Ted Williams

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Ted Williams : biography

30 August 1918 – 05 July 2002

Williams stayed on K-13 for several days while his plane was being repaired. Because he was so popular, GIs and airmen from all around the base came to see him and his plane. After it was repaired, Williams flew his plane back to his Marine Corps airfield.

In Korea, Williams flew 39 combat missions before being withdrawn from flight status in June 1953 after a hospitalization for pneumonia. This resulted in the discovery of an inner ear infection that disqualified him from flight status.Mersky, p. 190 During the Korean War, Williams also served in the same Marine Corps unit with John Glenn; the future astronaut described Williams as one of the best pilots he knew. In the last half of his missions, Williams was flying as Glenn’s wingman.

Williams likely would have approached or exceeded Babe Ruth’s home run record if he had not served in the military, and might have set the record for career RBIs as well, exceeding Hank Aaron’s total. While the absences in the Marine Corps took almost five years out of his baseball career, he never publicly complained about the time devoted to service in the Marine Corps. His biographer Leigh Montville argued that Williams was not happy about being pressed into service in South Korea, but he did what he thought was his patriotic duty.

Williams had a strong respect for General Douglas MacArthur, referring to him as his "idol".Montville, p. 12 For Williams’ fortieth birthday, MacArthur sent him an oil painting of himself with the inscription "To Ted Williams — not only America’s greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."Montville, p. 13–14

Career ranking

At the time of his retirement, Williams ranked third all-time in home runs (behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx), seventh in RBIs (after Ruth, Cap Anson, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Foxx, and Mel Ott; Stan Musial passed Williams in 1962), and seventh in batting average (behind Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lefty O’Doul, Ed Delahanty and Tris Speaker). His career batting average is the highest of any player who played his entire career in the live-ball era following 1920.

Williams was also second to Ruth in career slugging percentage, where he remains today, and first in on-base percentage. He was also second to Ruth in career walks, but has since dropped to fourth place behind Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson. Williams remains the career leader in walks per plate appearance.

Most modern statistical analyses place Williams, along with Ruth and Bonds, among the three most potent hitters to have played the game. Williams’ baseball season of 1941 is often considered favorably with the greatest seasons of Ruth and Bonds in terms of various offensive statistical measures such as slugging, on-base and "offensive winning percentage." As a further indication, of the ten best seasons for OPS, short for On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage, a popular modern measure of offensive productivity, four each were achieved by Ruth and Bonds, and two by Williams.

Although Williams’ career did not overlap with that of Ruth or Bonds, a direct comparison with another great hitter, Hank Aaron, is possible. From 1955 to 1960, Williams maintained an average OPS of 1.092, as compared with .950 for Aaron. Williams’ age (37-42) was well past the prime of most hitters, but he still managed to hit .388 at the age of 39. Although Aaron (age 21-26) recorded only one of his five best seasons, their averages are not too far from the career averages of the two baseball players.

In 1999, Williams was ranked as number eight on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, where he was the highest-ranking left fielder.

Retirement

After retirement from play, Williams helped new left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in hitting. He then served as manager of the Washington Senators, from 1969–1971, then continued with the team when they became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. Williams’ best season as a manager was 1969 when he led the expansion Senators to an 86–76 record in the team’s only winning season in Washington. He was chosen "Manager of the Year" after that season. Like many great players, Williams became impatient with ordinary athletes’ abilities and attitudes, particularly those of pitchers, whom he admitted he never respected. He occasionally appeared at Red Sox spring training as a guest hitting instructor. Williams would also go into a partnership with friend Al Cassidy to form the Ted Williams Baseball Camp in Lakeville, Massachusetts. It was not uncommon to find Williams fishing in the pond at the camp. The area now is owned by the town and a few of the buildings still stand. In the main lodge one can still see memorabilia from Williams’ playing days.