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, Mexican American Baseball Superstar, War HeroFox News Latino, December 9th
His name was Ted Williams. His mother was a Mexican woman who was a cousin of my great Aunt and my grandfather, I was told; thus, as in Mexican Culture one drop of family makes one family, no matter how distant. Sociologists call that extended family...Read more
'The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams' by Ben Bradlee Jr.Boston Globe, December 7th
If they ever decide to make a movie on Ted Williams's life based on Ben Bradlee Jr.'s “The Kid,'' I'd suggest this for the opening scene: Williams, wearing only a jock strap, a sweatshirt, and shower clogs, standing in front of a full-length mirror in...Read more
Fresh Air Weekend: Alexander Payne, Baby Photos And Ted WilliamsNPR, December 7th
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes ...Read more
Ted Williams Had a Perfect Swing and a Complicated LifeSlate Magazine, December 5th
And among the figures from the sport's century-and-a-half history most worthy of all angles of study, few loom larger than Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox left fielder through the 1940s and '50s, the last player to post a season's batting average above...Read more
Ben Bradlee Jr On Ted “The Kid” WilliamsWBUR, December 5th
It's not hard to make the case that Ted Williams, who played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox, was baseball's greatest hitter ever. He hit for average — the last player to hit 400 in a season. And he hit with power. Over 17 seasons he won six...Read more
Preparing for closure of the Callahan TunnelBoston.com (blog), December 3rd
Drivers emerging from the Ted Williams Tunnel on their way to Logan Airport must think fast to determine which lane to get into, the left for departures or right for arrivals. Forget the number of days left in the holiday shopping season. This year...Read more
Bradlee is his father's sonBoston Globe, December 2nd
In some ways, it was in this parking lot that Bradlee's fascination with the bundle of contradictions that was Ted Williams began to blossom beyond the posters on his bedroom wall, so that what followed was inevitable. Continue reading below ...Read more
CORNBREAD AND BUTTERMILK: Who were Ted Williams and George ...Aiken Standard, November 18th
Somewhere or other, there's a Ted Williams Museum, because the Baseball Hall of Fame simply isn't big enough to hold his reputation. In the same year that Joe DiMaggio (one of Marilyn Monroe's husbands) hit safely in 56 straight games, Ted Williams ...Read more