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