Top 50 Sox Seasons #16: Ted Williams, 1942

.356/.499/.648, 1.147 OPS, 671 PA, 186 H, 145 BB, 36 HR, 137 RBI, 338 TB, 75 XBH, 335 TOB, 217 OPS+
All-Star starter, ML Player of the Year, MVP – 2

What else can be said about Ted Williams beyond that this phenomenal season — imagine anybody today (and nobody has) putting up these numbers without charges of steroids hanging over his head — was only his fourth-best. Williams won the Triple Crown, led in all three major rate statistics, and reached base once in every two plate appearances – proving that the old saw about the best failing seven times out of 10 was simply rubbish where the Splendid Splinter was concerned.

Since nowadays everyone loves to cherry-pick a string of seemingly impressive counting stats and find out when players last reached arbitrary minimums in those stats, let’s take a look at this: Williams in 1942 was the last player in baseball history to hit at least .350, smack at least 35 homers and drive in at least 135 runs — while walking at least 145 times.  Babe Ruth in 1920 and 1921 was the only other player to do it.  Todd Helton (2000) is the only player to even fulfill the BA/HR/RBI portion of that requirement since 1942, and he only walked 103 times.

Yet Williams somehow finished second in MVP voting to the Yankees’ Joe Gordon, who had a fine season – but not this fine.  The Red Sox also were a good team in 1942, finishing second in the American League by nine games but winning 93 – equivalent to 99 wins in a 162-game season. So unlike in later years, when the Red Sox were putrid, voters did not have the “valuable” part of the MVP award to fall back on. The New York Times labeled it a “surprise selection,” and predicted that Williams and Red Sox fans would be “startled.” The award looked particularly silly after Gordon had batted 2-for-21 in the Yankees’ World Series loss, but — according to "Red Sox Century" — Williams had done himself no favors with the writers by appealing his draft classification twice so he could win a deferment before spring training.

Key game:
June 24. With a classic pitchers’ duel between Boston’s Charley Wagner and Detroit’s Virgil Trucks, Williams hits a solo home run in the seventh to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. It’s the only run either team will score, and Williams – with a double and single also – is the only batter in the game to record multiple hits. “Thumping Ted” as the Sporting News calls him, moves up to fifth place in the race for league batting title, at .330.

1 comment… add one
  • overrated

    dc March 18, 2008, 12:29 am

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