What can one say about Teddy Ballgame that hasn’t already been said? He was, simply, the greatest pure hitter the game has ever known. His triple slash lines are just gaudy: .344/.482/.634. That is like a dream season for someone like Albert Pujols, and Teddy posted those stats over nineteen seasons! If he didn’t lose almost five full seasons to wartime obligations, we are probably talking about Ted as either number one or two. He hit 521 lifetime home runs. Just average out roughly 27 home runs each year he missed- that’s the average per year of his nineteen year career- and you get 656 homers. Do the same wit RBI’s, and he’s your all time ribby leader at 2,324. Average it for hits, he bumps up to 3,354. Even these projections are not doing Williams justice: I am simply averaging his entire career stats, not his prime stats, as three of the years he missed for World War II were his absolue peak years, age 24-26. Using that logic, I don’t think its far fetched to estimate Teddy would have had upwards of 700 home runs, 2,500 RBI’s, and 3,600 hits. Unreal.
The big stigma on Ted, besides his cantankerous personality, is his lack of World Series success. In his one postseason, a 1946 seven game loss to the Cardinals, he went 5 for 25, all five hits singles. People labeled him as a choke artist, a loser. This is deceptive. You see, the Red Sox that year clinched the AL so early that manager Joe Cronin was worried his squad would get rusty before the Series began. So he set up a couple of scrimmages with an All Star team. This would, of course, be unfathomable now days, but it wasn’t too unusual at the time. Unfortunately, Teddy was hit by a pitch in one of these games, injuring his arm. Ted never used that as an excuse, as a crutch, but those who played with him and knew him at that point were always quick to point out just how sore Ted was during that series. I only wish he could have gotten another crack at it, for Ted was a tremendous All Star Game performer. For younger fans who are used to the All Star Game meaning, well, nothing, back then players took immense pride in the game, and gave it their all. Ted was tremendous in these games, against the best possible competition, which leads one to believe ole Teddy would have worn out the next National League staff he would see in October. Alas, the Red Sox were not a very good team in the years following 1946, and became something of a punchline in Boston until 1967’s impossible dream squad that captured the hearts of a beleaguered Nation. That was seven years after Ted’s final at bat, where he launched a home run into the Fenway bullpen- Williamsburg- ending a remarkable career with a bang.
On a personal note, one of my favorite baseball memories ever was the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway Park, when Ted was honored. It was quite the site to behold, watching all these great players from the 90’s jostling like little kids waiting for a glimpse of the man, to spend a precious few seconds sitting under the Ted Williams learning tree. If you are a baseball fan who saw that, and did not have tears in your eyes, I don’t think you’re human.
Now will someone please thaw the man out and give him the proper burial he so richly deserves?