP and 20.5 BB% are the best in MLB history. He trails only Ruth with a career .634 SLG.
The Splendid Splinter has the most home runs in Red Sox history with 521. While a few others on this list had more career homers, none of them hit more in a Red Sox uniform.
Williams is the last major league player to hit at least .400 in a season, hitting .406 in 1941. The following year he captured his first Triple Crown. He finished as the runner-up for the MVP in both seasons. It’s unfathomable that Williams didn’t take home the hardware with his prolific production but he fell short to players from the pennant-winning Yankees. Williams was robbed of several MVP awards in his career due to playing in an era that didn’t have today’s playoff structure, which led to favoritism for players on teams that reached the World Series.
Williams took a three-year hiatus for military service during World War II. We can only imagine what his career numbers would look like if he hadn’t skipped three years of his prime. He didn’t miss a beat when he returned from the war in 1946, hitting .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBI to finally win his first MVP.
Boston won the pennant that year but Williams struggled with an elbow injury during the seven-game series that the Red Sox lost to St. Louis. That would be the only trip to the postseason in Williams’ career.
The Red Sox fell a game shy of the pennant in 1949 but Williams was still rewarded with the MVP when he set career-highs with 43 home runs and 157 RBI.
Military service pulled Williams away from the game again during the Korean War, forcing him to miss most of the 1952-53 seasons. He was in his mid-30s by the time he returned but continued to put up staggering numbers at the plate despite carrying a dismal Red Sox team through one of the worst decades in franchise history.
The 19-time All-Star continued to earn his trip to the Midsummer Classic through the final season of his career at the age of 41.
Williams produced 130.4 fWAR in his career, the most in franchise history and eighth among major league position players. The list on FanGraphs of the best Red Sox single-season performances in terms of WAR is littered with his name, including three of the top four and six of the top 10.
Williams once famously said that baseball is the only endeavor where you can succeed three out of ten times and be considered a good performer. Based on his ability to reach base at a historic clip, Williams was successful nearly half the time. That’s not a good performance, it’s great. The greatest of all time.