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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Ted Williams, by the numbersNew York Daily News, September 28th
On this day in 1941, Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams finished the regular season by going 6-8 in a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, securing a .400 season. Even through the raging steroid era, no one has ever come close to...Read more
Cecil's Warfield reflects on beanballs, Ted Williams and life in the minor leaguesCecil Whig, September 24th
Around this time, Warfield, whose real name was Don, but who affectionately went by the nickname “Tex,” received a hitting lesson from Ted Williams. According to Warfield, they met on the baseball diamond — the young, spirited minor leaguer and the ...Read more
LOVERRO: Bryce Harper's recent success traces all the way back to Ted WilliamsWashington Times, September 22nd
MVP season is because of a revolution in hitting that took place years ago — a revolution in which Epstein was one of the leaders. It's a revolution based in large part on the teachings of Ted Williams, who managed Epstein in Washington from 1969...Read more
Kris Bryant has connection with dad, Ted WilliamsMyAJC, September 21st
The story spans three generations to link Kris Bryant through his father, Mike, to one of baseball's legendary hitters, Ted Williams. As a minor leaguer, Mike Bryant got face-to-face hitting instruction from Williams. He treats Williams' classic book...Read more
Ortiz can soon tie Ted Williams for Red Sox RBI recordComcast SportsNet New England, September 15th
That would tie him with the great Ted Williams for most 100-RBI seasons, with a chance to set the franchise record next year, at 40 years of age. Hall of Famers Jim Rice (eight seasons with 100 RBI) and Carl Yastrzesmki (five) have already been matched...Read more
Can David Ortiz pass Ted Williams as the Red Sox all-time home run leader?Over The Monster, September 14th
He has 442 with the Sox, and is behind only Yaz's 452 and Ted Williams' 521 on their all-time list. Barring a career-ending catastrophe of some kind, Papi should overtake Yaz sometime in early 2016, but his chances of becoming Boston's all-time dinger...Read more
Kris Bryant's remarkable connection with his dad — and with Ted WilliamsChicago Tribune, September 8th
This is one of those stories that would sound apocryphal except its protagonists, father and son, recall it the same way. The story spans three generations to link Kris Bryant through his father, Mike, to one of baseball's legendary hitters, Ted Williams...Read more
Red Sox Honor Ted Williams' Former Bat Boy On His 80th Birthday (Video)NESN.com, September 7th
O'Donnell, who the Boston Red Sox honored for his 80th birthday Monday at their game against the Toronto Blue Jays, used to be Ted Williams' bat boy. He was back on the field at Fenway Park for the first time in 60 years, and he had fond memories of...Read more