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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Ted Williams Signed Oal Baseball Psa/dna Graded 5.5 AutographTed Williams #6 Sketch Card Mlb Boston Red Sox Signed Limited Edition 12/25Ted Williams Uda Bat1959 Fleer Ted Williams 1957 Hot September Auto Psa/dna Certified Vg31954 Bowman #66 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Hof Psa 7 Nm " The Rarity "Ted Williams Autographed Baseball With Upper Deck CoaTed Williams Boston Red Sox Signed Autographed Baseball B&j Coa 1999 Rare!Ted Williams Autographed Signed Bat Jsa *****gem Mint*****1956 Topps Ted Williams #5 Hof Boston Red Sox Baseball Card, Psa Graded Nm 7!!Ted Williams Grand Slam Signed Baseball + Authentication Certificate + Case1947 Ted Williams Bond Homogenized Bread Mint 9 Boston Red Sox Hof No Reserve Ted Williams Uda Baseball1959 Fleer Ted Williams #68 Baseball Card Genuine Poor1959 Fleer Ted Williams #65 August 30, 1958 Psa 10 Pop 3 *459935Vintage Ted Williams Sears Baseball Glove Box (sku-70066)1954 Topps Baseball Card Ted Williams #250 Bv $1000 1957 Topps #1 Ted Williams In Lesser ConditionMickey Mantle Ted Williams Robinson Yastrzemski Signed Autographed Ball Jsa Loa1956 Topps Ted Williams Psa 4 Vgex1955 Topps Ted Williams Boston Red Sox #2 Baseball CardTed Williams Stan Musial Tony Gwynn Batting Champs Signed Photos Upper Deck Uda1947 Bond Bread Ted Williams Baseball Card Graded-sharp!Topps 1969 #500– Ted Williams!! Book Value = $600!! Set’s €Autographed "rivals" - Mickey Mantle & Ted Williams Framed Photo W/coa1956 Topps Ted Williams Baseball Card #5 *********must See*********1956 Topps Ted Williams #5 Vgex Red Sox Hofer 1960's-70's Topps Baseball Lot 12 Cards, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Ernie BanksStan Musial / Ted Williams Signed 8x10 Autographed Cardinals Baseball Photo Stm1952 Wheaties Cereal Box Premium Ted Williams Baseball Card2003 Sp Authentic 500 Home Run Club Ted Williams Mantle Mcgwire Sosa Bonds Ted Williams #98 1950 Bowman Vintage Baseball Card Boston Red Sox Hof2014 Topps Allen & Ginter Ted Williams Silk Mini Framed 1/1 9/10 Jersey # Boston1954 Topps Ted Williams #250 Bvg 2.5 G-vg Beauty!!!! Hof!!!1958 Topps #1 Ted Williams Red Sox (gd) [mk] *459214Ted Williams Autographed Mlb Baseball Global Auth. Mt-pristine1951 Bowman Ted Williams Baseball Card #165 *********must See*********Ted Williams Joe Dimaggio Dual Signed Baseball Ted Williams Hof 1954 Topps # 1 - Sgc 50Vintage Ted Williams Franchise Avaliable Brochure Moxie Teds Root Beer2004 Sweet Spot Quad Patch W/ Dimaggio Jersey & Ted Williams Jersey /99Mickey Mantle Yankees Ted Williams 11x14 Custom Framed Dual Auto Signed Gfa CoaTed Williams Gartlan Figurine #1770 Of 2654 Autographed1950 Ted Williams Bowman Sgc Graded Vg ExLot 3 Life Magazine 1939 Joe Dimaggio Yankees & 1941 Ted Williams Red SoxTed Williams 1958 58 Topps #485 All Star Red Sox Sgc 50 Vg-ex 4Ted Williams - 1955 Topps #2 - Psa 3 - No Reserve1959 Fleer Ted Williams #52 Ted's Comeback Psa 9 *4599412014 Topps Allen & Ginter Ted Williams Silk CardTed Williams, Boston Red Sox Hof Outfielder Autographed 3x5 Postcard Jsa/loa 2006 Epic Pairing Upper Deck Ted William And Joe Dimaggio 28/45 1956 Topps Ted Williams #5 Psa 3 (vg) Hof Red Sox (w&w) White BackPsa Graded 1954 Topps #250 - Ted Williams - Red Sox - Psa 11958 Topps Ted Williams Baseball Card Red Sox # 12014 Ted Williams Bobblehead Rock Cats New Britain 6/14/14 Twins Marines Aviator1948 Leaf Ted Williams #76 Rare Baseball CardTopps Series 2 Gold Refractor 1954 Reprint Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Sp/ssp2014 Topps Bunt (750) Ted Williams Golden Moments Endlists As Navy Aviator So!(2) 1959 Fleer Ted Williams Cards #2 And #15Ted Williams - 1957 Topps #11958 Topps Set Break #1 Ted Williams (hof) (red Sox) Sharp!

Recent News: Ted Williams Memorabilia

Source: Google News

John Glenn's service in Korea with Ted Williams: Nicolaus Mills
The Plain Dealer, July 31st

In early 1954, six months after the Korean War ended, Glenn left Korea, where as a jet pilot during the war he flew with baseball great Ted Williams, the game's last .400 hitter. The link with Williams is part of Glenn's legacy before he became famous...Read more

Game-used Ted Williams jersey goes for $137K in auction, July 28th

Yeah, that was worn during game play by one of baseball's greatest hitters of all-time. It's autographed, too (see the right leg of the pants and the neck area of the shirt). And it went for a cool $137,274 in the recently-concluded auction. That wasn...Read more

Ted Williams Game-Worn Uniform Sells At Auction For $137K (Photo), July 28th

One memorabilia collector paid a pretty penny for a uniform once worn by Teddy Ballgame. A 1954-55 game-worn Ted Williams Boston Red Sox uniform sold at a auction over the weekend for $137,274.79. ted williams. The jersey-and-pants set, ...Read more

Ted Williams Game-Worn Uniform Sells for $137274, July 28th

A uniform worn by Ted Williams in 1954-55 sold at auction for $137,274, a record for a Williams uniform, according to, an auction house specializing in sports memorabilia. At the same auction house, a 1979 Carl Yastrzemski complete home ...Read more

Throwback: Ted Williams' Hall of Fame speech, July 27th

I guess every player thinks about going into the Hall of Fame. Now that the moment has come for me, I find it difficult to say what is really in my heart. But I know it is the greatest thrill of my life. I received two hundred and eighty-odd votes from...Read more

Yaz: Ortiz is better hitter than I was
ESPN (blog), July 27th

Yastrzemski: Ortiz Is Second-Greatest Red Sox Hitter. Aside from Ted Williams, David Ortiz is the best hitter in Boston Red Sox history, according to Carl Yastrzemski. A Hall of Famer and one of the most revered players in Red Sox history, Yastrzemski...Read more

Ted Williams' honesty was refreshing - and rare, July 19th

It was just past midnight on May 1, 1952, when Capt. Ted Williams, recalled by the Marines during the Korean War, reported to Willow Grove Naval Air Station for refresher training. The unusual arrival hour had its purpose. Williams wanted to avoid the...Read more

Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax head all-time All-Star team
Los Angeles Times, July 16th

All day Tuesday, Times readers were asked to vote in a series of polls to select the greatest players at each position in baseball history. Readers were able to vote for three people at each position (except right-handed starter, where the limit was five)...Read more