By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com
From literally the day I was born, I celebrated Ted Williams August 30th birthday. And that is not hyperbole. (August 30 happens to be my birthday, too.)
Of course, it took a whole bunch of years before I realized that Ted Williams was a ballplayer. Then a whole bunch more before I found out he was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Then it took a while longer before I found out what a great American hero Ted was.
To this day, I feel the more I look, the more I discover about Ted and part of the joy of learning is to share the knowledge.
Heres Nine to Know about No. 9, Ted Williams:
1. Ted was born in 1918 in San Diego, California. Also born in 1918 were Hall of Famers Bob Feller, and Pee Wee Reese. So was Eddie Pellagrini who was born in Boston, went to Boston College, and then played for the Sox in 1946-47. Bobby Doerr, Teds teammate on the Sox from 1939 to 1951 was also born in 1918 in Southern California (Los Angeles). Thats Doerr's No. 1 you see retired and posted on the right field facade at Fenway. Doerr played for the Sox for two seasons (1937-38) before Williams joined the Sox. In 1937, when he first came up, Doerr wore No. 9, Teds number, but switched to No. 1 in 1938.
2. Other players born on August 30 include Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler (1898), Tug McGraw (1944), Marlon Byrd (1977), Cliff Lee (1978), and Adam Wainwright (1981).
3. Ted batted left and threw right. The single season home run record for a player like that is held by Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961 (which some of us claim is still a record). The player who hit the most career homers lefty while throwing righty is still hitting them: Jim Thome, who has 601. Ted is second in that category with 521 and Hall of Famers Eddie Matthews and Mel Ott are third and fourth respectively. Second all-time on the Red Sox is Carl Yastrzemski who hit 452.
4. Ted walked 2021 times. He is the only player in baseball history with over 2000 walks, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan with 1865, is not a close second.
5. Ted hit 521 homers and 525 doubles. Only six players are in the 500500 club, but Ted is the only player in baseball history with over 500 in each category and 2000 walks. The closest is Willie Mays with 523 doubles, 660 homers, and 1464 walks.
6. Ted Williams has baseballs highest career on-base pct. at .4817; Babe Ruth is second at .4739. In baseball history, there have only been 10 seasons in which a player has had a single season OBP higher than Teds lifetime OBP and eight of those seasons were by Ted himself including a record .553 in 1941. Arky Vaughn had a .491 in 1935 and Ty Cobb, .486 in 1915. The highest single season OBP by a currently active player was Jason Giambis .477 for the 2001 Oakland As.
7. The longest hitting streak of Williams career was 23 games in 1941. He went 43-for-88, and hit .489. The longest hitless game streak of Teds career was in his final 1960 season when he appeared in eight games without a hit. In those games, Ted was 0-for-7 with five whiffs. He did go 0-for-16 in four games in 1954 and three games in 1940.
8. Ted struck out 709 times in 9791 plate appearances. Ichiro Suzuki, is a pretty fair hitter in his own right and on June 26 he struck out for the 709th time in his career and it took him 7684 PA, over 2100 fewer than Ted. None of the other members of the 500 homer club struck out as few times as Williams. Mel Ott with 511 homers and 896 whiffs is the only other member of the group with under 1100 strikeouts. Ted never struck out more than three times in a game and he only struck out thrice three times, once in 1939 (facing Bobo Newsom), once in 1951 (against Ted Gray, Hal White, and Hank Borowy), and once in 1957 (against Jim Bunning).
9. Teds OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) in 19 seasons was 1.116. In fact, his OPS was at least 1.019 in 18 of his 19 seasons. In 1959, his second-to-last season, he played only 103 games because of an injured shoulder. It was the only year he hit under .316 (.254), the only year his OPS was under 1.019 (.791) and the only year his slugging percentage was under .556 (.419). It was also the only year that, upon completion, he asked for a pay cut.
There are many stats that can measure the greatness of Williams on the field, but there are no numbers that can fully reflect Teds contributions to the Jimmy Fund and the kids who benefit from their work. In a Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber Cancer Institute press release upon his death on July 5, 2002, they wrote,
According to the book, Hitter, the Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams by Ed Linn, 'Ted Williams left two monuments behind in Boston.' One of them is his baseball record, notes the author, and the other was 'the foremost cancer research center in the world.' "
To this day, the Red Sox and their players work tirelessly in support of the Jimmy Fund. This year Sox pitchers Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz signed on again as the Jimmy Fund co-captains.
There are many ways that you can celebrate Ted on his August 30 birthday, but the best way is by making a contribution to the Jimmy Fund in his honor.
Happy birthday, Ted, and thanks for making my birthday feel so special.