Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

A Look Back at the Greatest Hitter of All Time

Posted on June 05, 2014 by Martin Banks

On this week of sports history in 1959, the great Ted Williams got the 2,500th hit of his Hall of Fame career. And since it’s always an appropriate day to talk about the fantastic talent of Williams, this occasion is as good as any. Let’s take a look at what he did for the Boston Red Sox and how he earned the nickname, “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”. Williams did just about everything a hitter can do, going from a young baseball player in San Diego to a first-year Hall of Famer and baseball legend.


From Birth to Baseball

Williams, who was named after Teddy Roosevelt and his father, was born in San Diego as Teddy Samuel Williams in 1918. Before he could earn the nicknames “The Kid”, “The Splendid Splinter” and “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”, Williams was first taught how to play ball by his uncle, Saul Venzor. Williams starred on his high school baseball team at Herbert Hoover High as a pitcher, garnering himself offers from the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. However, his mother thought he was too young to move far away, so Williams signed on to play for the minor league San Diego Padres.

It didn’t take long for Williams to be noticed after playing ball for San Diego by Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins. After signing with Boston and playing some minor-league ball, Williams got his chance in The Show. Williams played from 1939-1942, including his legendary 1941 season (which we will talk about later), before being drafted into the military. Williams would serve on both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy from 1942 -1945 and then again from 1952-1953. Williams’ unique major league career didn’t keep him from becoming at least one of the greatest. Fittingly, Williams homered on his final-ever at bat in 1960.


As any great baseball player should, Williams earned a long list of awards and accomplishments. Of course, Williams is a Hall of Famer after all of his incredible seasons in left field for the Red Sox. Before his retirement, though, Williams was a two-time AL MVP and could have been given the award more if he hadn’t alienated some of the media who voted for the award. On top of that, Williams was the last player to finish a season with a batting average over .400 when he hit .406. He’s had schools, libraries, and even things like Mustang exhaust systems named after him as well.

Williams finished with 17 All-Star appearances, six batting titles and two Triple Crowns for leading the league in batting average, RBIs and home runs. He ended his career with 521 homers, a .482 on-base percentage and a .344 career batting average. Williams said throughout his career that he wanted people to say, “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” That is just one more goal that Williams reached.

The 1941 Season

One of the greatest seasons in baseball history came from Williams in 1941, the very season in which he hit an astounding .406. Beyond his average, Williams led the league in nearly every category that year with 37 home runs, 135 runs, a .735 slugging percentage and a .551 on-base percentage. His on-base percentage would be the highest in any single season until 2002. 1941 will forever go down as the greatest season for one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.

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