Ted Williams

From BR Bullpen

1939 Playball

Theodore Samuel Williams
(The Kid, The Thumper, The Splendid Splinter, Tempestuous Ted, or Teddy Ballgame)
birth certificate reads Teddy Samuel Williams

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1966

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]


"One of my best friends on earth and the greatest hitter I ever faced. And I faced a lot of guys, including Lou Gehrig." - Bob Feller

"A man has to have goals . . and that was mine, to have people say 'There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.'" - Ted Williams

Born Teddy Samuel Williams, named after Theodore Roosevelt, Ted Williams became one of America's most beloved figures for his exploits on the field and off. Many sabermetricians consider him neck and neck with Babe Ruth to be considered the greatest hitter of them all.

As a boy, he and his brother Danny were generally alone much of the time as his mother, known as "Salvation May" worked long hours for the Salvation Army. He bided his time at the playgrounds in San Diego, CA honing his baseball skills. His mother was of Mexican background, a fact which was not public when Williams was playing (he only revealed it, in passing, in his autobiography which was published in 1970). This has led some to argue that Williams himself should be considered Latino, but his experience had nothing in common with that of players whose Latin heritage was in the open and who were subjected to various forms of discrimination. In fact, he explained that he was reluctant to talk about that part of his heritage precisely because he would have faced prejudice as a result. It was his mother's brother, Saul Venzor, who first taught him how to play baseball.

After his 11th grade year at Herbert Hoover High School, Williams played 42 games for the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League in 1936. He then graduated the following January and played a full season for San Diego in 1937 before the Boston Red Sox gave up three players to acquire him (Dom Dallessandro, Spence Harris and Al Niemiec). Even at 18, he was a fearsome hitter, hitting .291 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs in 138 games for a Padres team that won the PCL championship.

The Red Sox assigned the 19-year-old to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in 1938. Williams won the Triple Crown of the AA that season. He led the league with a .366 average, 43 home runs, and 142 RBIs. He also scored 130 runs to lead the league as well. His .701 slugging percentage was 142 points ahead of the #2 player and his OBP was around .481, 53 points better than Roy Cullenbine. The lanky outfielder drew an AA-best 114 walks. A switch to a lighter bat that year improved his game drastically. He ran into conflict with manager Donie Bush at the start of the season, as the brash youngster considered he should have been sent straight to Boston, but by the end of the season he admitted that he had learned a lot from the old-timer. His Triple Crown was the first official one in AA history. His pass to Boston was stamped for 1939. He spent the next off-season in Minneapolis, enjoying the hunting and fishing in the area, and courting Doris Soule, the woman who would become his first wife.

Great things were expected from the San Diego Kid in Boston. He fulfilled these expectations and then some as he hit .327 with 31 home runs and 145 RBI. His RBI total set a rookie record that still stands; he also set an all-time rookie record with 107 walks. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award, Williams would have won it hands down. In addition to his league lead in RBIs and total bases with 344, he also led the American League in fielding errors. He was known to take imaginary swings in the outfield while ostensibly fielding his position, something that did not help his concentration if a batted ball made it his way.

In 1940, Williams slumped to 23 home runs but he increased his average. During the season, he was booed by Red Sox fans who believed he was loafing in the outfield. He swore he would never tip his cap to Red Sox fans again. He made his first of 17 All-Star teams and led the league in on base percentage for the first time in 1940.


Williams may have shone brightest during the 1941 season. Sharing headlines with baseball's top star, Joe DiMaggio, Williams was hitting .39955, which would round up to .400, on the last day of the season. Williams was offered a seat on the bench to protect the first .400 season since 1930 but Williams declined. He torched Philadelphia A's pitchers for 6 hits in 8 at bats finishing the season at .406. No hitter has had a .400 batting average since. He also led the league in runs, home runs, walks, on base percentage, and slugging yet lost the MVP Award to DiMaggio, who had his riveting 56-game hitting streak that summer for a team that won the league pennant. Interestingly, 1941 just happened to be during the years (1940-1953) that sacrifice flies were recorded as outs. Williams had 8 sacrifice flies in 1941. Under post-1954 rules he would have hit .413 [1].

The hits kept on coming for Williams in 1942 when he won the Triple Crown. He had a .356 average, 36 home runs, and 137 RBIs. He lost the MVP Award to Joe Gordon, who played for the first-place New York Yankees.

From 1943 to 1945, Williams served as a Marine Corps pilot during World War II. Using Bill James's favorite toy metric, it can be estimated that Williams lost 559 hits, 105 home runs, and 386 RBIs during his first stint in the service.

