Ted Williams

In 1953 Ted Williams returned from service in the Korean War after not having played in the majors for 16 months. He proceeded to hit .407 with 13 homers and 34 RBI in 31 games through the end of the season. Oh, and he was almost 35 years old. That’s how good he was.

Williams, in my mind, is the only man who has a legitimate argument as the greatest hitter in history other than Babe Ruth. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial were all incredible. Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby were terrific. But Williams simply dominated from the batter’s box. He was the best at hitting the baseball, the best at strike zone awareness, the best at hitting for power. I am absolutely astounded by his ’54 season: he turned 36, hadn’t played regularly for two years, and hit .345 with an OBP over .500 and a league leading slugging percentage of over .600. He only struck out 32 times! The man was born to hit a baseball.

The Red Sox really did almost trade Williams to the Yankees for Joe DiMaggio, in 1947. Boston owner Tom Yawkey knew the Yankees were getting the better end of the deal and he asked that New York also give him 21-year old Yogi Berra. New York GM Lee MacPhail balked (all five of these guys are now in the Hall of Fame) and the trade fell apart.

Want the definition of narcissism? General Douglas MacArthur – a personal friend of Williams – sent the Red Sox slugger a gift in the early 1950s as a thank you for his friendship and service to the country. It was an autographed portrait of MacArthur.

Toughest Pitchers to Face
In 1960, the 41-year old Williams told a reporter that the greatest pitcher he ever saw was Bob Feller, with Hal Newhouser second. He said that Bob Lemon was the toughest right-hander he ever faced.