Ted Williams

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Ted Williams & Tom Yawkey

Theodore Samuel Williams (August 30, 1918July 5, 2002), nicknamed "The Splendid Splinter", "Teddy Ballgame", "The Thumper" and "The Kid", was an American left fielder in Major League Baseball who played 19 seasons, twice interrupted by military service as a Marine Corps pilot, with the Boston Red Sox. He is widely regarded as having been the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. Williams was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, led the league in batting six times, and won the Triple Crown twice. He had a career batting average of .344, with 521 home runs, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. An avid sport fisherman, he hosted a television show about fishing, and was inducted into the Fishing Hall of Fame.


Early life

Williams was born in San Diego, California as Teddy Samuel Williams (he later changed his name to Theodore), in honor of Teddy Roosevelt. His father, a photographer, and his mother, a Salvation Army worker of Mexican descent, were generally absentee parents and poor providers whom he later came to resent. Early in his career, he stated that he wished to be remembered as the "greatest hitter who ever lived", an honor that he indeed achieved by the end of his career. His two MVP Awards and two Triple Crowns came in four different years. Along with Rogers Hornsby, he is one of only two players to win the Triple Crown twice.

After high school baseball at Herbert Hoover High School, and minor league stints for his hometown San Diego Padres and the Minneapolis Millers, Williams debuted with the Red Sox in 1939. In 1941, Williams entered the last day of the season with a batting average of .3996. This would have been rounded up to .400, making Williams the first man to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930. His manager left the decision whether to play up to him. Williams opted to play in both games of the day's doubleheader and risk losing his record. He got 6 hits in 8 at bats, raising his season average to .406; no one has hit .400 since.

In the major leagues

At the time, this achievement was overshadowed by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in the same season. Their rivalry was accentuated by the press; Williams always felt himself the better hitter, but acknowledged that DiMaggio was the better all-around player. Also in 1941, Williams set a major-league record for on-base percentage in a season at .551. That record would last until 2002, when Barry Bonds upped this mark to .582. One of Williams' other more memorable accomplishments was his unprecedented home run off of Rip Sewell's notorious eephus pitch during the 1946 All-Star Game.

An obsessive student of batting, Williams hit for both power and average. In 1970 he wrote a book on the subject, The Science of Hitting; revised (1986), which is still read by many baseball players. He lacked foot speed, as attested by his career total of 24 stolen bases, one inside-the-park home run, and one occasion of hitting for the cycle. He felt that with more speed he could have raised his average considerably. Despite his lack of range in the field, he was considered a sure-gloved fielder with a good throwing arm, although he occasionally stated that his one regret was that he did not work harder on his fielding.

Summary of career

Williams served as a US Marine pilot during both World War II and the Korean War, serving in the same unit as John Glenn in the latter. These absences in the prime of his career significantly reduced his career totals, and considering his scientific approach to hitting, those totals would have been even more impressive had he not missed those four seasons.

He retired from the game in 1960 after hitting a home run in his final at-bat, an accomplishment immortalized in The New Yorker essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/?020715fr_archive03), by John Updike. Williams, who had been on bad terms with the Boston newspapers for nearly twenty years and had enjoyed frosty relations with the Boston fans, characteristically refused either to tip his cap as he circled the bases or to respond to the prolonged cheers of "We want Ted" from the crowd. As Updike wryly noted, "Gods do not answer letters."


After retirement from active play, Williams served as manager of the Washington Senators, continuing with the team when they relocated and became the Texas Rangers, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, leading the expansion Senators to their only winning season in 1969. An avid and expert fly fisherman and deep-sea fisherman, he spent many summer vacations after baseball fishing the Miramichi River, in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada.

After suffering a series of strokes and congestive heart failures, he died of cardiac arrest in Crystal River, Florida.

Still controversial even after death

A public dispute over the disposition of Williams' body was waged after his death. Announcing there would be no funeral, John Henry Williams, Ted's son by his third wife, secretly had Ted's body flown to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, and placed in cryonic suspension. Fearing John was planning to sell their father's DNA for possible cloning, Barbara Joyce Ferrell, Ted's daughter by his first wife, sued, saying his will stated that he wanted to be cremated (it should be noted that any such intention would not require cryonic suspension). John's lawyer then produced an informal family pact signed by Ted, John, and Ted's daughter, Claudia, in which they agreed "to be put into biostasis after we die." The dispute was resolved on December 20, 2002 when Ferrell withdrew her objections after a judge agreed that a $645,000 trust would be distributed equally among the siblings.

In his book, Ted Williams: The Biography of An American Hero, author Leigh Montville makes the case that the "pact" in question was merely a "practice" Ted Williams autograph on a plain piece of paper, around which the "agreement" had later been hand-printed, presumably by John Henry and Claudia. Whether the document was truly genuine or not, the legal issues were ultimately settled, and after John Henry developed leukemia and died in 2004, his body was also taken to Alcor, in full accordance with the disputed "pact".

In a radio interview during the time of the controversy, Williams' old friend John Glenn made the practical and plain-spoken point that it was merely a body under discussion, not the man. As Glenn put it, "That carcass has nothing to do with the Ted Williams I knew."

The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston was named in his honor while he was still alive.

Career Statistics


See also

External links

sq:Ted Williams


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