Williams returned with a vengeance in 196. He won the MVP as the Red Sox won their only AL pennant in his 19 seasons with the club. The Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals while Williams hit just .200 as the Cardinals used a defensive shift to contain him.

In 1947, Ted Williams won another Triple Crown, joining Rogers Hornsby as the only players to win two Triple Crowns. He also lost the MVP Award in a Triple Crown year to DiMaggio again, by a single point (202 to 201). One writer who hated Williams left him completely off his ballot, costing him the award.

Williams played with distinction in 1948 and 1949. He won another batting title in 1948. He led the AL in home runs and tied for the league lead in RBIs in 1949. He narrowly lost the batting title to the Detroit Tigers' George Kell in 1949 by .34291 to .34276 - which also denied Williams a third Triple Crown. In both years he led the circuit in doubles. He was the MVP in 1949 and had an 84-game streak in which he reached base safely at least once; it is the longest such streak in Major League history, the next best being 74 games by Joe DiMaggio in 1941.

Williams was having another fine season in 1950, when he fractured his elbow chasing a ball at the All-Star Game held at Wrigley Field. Williams played just 19 games after the injury. He hit only .317. He followed with a somewhat subpar season for him in 1951 (.318/30/126).

Williams was recalled for active duty with the Marines in April 1952. He was sent to Korea where he served as a fighter pilot with future astronaut and senator John Glenn. Williams played just 43 games in 1952 and 1953, as he was in the service.


When he returned in August 1953, Williams picked up where he left off. He hit .407 in 37 games. His 13 home runs in 91 at bats is a record for home runs by a hitter with less than 100 at bats.

Williams remained a fine hitter through the mid-1950s, turning 35 during the 1954 season. His line for 1954 was .345/29/89. In 1955, he hit .356, his best full season average since 1948, with 28 home runs and 83 RBIs. In 1956, he hit .345 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs.


Defying logic and his birth certificate, Williams had his best season since 1941 in 1957. Although he was 38 at season's end, Williams led the league with a .388 batting average. He also had 38 home runs. He followed up his 1957 campaign with his sixth batting title in 1958. Until Barry Bonds, he was the oldest player to win a batting title.

Father time finally caught up with Williams in 1959 as he failed to hit .300 for the only time in his career. He hit just .254/10/43 on the year.

Williams announced that 1960 would be his final season as an active player. He went out with a bang. At 41, he hit .316 with 29 home runs and 72 RBIs. His 29 home runs were a record for players in their final season until 1986 when it was broken by Dave Kingman. His .451 on-base percentage and .645 slugging percentage in 1960 would each have easily led the league if Ted had had enough plate appearances to qualify.

In a memorable appearance at the Red Sox final home game of the 1960 season, Williams homered in his final at bat off Jack Fisher. Although the Red Sox had a final three-game series at Yankee Stadium, Williams did not appear. At the final home game, the fans beckoned to see their hero one more time. They chanted his name for a curtain call and a doff of the cap, but Williams would not oblige, recalling the jeers he had heard in 1940. Covering the game for The New Yorker, the author John Updike wrote: "Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters."

Williams retired to Florida. He would take annual fishing trips to Miramichi, New Brunswick to catch salmon. During this time, he married Delores Wettach, with whom he would have two children in addition to a daughter, Barbara, by his first wife.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966. He used the platform offered by his induction speech to campaign for the recognition of former Negro League players by the Hall of Fame. Five years later, the Hall inducted its first former Negro Leaguers.


The Washington Senators hired Williams to manage their team in 1969. In four seasons, three in Washington and one in Texas after the Senators relocated, Williams was 273-364. He did lead the Senators to their only winning record in the 1960s, in his first season, when the club went 86-76. In 1969, Dick Allen's brother Hank Allen was quoted as saying that the Senators had not been fair to black players in 1968, but under new ownership and new manager Ted Williams in 1969, things had turned around totally.

Williams wrote The Science of Hitting in 1970. He was a celebrated hitting guru. He would often comment in the media about players and their hitting styles.

After a major stroke in 1994, an aging Williams handed control of his name to his son John Henry Williams. Williams was an absent father to John Henry, who was born in 1968. After their reconciliation, John Henry took control of Williams, most notably his autograph signing habits and public appearances.

At the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park, "the best damn hitter that ever lived" was given a final send-off from baseball. In a golf cart, wearing a cap bearing the website of one of John Henry's ventures, Williams was heard telling Mark McGwire what joy he brought him. Then Tony Gwynn, the reigning Mr. San Diego, helped the original Mr. San Diego to his feet, where the aging legend threw out the first pitch. After returning to his seat, Williams was surrounded by a generation of ballplayers who had seen him only play in black and white video, delaying the start of the game by a number of minutes.

