MAY 4-The Splendid Slugger

1939 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – The skinny rookie from San Diego can hit the ball, and he can hit it far. On this date in 1939, Ted Williams hit a ball that cleared the right field roof of Tiger Stadium – first player to do it. That was his second home run of the day.

Ted Williams hit 521 home runs in his career, not bad, but 19 other guys hit more. He was more a hitter than a slugger, or was he? Maybe he was both? Would Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, have been chasing Williams’ home run title?

Consider this; Teddy Ballgame averaged 29 home runs a season during his career. During World War II he missed all of 1943, 1944 and 1945 when he was 24, 25 and 26 years old. He missed at least another full season during the Korean War. So, he accumulated zero major league statistics for roughly 4 seasons.

He averaged 33 home runs during the 1940’s. So, let’s conservatively assume he would have hit 30 home runs a year during the time he was in the service. He’d have 641 home runs. At the time that would have put him 2nd on the all-time list. He could probably have averaged 40 home runs those years – he hit more than 40 four times out of seven during the 1940’s. Maybe he wouldn’t have caught Ruth, but he could have been stayed right behind him even to this day.

Teddy Ballgame was still going strong at age 41. In 1960, he opened his last season with a 475-foot home run to right-center field at Washington’s Griffith Stadium.

Contributing Sources:
Ted Williams clears the roof at Tiger Stadium
Ted Williams stats
Los Angeles Times (Associated Press-AP), May 5, 1939