Year Induction: 1966 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 282/302)
In 1941, baseball saw two of the best in the sport’s history permanently etch their names among the immortals. Beginning in May and lasting until July, Joe DiMaggio set a record for most consecutive games with a hit. Somehow, miraculously, Joltin’ Joe had gotten a hit in 56 straight games. However, as impressive as that was, in Boston, the Red Sox had a player trying to do something that hadn’t been seen since 1930. On the last day of the season, prior to a double header, Ted Williams stood with a .39955. Had he elected to sit out, it would be rounded to an even .400, giving him just the 28th season with such an average. Instead, Williams (who probably had the largest ego of all-time) decided to play both games, went 6/8, and ended with a season average of .406. While that moment was the highlight of Williams’ career, it certainly wasn’t the only reason that he got into the Hall of Fame.
Williams spent his entire 19-year career with the Red Sox with one goal in mind-to be recognized as the greatest hitter who ever lived. To that end, Williams hit .344/.482/.634 with a wRC+ of 188. Williams was blessed with vision that was 20/10, something that only one in every 100,000 people have. His eyesight helped him craft the highest OBP of all-time, but so too did his self-discipline. Williams refused to swing at a pitch that he couldn’t hit well, even if it was in the strikezone unless he absolutely had to. Williams also believed that the best hitter could hit for both average and power, so he refused to just “swing for the fences” or just focus on getting hits. His personal hitting philosophy paid off, as the Splendid Splinter hit 525 doubles, 71 triples and 521 homers in his career. Williams led the league in homers four times, won two triple crowns, and eight times led the league in walks. As is not surprising with one of the greatest offensive weapons in history, Williams drove in over 1800 runs, with a 162 game average of 130 RBI.
The astounding thing about Williams’ numbers is that they are lower than they should be since he lost a lot of time to the military. Williams served in the military as a pilot with his legendary eyesight and served two tours of duty. In WWII, Williams lost his entire 1943-1945 seasons when he was 24-26 years old. The three years prior, Williams averaged 32 homers a season and 123 RBI. Adding three of those years into his totals brings him up over 2000 RBI and over 600 homers. Then, in service due to the Korean Conflict, Williams lost most of the 1952-1953 seasons. The prior two years, Williams averaged 29 homers and 112 RBI. Once again, adding two of those seasons in to Williams’ career totals brings him close to 700 homers and over 2200 RBI. And those numbers are being conservative. It’s not hard to imagine Williams blowing past those numbers into another stratosphere and, perhaps, even beyond Babe Ruth’s career totals in many categories.
When overlooking Williams’ career, it is obvious that there may have been some media bias against him. In the two years that Williams won the Triple Crown he finished second in the MVP voting, as well as the year he hit .406. He did win two MVP’s in his career, but it is fairly evident that his rocky relationship with the media caused him to lose at least another one, if not three, trophies. The fact that 20 people looked at their Hall of Fame ballots and made a conscious decision to not vote for Theodore Samuel Williams for induction is crazy, even by using the nebulous “Character” Clause in the voting. Williams may not have been quite the best hitter of all-time (Babe Ruth would still hold that title), but he wasn’t very far off.
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