Tag Archives: Ted Williams

A STORY FROM FEB 19 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DIFFICULT EVEN FOR TED WILLIAMS

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SEOUL, KOREA FEBRUARY 19, 1953. Ted Williams told the Associated Press (AP) on this date that trying to find a target with a Marine Panther jet “is harder than trying to hit that ball.” It was difficult even for Ted Williams.

The Boston Red Sox slugger had just returned from his sixth combat mission into North Korea. He was on the second military tour of his major league career. He served three years during World War II, and two more in Korea.

Williams was not alone among major league stars to interrupt some of their most productive years to get involved when the country was at war. Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg and Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller were some of the first to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 ushering the United States into World War II.

Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor if major league baseball should cease operations for the duration of the war and FDR said no, it would be good for morale.

While baseball continued during World War II, quality of play diminished significantly. If you were able-bodied enough to play baseball you were able-bodied enough to be drafted. Most players who hadn’t enlisted here.

By 1945, the last year of World War II, teenagers such as Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Red-Legs and men with conditions which kept them out of the service, such as one-armed Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns were filling up MLB rosters. After June, 1945 many of the players began to return from military duty, which was difficult even Ted Williams, and get back to what they knew best – baseball.

Contributing sources:
David Whitley, ESPN.com on Ted Williams
David Hornestay, Baseball Survives World War II, January 7, 2008

A STORY FROM FEB 6 IN BASEBALL HISTORY-TED WILLIAMS IMPROVES WITH AGE

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS IN 1958. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot today, but 39-year old Ted Williams signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox on this date in 1958 for a reported $125,000. It made him the highest paid player in history. Ted Williams seemed to improve with age. Red Sox General Manager Joe Cronin said the raise was much “deserved.” “Teddy Ballgame” hit .388 in 1957.

Williams was in such a good mood he sat down for more than an hour chatting with reporters he often clashed with. The left fielder said, “I feel wonderful and feel I can do anything I could do five years ago.”

He was asked about playing first base, as many aging stars do in the twilight of their careers. “I don’t know about first base, it wouldn’t look good in left field,” Williams deadpanned. Seriously, he didn’t think it would be that easy to switch from outfield to first base as he approaches his 40’s.

Williams played three more seasons and could have played more. He played 113 games in his final season, 1960, and finished with 29 home runs, 72 runs batted in and a .316 batting average.

And, oh what might have been. Williams, like many players of that era, missed three full seasons during World War II when he was in his 20’s. He missed parts of two more seasons during the Korean War. He finished with 521 home runs. If he had played those seasons it’s quite certain he would have hit well over 600 home runs.

Theodore Samuel Williams, who seemed to get better with age, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Contributing sources:
Joe Key, Associated Press (AP), Boston, Massachusetts, February 7, 1958
Ted Williams stats 

A STORY FROM JAN 29TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – STAN MUSIAL RICHLY REWARDED

OUR STORY TAKES US BACK TO ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI ON THIS DATE IN 1958. Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals became the highest paid player in National League history. Stan “The Man” gratefully stroked his signature across a contract worth $100,000. Musial was being richly rewarded for winning his seventh batting title in 1957 with a .357 average. He drove in more than 100 runs for the tenth time in his career. The Associated Press reported that only Ted Williams of the American League’s Boston Red Sox probably makes more at an estimated $125,000.

 

The Cardinals made it clear they wanted Stan to stick around. According to the Associated Press the 37-year old former outfielder who now plays first base, told reporters, ”Baseball has rewarded me richly, and the Cardinals have always treated me more than fairly, this year in particular. I would have settled for less.”

 

Musial went on to hit .337 in 1958. He would play six more seasons, finishing with a lifetime .331 average. He was not considered a home run hitter, but hit over 30 six times and finished with 475 for his career.


Stan Musial was named to 24 all-star teams (there were two all-star games some years back then). The man richly rewarded with the biggest contract in National League history, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

 

Contributing sources:
Associated Press, January 30, 1958

NOVEMBER 18 IN BASEBALL HISTORY-BRETT FLIRTS WITH .400

NOVEMBER 18, 1980 | KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – This was an easy one. In 1980 Kansas City Royals’ 3rd baseman George Brett was the last American Leaguer since Ted Williams in the 1940’s to flirt with a .400 batting average since. So, who else but Brett should be awarded the American League’s Most Valuable Player award for that year?

Brett didn’t start out gang-busters in 1980. The first two months of the season his average hovered around .260 . As far into the season as May 22nd he was hitting only .255.

George Brett kicked it into gear in June and July, topping out at .390 July 31st. Brett eclipsed .400 (.401 to be exact) on August 17th, going 4 for 4 with 5 RBI.

Fans all over the country followed his march toward the first .400 average since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 for the Boston Red Sox.

Brett was hitting .406 on August 20th,  .407 on August 26th. Brett’s batting average was over .400 16 of the final 35 days  of the regular season, but not the last day. He finished the 1980 season with a .390 average with 24 home runs and 118 runs batted in.

Brett’s .390 remains the second highest batting average in the Major Leagues since 1941. Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994 for the San Diego Padres.

The highest averages since Brett and Gwynn are:

Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies who hit .379 in 1999, and Nomar Garciaparra  of the Boston Red Sox and Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies both hit .372 in 2000.

Will we ever see a .400 batting average again? The Cubs won the World Series in 2016, so anything is possible.

Contributing Sources:
Single season batting average leaders
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/batting_avg_season.shtml

JULY 19 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – MASS EJECTIONS AT FENWAY

July 19, 1946 | Boston, Massachusetts – Fourteen Chicago White Sox players were kicked out of a game against the Red Sox in mass ejections at Fenway Park. It all started when White Sox pitcher Joe Haynes put Red Sox slugger Ted Williams on his fanny, the result of a pitch too far inside.

Umpire Red Jones gave Haynes a warning not to throw at Red Sox hitters. Here’s how the Associated Press described what happened next:

“A chorus of yammering from the Chicago bench resulted in [Umpire] Jones ordering four White Sox players from the bench – Ralph Hodgin, Dario Lodigiani, Ed Smith and Bling Miller.” The “yammerin” didn’t stop.”

Before the game was over 14 White Sox were ordered from the dugout for making derisive comments about Jones’ vision and judgment.

The Red Sox went on to win easily 9-2, and increase their lead against the second place New York Yankees to 11½ games.

A YAMMERING VENTRILOQUIST?

A story surfaced some days after the mass ejections at Fenway that it wasn’t the players doing the yammering. It was, get this, a ventriloquist in the stands. If you read John Branch‘s 2006 story from the New York Times you’ll find that the facts kind of get in the way of a good story.

The Red Sox went on to win the American League pennant in 1946 (this was before division play) before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
New York Times, July 6, 2006

The Associated Press (AP), July 20, 1946, Boston, MA