Position: Outfielder
Teams: Boston Red Sox, 1939-1942, 1946-1960

The "Other" Final
Home Runs
Ted Williams smashed his 521st home run in 1960 on his last at bat, ending his career sensationally. However, he also hit two not so famous “last” home runs in his “final” major-league at bats before the blast that eventually ended his career in 1960.

On April 30, 1952, the Red Sox staged a special day for Williams in celebration of his recall to service by the Marines and his imminent service in the Korean War. In the seventh inning of a tie game, he blasted his 324th career home run off a Dizzy Trout curve and, for all his fans and teammates knew, ended his 14-year career in memorable fashion.

In 1954, Williams announced in spring training that he would retire following the end of the season. In his last game of the season, in his second-to-last at bat, he hit career home run No. 366 off Constantine Keriazakos of the Senators. Although Williams returned to Boston ­in May 1955 after missing spring training, no player before or since has ever matched his penchant for dramatic exits.

Ted Williams once said that he had a dream of walking down the street and having people point to him and saying “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” Some baseball historians support that claim. Williams holds the distinction of working harder at hitting than anyone.

Born in San Diego, Theodore Samuel Williams (1918-2002) spent most of his solitary, difficult childhood playing baseball on the sandlots. His renown in that city swelled to the point that, in 1936, Williams signed with his hometown San Diego Padres of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League despite having no pro experience and being only 17 years old. He hit .271 that year and batted .291 with 23 homers in 1937.

Signed by the Red Sox, the brash, young Williams in 1938 spring training alienated the veteran BoSox outfielders. When Ted was sent down to
Minneapolis, he responded, “Tell them I’m going to make more money in this game than all three of them put together.” He then won the American Association Triple Crown with a .366 average, 43 homers, and 142 RBI.

Williams made an immediate impact in Boston. He finished his rookie 1939 season with a .327 average, 31 homers, and a league-leading 145 RBI. He led the AL with 134 runs scored while batting .344 in 1940. In 1941 he hit .406, the last man to hit over .400. Going into the last day of the year, he was at .39955. Manager Joe Cronin gave Ted the opportunity to sit out the doubleheader to save his average, which would have rounded up to .400, but Williams played both games and went 6-for-8 to raise his mark to .406.

In 1942, Williams produced his first major-league Triple Crown, with a .356 average, 36 home runs, and 137 RBI, yet lost out on the MVP Award to Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon.

Early in his career he became disenchanted with the Boston press and fans. Disenchantment turned to antagonism when, in 1942, he was labeled a slacker for filing for military deferment because he was the sole supporter of his mother. At times he went public with his anger, spitting and making obscene gestures.

Williams spent three years as a pilot in World War II, returning in 1946 to lead Boston to its only pennant during his years and winning his first MVP Award. That year he first encountered “The Williams Shift,” a defensive scheme invented by Indians manager Lou Boudreau that loaded the defense against Williams pulling the ball, forcing him to hit the other way.

Teddy Ballgame captured his second Triple Crown in 1947 (with a .343 batting average, 32 home runs, and 114 RBI) but was denied the MVP Award, losing to Joe DiMaggio. Ted won the batting crown in 1948 (.369 average), and another MVP trophy in 1949 -- hitting .343 with a league-leading 43 homers, 159 RBI, 150 runs, and 162 walks. In 1950, he fractured his elbow and played only half the season, totaling just 28 homers and 97 RBI.

Ted Williams
Ted Williams never wore any major-league uniform but that of the Boston Red Sox.

In 1952, when Ted was 34 years old, he was recalled for the Korean War, where he flew 39 missions, missing most of two more seasons. Back from Korea, he missed out on two more batting titles in 1954 and 1955 because requirements for the league crown counted at bats and not plate appearances. He got two more batting crowns when he hit .388 (with 38 homers) in 1957 when he was 39 years old, and .328 in ’58 at age 40.

At age 41, he hit a career-low .254 and was urged to retire by almost everyone, even owner Tom Yawkey. Williams was too proud to retire with such a bad final season, and returned in 1960, hitting .316 with 29 home runs, including one in his last at bat.

Despite losing five years of his baseball career to military duty, his career numbers are astounding: the highest on-base average in history at .483, with five seasons when he got on base over half the time (his high was .551 in 1941); the second-highest slugging average at .634; the second-highest number of walks at 2,019; and he hit 521 home runs. Hitting was a science to Williams, who wrote a highly regarded book on the subject. The Thumper was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Here are Ted Williams' major league totals:

BA

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

.344

2,292

7,706

1,798

2,654

525

71

521

1,839

24

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