In 1999, Williams was inducted into the National Game Fishing Hall of Fame. Additionally, it is believed he signed an agreement to be cryogenically preserved after his natural death, along with John Henry and his daughter by second wife (Delores Wettach), Claudia.

When Williams died of a heart attack on July 5, 2002, his body was shipped from Florida to Arizona where he was placed in a tank of liquid nitrogen. A 2003 Sports Illustrated said Williams' skull had been cracked in an error at the Alcor Life Extension Facility in Scottsdale. Less than two years later, John Henry would join Ted at Alcor, a victim of leukemia at age 34.

Williams opened a hitters museum in Hernando, Florida. He also had a tunnel under the Charles River named for him in Boston. The Ted Williams Parkway in California connects Poway, CA to San Diego. His #9 has been retired by the Red Sox. He was only the second recipient of the SABR Hero of Baseball Award. Throughout his life he devoted a huge amount of time to support the Jimmy Fund in support of pediatric cancer care and research, and was greatly responsible for raising its profile.

President George H.W. Bush awarded Williams the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his 19 seasons with the Red Sox and the five seasons he missed due to War service.

Ted Williams (right) speaking with astronaut John Glenn in 1998

In 1999, SABR named Williams the third greatest player of the 20th century. The Associated Press named him the 4th greatest baseball player and 13th greatest athlete of the century. ESPN's SportsCentury placed Williams 16th among athletes of the century. He was also named to the All Century Team.

Williams' career ledger shows a .344 batting average, the highest of any player who played after 1950. He had 521 home runs and 1839 RBIs. He had 2654 career hits. His on base percentage of .482 remains a major league record.

His first baseball card appearance was in the 1939 Playball set. On July 20, 2012, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with his likeness as part of a series of four stamps honoring Hall of Famers.

"It was forty-five years ago, when achievements with a bat first brought him to the nation's notice, that Ted Williams began work on his defence. He wanted fame, and wanted it with a pure, hot eagerness that would have been embarrassing in a smaller man. But he could not stand celebrity. This is a bitch of a line to draw in America's dust" - Richard Ben Cramer (from Cramer's 1986 Esquire article about Williams)

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 17-time AL All-Star (1940-1942, 1946-1951 & 1953-1960)
  • 2-time AL MVP (1946 & 1949)
  • 2-time AL Triple Crown (1942 & 1947)
  • 6-time AL Batting Average Leader (1941, 1942, 1947, 1948, 1957 & 1958)
  • 12-time AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1940-1942, 1946-1949, 1951, 1954 & 1956-1958)
  • 9-time AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1941, 1942, 1946-1949, 1951, 1954 & 1957)
  • 10-time AL OPS Leader (1941, 1942, 1946-1949, 1951, 1954, 1957 & 1958)
  • 6-time AL Runs Scored Leader (1940-1941, 1946, 1947 & 1949)
  • 6-time AL Total Bases Leader (1939, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1949 & 1951)
  • 2-time AL Doubles Leader (1948 & 1949)
  • 4-time AL Home Runs Leader (1941, 1942, 1947 & 1949)
  • 4-time AL RBI Leader (1939, 1942, 1947 & 1949)
  • 8-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1941, 1942, 1946-1949, 1951 & 1954)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 16 (1939-1942, 1946-1951, 1954-1958 & 1960)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1939, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1951 & 1957)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1949)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 9 (1939-1942, 1946-1949 & 1951)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 9 (1939-1942, 1946-1949 & 1951)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1966

1945 1946 1947
Hal Newhouser Ted Williams Joe DiMaggio
1948 1949 1950
Lou Boudreau Ted Williams Phil Rizzuto

Preceded by
Jim Lemon
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers Manager
Succeeded by
Whitey Herzog

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
1969 Washington Senators American League 86-76 4th Washington Senators
1970 Washington Senators American League 70-92 6th Washington Senators
1971 Washington Senators American League 63-96 5th Washington Senators
1972 Texas Rangers American League 54-100 6th Texas Rangers

Records Held[edit]

  • Most RBI by a rookie, 145, 1939
  • On base percentage, career, .482
  • On base percentage, left handed batter, career, .482

Further Reading[edit]

