Sports: Ted Williams

 

Ted Williams was possibly the greatest hitter in baseball history. Yet he sacrificed five seasons to serve his country as a Naval aviator in World War II and the Korean War. Uploaded by ps.uci.edu.

Many baseball people consider Ted Williams the best pure hitter in baseball history. I’m certainly willing to go along with that suggestion. The 2011 campaign will mark the 70th anniversary of his .406 season, the last time any major leaguer’s batting average has topped .400. He won the triple crown twice, in 1941 and 1947. And he was American League MVP twice – in 1946 and 1949. Can anyone explain how a player who wins the triple crown can not be named MVP?

 

Uploaded by ps.uci.edu.

Williams seemed to understand before most hitters the importance of bat speed. He used a lighter bat than most of his contemporaries, the better to generate power. That helped him lead the league in homers and RBIs four times. And yet his batting eye was so keen that he also led the league in walks in eight seasons.

As dominant as Williams was, there’s no telling what his career statistics might have been had World War II and the Korean War interfered. Williams served as a fighter pilot in both wars, causing him to miss three prime seasons in the 1940s, and two more in the 1950s. Still he finished in the 500-homer club and had a career batting average of .344.

Beyond his baseball career, Williams was also a noted sport fisherman, and was inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame. Still, it’s his proficiency hitting a baseball that we’ll always remember. Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski said of “The Splendid Splinter”: “He studied hitting the way a broker studies the stock market, and could spot at a glance mistakes that others couldn’t see in a week.”

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