Theodore Samuel Williams may be one of the most recognized names in sports history; despite the fact that he took his team to the World Series only once, and lost, Williams rewrote the record books with his patented swing. Always the perfectionist, he sometimes came across as rude and arrogant, but his focus was never a question: his goal was to make contact with the ball each and every time he came to home plate with a bat in his hand.
“The Kid” began his major-league career at the age of 20 with the Red Sox in 1939 and was an immediate impact on the team, batting an average of .327, clobbering 31 home runs, and driving in 145 runs. He is perhaps more remembered for what he did two years later. On the last day of that season, he was statistically hitting .400 (.3995) and then-manager Joe Cronin offered to rest Williams to preserve the mark; instead, the “Splendor Splinter” played in both ends of a double-header and went 6-for-8 at the plate to raise his final average to .406, the last player to ever bat better than .400. That might have been enough to earn MVP honors, but that went instead to friendly rival Joe DiMaggio, who had hit safely in 56 straight games that season for the New York Yankees.
Williams actually missed the 1943 through 1945 when he went off to fight for his country in World War II and also missed part of the 1952 and 1953 seasons to serve in Korea. Even with time away from baseball, he never lost his touch. In 1946, the year he returned from WWII, he earned AL MVP honors; the following season, he won his second Triple Crown with a .343 average, 32 home runs, and 114 RBI. Williams also won two batting titles late in his career; in 1958, at the age of 39, he batted an incredible .388.
To add an exclamation point to his career, in his last at-bat in Fenway Park, he sent a pitch into the right field bleachers for home run number 521 of his career, a Red Sox record. Williams retired in 1960 after 19 seasons with the Red Sox and easily won election to baseball’s Hall Of Fame in 1966. He is also only one of seven former Red Sox players to have his number (9) retired by the organization.