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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Altuve tops 2B in 1st All-Star ballot update
MLB.com, May 26th

On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. MLB.com will ...Read more

5 Royals reign in 1st All-Star ballot update
MLB.com, May 26th

On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. MLB.com will ...Read more

Bryce Harper fully engaged and showing off his many talents
ESPN, May 26th

One day, he's on a pace to challenge Ted Williams' single-season record of 147 walks by a player in his age-22 season. The next day, he's on track to hit 40 home runs at age 22 -- an achievement that would put him in a fraternity with Joe DiMaggio, Mel...Read more

Poll Was Ted Williams the best baseball player ever?
SportsBlog.com (blog), May 14th

This is a poll asking if Ted Williams was the best baseball player to ever live. I know it is hard to judge players we never saw play, and to compare them to players from different eras. That being said I think Ted Williams was the best baseball player...Read more

Kris Bryant, a Cub in the Image of the Game's Ideal Hitter
New York Times, May 10th

ST. LOUIS — The first thing Ted Williams told Mike Bryant was that he was late, because he was only 10 minutes early to their practice session. The second thing he told him just may help end the most persistent streak of failure in professional sports...Read more

The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On
ESPN, May 5th

TED WILLIAMS HATED his childhood home, leaving before graduation the same as Claudia, never going back. His lifelong feud with the press began when a writer asked rhetorically in a column what kind of boy didn't go home in the winter to visit his mother...Read more

Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On
ESPN, May 5th

Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On. 5/12/2015. 15 Shares. Email. Comment. 15 Shares. Email · Print. Comment. Ted Williams' ambitions shaped his legacy but wrecked his relationships. If his lone surviving child has her wish, the family...Read more

#TBT: Ted Williams' other last home run
ESPN (blog), April 30th

Ted Williams' final at-bat in the majors for the Boston Red Sox is a famous episode: In front of just 10,454 fans at Fenway Park on Sept. 28, 1960, Williams homered off Baltimore's Jack Fisher in the eighth inning, rounded the bases and headed into the...Read more