  • Lawrence Baldassaro, ed.: Ted Williams: Reflections on a Splendid Life, Northeastern University Press, Chicago, IL, 2003.
  • Thomas Boswell: "Islamorada, Miramichi, Bangor and Winter Haven", in How Life Imitates the World Series, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1982, pp. 56-59.
  • Ben Bradlee: The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, Little, Brown & Company, New York, NY, 2013. ISBN 978-0316614351
  • Richard Ben Cramer: "What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? The Furious Saga of Teddy Ballgame", Esquire, June 1986. [2]
  • Richard Ben Cramer: Ted Williams: The Seasons of the Kid, Prentice Hall, New York, NY, 1991, ISBN 0135156939
  • Richard Ben Cramer: What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? : A Remembrance, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2002. ISBN 0743246489
  • Robert Creamer: Baseball in '41, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1991.
  • David Halberstam: The Teammates, Hyperion, New York, NY, 2003. ISBN 978-1401300579
  • Thomas Harrigan: "When Ted Williams went back to war: Hall of Famer lost nearly five full seasons while serving in two wars", mlb.com, January 9, 2021. [3]
  • John Holway: The Last .400 Hitter: The Anatomy of a .400 Season, Brown and Benchmark Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0697141292
  • John B. Holway: Ted, The Kid, Scorpio Books, Springfield, VA, 2006.
  • Anne R. Keene: The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team that Helped Win World War II, Sports Publishing LLC, New York, NY, 2018. ISBN 978-1-68358-207-6
  • Tom Larwin et al.: San Diego's First Padres and "The Kid": The Story of the Remarkable 1936 San Diego Padres and Ted Williams' Professional Baseball Debut, Montezuma Publishing, San Diego, CA, 2019. ISBN 978-0-7442-7230-7
  • Tom Larwin: "No. 19, Ted Williams, LF, San Diego Padres", in Cecilia M. Tan, ed.: Pacific Ghosts, The National Pastime, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2019, pp. 29-33.
  • Ted Leavengood: Ted Williams and the 1969 Washington Senators: the Last Winning Season, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2009.
  • Ed Linn: Hitter: The Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams, Harcourt Brace & Co., Orlando, FL, 1993.
  • Leigh Montville: Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2004.
  • Bill Nowlin: The Kid: Ted Williams in San Diego, Rounder Books, Cambridge, MA, 2005.
  • Bill Nowlin: "Ted's Year in Minneapolis", in Daniel R. Levitt, ed.: Short but Wondrous Summers: Baseball in the North Star State, The National Pastime, Volume 42 (2012), pp. 47-50.
  • Bill Nowlin: "Ted Williams", in Mark Armour and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis: The Red Sox of the 1950s, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2012, pp. 255-263. ISBN 978-1933599243
  • Bill Nowlin: "The Day Ted Williams Became the Last .400 Hitter in Baseball", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 76-79.
  • Bill Nowlin: 521: The Story of Ted Williams' Home Runs, Rounder Books, Cambridge, MA, 2013. ISBN 978-1579402402
  • Bill Nowlin: Ted Williams - The First Latino in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rounder Books, Cambridge, MA, 2018. ISBN 978-1579402556
  • Bill Nowlin: "Ted Williams", in Steve West and Bill Nowlin, eds.: The Team That Couldn't Hit: The 1972 Texas Rangers, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2019, pp. 228-234. ISBN 978-1-943816-93-4
  • Bill Nowlin: "Researching Ted Williams's Latino Roots", in Cecilia M. Tan, ed.: Pacific Ghosts, The National Pastime, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2019, pp. 34-36.
  • Bill Nowlin: “The Kid” Blasts a Winner: Ted Williams’ 110 Game-Winning Home Runs, Summer Game Books, South Orange, NJ, 2022. ISBN 978-1-9553-9816-9
  • Jim Prime and Bill Nowlin: Ted Williams: A Tribute, Masters Press, Indianapolis, IN, 1997.
  • John H. Schwarz: "Fred Corcoran, Mr. Golf's Turn at Bat", in Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 50, Nr. 1 (Spring 2021), pp. 29-35.
  • Michael Seidel: Ted Williams: A Baseball Life, Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, 1991.
  • John Underwood: It's Only Me: The Ted Williams We Hardly Knew, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2005.
  • John Updike: "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", The New Yorker, October 22, 1960. [4]
  • Steve Walker: "Ted Williams", in Bob Brown, ed.: Monumental Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Capital Region, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 39, 2009, pp. 114-116.
  • Ted Williams and David Pietrusza: Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures, Total Sports Publishing, Kingston, NY, 2001. (aka Teddy Ballgame)
  • Ted Williams and John Underwood: My Turn at Bat, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1969.
  • Ted Williams and John Underwood: The Science of Hitting, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1970.

Related Sites[edit]