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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Change your current location »The Star-Ledger, April 23rd
With 22 more homers this season, he would pass eight players -- Eddie Murray (504), Gary Sheffield (509), Mel Ott (511), Eddie Matthews (512), Ernie Banks (512), Ted Williams (521), Frank Thomas (521) and Willie McCovey (521) -- on baseball's all-time...Read more
Top 50 Red Sox prospects of past 50 years: 40-31Boston.com, April 23rd
Hoffman did have a lot going for him: the endorsement of Ted Williams ("He'll be a star"), a .285 batting average in Triple A at age 20 (back before we noticed he walked just 29 times in 569 plate appearances; he hit .360 after July 1 that season), and...Read more
Bryce Harper Meets Ted Williams, Babe Ruth In Latest Commercial (Video)NESN.com, April 18th
In the video, Harper warms up with old-time Boston Red Sox teammates, shares a moment with baseball greats Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, and goes yard off pitcher Nolan Ryan. The highlight of the clip, though, has to be when Harper is seen in the ...Read more
Overpass work to close Ted Williams Parkway at nightPomerado Newspaper Group, April 7th
Overpass work to close Ted Williams Parkway at night. Ted Williams Parkway at Shoal Creek Drive will be closed or severely blocked tonight, Tuesday night and Wednesday night as crews work on the new pedestrian overpass that will span the parkway...Read more
Polk County Elements Show in Ted Williams BiographyThe Ledger, April 6th
One day in his youth, Ben Bradlee Jr. stood among "50 screaming brats" outside Fenway Park in Boston, hoping to get an autograph from Ted Williams, the Red Sox player then in the final years of his stellar career...Read more
READER SUBMITTED: Ben Bradlee, Jr. To Discuss His Book On Ted WilliamsHartford Courant, April 5th
Bradlee to Discuss, Sign His New Book, 'The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams," in Prospect. To celebrate the start of the 2014 baseball season, join Ben Bradlee, Jr., author of the new biography of Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams, at...Read more
The Brilliant Dirty Tricks Behind Esquire's Famous Ted Williams ProfileDeadspin, March 31st
Below you'll find Alex Belth's fun story about the making of Richard Ben Cramer's famous Esquire profile, "What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?" We shared this over earlier today, but I wanted to draw your attention to one section in particular. It's...Read more
Ted Williams at warBoSox Injection, March 26th
In 1942 Ted Williams won the Triple Crown. Then from 1943-45 he served his country doing his part in “America's Greatest Generation.” Williams had a unique talent as an aviator and was assigned as a flight instructor. No doubt his extraordinary skills...Read more