Arguably the greatest pure hitter of all time, Theodore Samuel “Ted” Williams played 21 seasons in left field for Boston, and is widely regarded as the greatest Red Sox baseball player ever to put on a uniform.
Williams, who was later nicknamed “Teddy Ballgame” or “The Splendid Splinter,” grew up in San Diego, California, and debuted for the Red Sox in 1939 at the age of 20. There is only one trading card from Williams’ rookie season. That Play Ball card, which shows Williams centered in the frame with his eyes focused on the camera while finishing his prototypical swing, is extremely collectible.
A 16-time All Star and two-time American League Most Valuable Player (MVP), Williams quickly established himself as one of baseball’s most feared hitters. In just his third season, Williams had one of the best years in baseball history, hitting .406 with a league-leading 37 homeruns. In fact, Williams’ 1941 season marks the last time a Major League Baseball player batted over .400, which is one reason why his 1941 Play Ball card is one of the most sought-after pieces of baseball memorabilia.
Unfortunately for Williams, his career statistics were not as impressive as they might have been because he missed all or part of five seasons serving as a pilot in the Marine Corps during both World War II and the Korean War. Had he played those five seasons, Williams may have challenged Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homeruns. Instead, he had to settle for 521, but Williams retired with the highest on-base percentage of all time (.483) and the highest batting average (.344) of a player to hit 500 or more homers.
After Williams’ service in World War II, Leaf Gum was the first candy company to release a Williams baseball card—it was part of Leaf’s 1948-1949 set. The brightly colored card shows a stoic Williams in a gray-and-blue flannel uniform set against a red background. It is tough to find this card in high-grade because this particular Leaf set was full of poorly centered cards and had bad print quality. As it turned out, this was the last Williams card Leaf would make—by 1950 the company had been bullied out of the market by Topps and Bowman.
Williams was not included in Bowman’s first two sets of baseball cards in 1948 and 1949, but he was pictured in the 1950 Bowman set when the company upgraded its cards to full color. As was the case with many Williams cards, the Bowman depicted Williams finishing his near-perfect swing, his Hillerich & Bradsby Louisville Slugger bat strewn over his right shoulder.
Williams continued to star for Boston until his retirement in 1960—he went out in style, becoming one of the only players to hit a homerun in his last Major League at-bat. The hi...
Throughout his career Williams was continually compared to New York Yankees’ outfielder Joe DiMaggio as the two starred for rival teams. While they were playing, fans joked that they should be traded for each other because Williams, who hit left-handed, would thrive with the short right field fence at Yankee Stadium, and DiMaggio, who hit right-handed, would excel with Fenway Park’s short porch in left field. In fact, a trade almost happened.
Because of this rivalry, autographed pictures of Williams and DiMaggio together, as well as other memorabilia such as autographed bats of the two players, are very popular items. Short of that iconic object, some collectors have sought autographed copies of the July 8, 1950 edition of “TV Guide,” which featured the pair on the cover.
While Williams’ individual statistics may trump those of DiMaggio, the one thing missing from Williams’ career was a World Series championship, a feat DiMaggio accomplished nine times. Unfortunately Williams passed away in 2002, just two years before his Red Sox won their first World Series title in 86 years.
Williams’ collectibles continue to be some of the most popular baseball artifacts around, and the most popular among retired Red Sox. In addition to trading cards, other prized items are Williams statues, autographed baseballs and bats, and game-used bats, which are noticeably lighter in weight than many other bats—Williams felt that a light bat was key to his quick, compact swing.
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Breitbard the pulse of SD sportsU-T San Diego, March 10th
Former Hoover High classmate and life-long friend Ted Williams presented Breitbard with one of the bats the Hall of Famer used while hitting .406 in 1941. “That bat started everything,” Breitbard said years later. “Every time I saw a piece of San Diego...Read more
Morning report: Victorino, Lester to debutESPN (blog), March 10th
And there will be a noted author in the house: Ben Bradlee Jr., who spent a fair chunk of the last decade researching and writing about Ted Williams, will be in JetBlue Park autographing copies of his best-selling book: "The Kid: The Immortal Life of...Read more
MLB: Ted Williams book author Ben Bradlee Jr. signing in Naples on March 12Naples Daily News, March 6th
Ben Bradlee Jr., author of “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” will have a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Naples on Wednesday, March 12. Bradlee will talk about the book and sign beginning at 7 p.m. The New York Times best-selling book...Read more
Lab That Froze Ted Williams' Head Fights Tell-All BookLaw360 (subscription), March 4th
Law360, New York (March 04, 2014, 7:11 PM ET) -- An Arizona cryogenics facility that houses the body of baseball great Ted Williams asked a New York judge on Tuesday to spare a suit that accuses a former top executive and publishing company of ...Read more
Callahan detours force traffic-balancing at Ted WilliamsBoston Globe, March 1st
This week, I received e-mails from two readers convinced that a new traffic maneuver conducted by State Police inside the eastbound Ted Williams Tunnel was reminiscent of a certain traffic scandal ensnaring the administration of New Jersey Governor...Read more
The 52: Williams, North Park to FenwayU-T San Diego, February 24th
Ted Williams, the new manager of the Washington Senators, greets baseball fans who were on hand in Pompano Beach, Fla., Feb. 25, 1969, when Williams made his first appearance in his new role. The fans gave Williams a big round of applause when he ...Read more
Author of new book on Ted Williams to visit Vero BeachTCPalm, February 18th
Author Ben Bradlee, Jr. will be signing copies of his new book “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” on March 3 at the Vero Beach Book Center. The book recounts the life of Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams, who spent 19 seasons playing...Read more
PERSPECTIVES: The Immortal Life of Ted WilliamsKTEP, February 17th
Louie talks with Ben Bradlee, Jr., the author of "The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams." Ted Williams was notorious for his cockiness and his rages on the ball field. Ben's book reveals the shame Ted Williams felt over his Mexican heritage, the ...Read more