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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Recent News: Ted Williams Memorabilia
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Ted Williams Parkway Pedestrian Bridge Is Now OpenNBC 7 San Diego, September 4th
It may have taken more than a decade but residents in one San Diego community can now say they built a bridge. The pedestrian bridge over Ted Williams Parkway at Shoal Creek Drive opened Thursday after years of negotiation and planning. In the time it ...Read more
Nine to Know: Red Sox Stats Pack #9 Ted Williams EditionBoston.com, August 29th
In 1941, Ted Williams hit .401. Brock Holt leads the Sox in batting this season at .291. If you don't think that provides enough perspective. That season, Williams slugged .735. Holt is slugging .390 and David Ortiz is slugging .523. Ponder those...Read more
Red Sox Notes: David Ortiz Joins Ted Williams, Johnny Damon With FeatsNESN.com, August 20th
The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. Clay Buchholz imploded in the fifth inning, though, and the Sox walked away 8-3 losers. The Red Sox have lost four straight and five of their last six. They...Read more
Father passes down hitting knowledge from Ted Williamsspiritofjefferson (blog), August 20th
A lot of what he's teaching us is what he learned in his short time with Ted Williams. I think we're getting some pretty good instruction to learn from my dad, who learned from a Hall of Famer of that caliber.” Gallo hit a soaring two-run homer to give...Read more
Claudia Williams: Ted Williams Always Kept Jimmy Fund Near Heart (Video)NESN.com, August 19th
Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams was a key component of the Jimmy Fund during the charity's early days in the late 1940s. His daughter, Claudia Williams, recently wrote a book called “Ted Williams, My Father: A Memoir” where she tells many stories ...Read more
D&H - Claudia Williams, daughter of Ted WilliamsWEEI.com, August 19th
Autographed Ted williams' bat that we got to very nice amount of money for it was donated by the Ted Williams museum. And by this person who like I met at the tradition a number of years ago and got a chance to get re equated with today -- daughter...Read more
BOOK NOOK: If Ted Williams had never existed, we'd have to invent himTonawanda News, August 18th
There are likely thousands of American men who lived the kind of macho, swaggering, exacting, heroic, achievement-filled lives John Wayne only portrayed in the movies. One was Ted Williams, among the best three or so hitters in baseball's long history...Read more
David Ortiz joins Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski in 400 clubBoston Herald, August 16th
Ortiz went 3-for-5 with six RBI, and joined Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452) as the only players with 400 or more home runs in a Red Sox uniform. His two-dinger night helped erase De La Rosa's struggles in a 10-7 victory over the Houston ...Read more