Happy Birthday, Ted Williams

US #4694 from the Major League Baseball All-Stars issue.

Baseball legend Theodore Samuel Williams was born on August 30, 1918, in San Diego, California. 

Williams first learned to throw a baseball when he was eight.  His uncle Saul taught him.  Saul had been a semi-professional player who once played against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Gordon in an exhibition game. 

US #4694 – Fleetwood First Day Cover

Williams enjoyed playing baseball throughout his childhood and was the pitcher and star player of his high school team.  He also played American Legion Baseball and was later named their Graduate of the Year.  Williams was so talented, he began receiving offers from major league teams in St. Louis and New York while in high school, but his mother didn’t want him to leave home at such a young age.  Instead he joined the local minor league team, the San Diego Padres. 

US #4694 – Ted Williams Mint Sheet

Williams played for the Padres in 1936 and 1937.  During that time, he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox general manager, who was at a game to scout a different player.  In late 1937, he was traded to the Red Sox and earned the nickname “The Kid” during spring training.  He then went to play for their minor league team, the Minneapolis Millers.  Williams performed well – he had a 22 game hitting streak and ended the season with a .366 average, 46 home runs, and 142 runs batted in (RBIs).  He also came in second for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

US #4694a – Williams Imperforate Stamp from the Major League Baseball All-Stars Imperforate issue.

The following season, the Red Sox traded their right fielder to make room for Williams to join the major league team.  He played his first major league game on April 20, 1939, against the New York Yankees.  During his debut season, Williams hit .327 with 31 home runs and 145 RBIs.  He was the first rookie to lead the league in RBIs and set a rookie record for walks.  While the Rookie of the Year Award hadn’t been established yet, Babe Ruth declared that Williams was the Rookie of the Year, which Williams said was good enough for him.

US #4694a – Imperforate Horizontal Gutter Pair First Day Cover

Despite being one of baseball’s rising stars, Williams had to take a break from the game in 1942 to contribute to the war effort.  He trained to be a naval aviator and served as a flight instructor before being sent to Pearl Harbor.  However, the war ended before he got his orders and he was released from active duty on January 12, 1946, though he remained in the Marine Corps Reserve.

US #4694a – Imperforate Mint Sheet

Williams was again called upon to serve his country in 1952, being recalled to active duty to join in the Korean War.  Though he hadn’t flown in a few years, he didn’t want to spend the war on a service baseball team.  He was assigned to VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 in Pohang, South Korea.  In 1953, he served as the wingman for John Glenn on a raid south of Pyongyang. Williams’ plane was struck on the way back and he managed to land just moments before it caught fire.  He earned the Air Medal for his actions that day. During the war, he flew 39 combat missions, earning two Gold Stars.  He would also fly as Glenn’s wingman several more times.   

US #4694 – Classic First Day Cover

Williams returned to the Red Sox and played a few more years, playing his last game on September 28, 1960.  Williams ranks among the all-time great hitters – 521 home runs, 2,654 hits, a .344 batting average, 2,021 walks, and 1,839 runs batted in.  He also holds the record for career on-base percentage with .482.  Additionally, Williams played in 19 All-Star Games, was voted MVP twice, was a batting champion six times, and won the Triple Crown twice. 

Item #AC392 – Ted Williams First Day Portrait Card

Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, 1966.  He also went on to manage the Washington Senators and Texas Rangers between 1969 and 1972.  In retirement, Williams greatly enjoyed fishing and was even named to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.  He also worked with the Jimmy Fund to raise millions of dollars for cancer research and care.  In 1991, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

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In 1999, Williams threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game and received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.  It was the first time he ever waved his hat to the crowd.  Later that year he was part of the MLB’s All-Century Team honored at the World Series.  Williams suffered from cardiomyopathy in his final years and died on July 5, 2002.  A tunnel in Boston and a road in California have been named in his honor.  The Tampa Bay Rays Tropicana Field is also home to the Ted Williams Museum.

Click here for more about Williams; his career, stats, photos, and more from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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  1. Makes you wonder why Triple Crown winners keep popping up now and then in the American League and none in the National League since “Ducky” Medwick turned the trick for the St. Lous Cardinals in 1937. To do it twice like Ted and Rogers Hornsby did before him, though, is the rarest of rare no matter which league it happened in and greatly to be admired.

  2. What a contrast. Ted Williams left the field twice to serve his country. Players leave the field today to serve (protest) what they believe to be injustice.

        1. Protesting in the streets is commendable. Rioting is not. But automatically to lump protesting and rioting as being the same is to use the same sort of tyrannical subterfuge that Hitler used in getting the German people to buy into the idea that protesting was against law and order in Germany.

          First, Hitler used a conflation of protest and riot against the German Communist Party, and next, against the German Social Democratic Party. After those two political parties were thereby destroyed, any other protests against Hitler were stamped out even more brutally.

          Protesting is commendable and Americans started started protesting as long ago as 1763. And in 1770, a protest in Boston ended up with the first martyr of the American Revolution, Crispus Atticus, and American Man of Color. He was shot and killed by British military forces sent to Boston to keep “order.”

          To try to squelch protest is absolutely un-American.

          To protest against rioting is American.

          If criminals hide themselves among protesters, then the protesters should work with the police to remove them. But protesters should never be arrested in place of the rioters, lest our Republic fail.

          Remember what Benjamin Franklin said, when asked at the end of the Constitutional Convention what the outcome was: “A republic,” he said, “if you can keep it.”

          I am a retired Naval Officer, and I will always protect protest, because I hate tyranny and Hitlerian tactics. They, and not protests, are the real dangers to the American Republic.

  3. I went to a Red Sox vs Yankees game in the summer of 1959. Ted Williams was still playing and Casey Stengel was the manager for the Yankees.

    What a great way to see my first major league game!

  4. I was a fan of Ted Williams for years. I saw him play several times in Philadelphia. Once I was lucky enough to have him autograph a baseball for me. I cherish the “ To Neil, your pal Ted Williams” ball.

  5. In my opinion Ted Williams was the greatest hitter in the history of the game. He easily would have eclipsed 3,000 hits as well as 600 home runs if not for time away from the game to serve our nation.

  6. Island Boy
    I grew up on an island off the coast of Maine. Ted Williams was our hero. The Boston Red Sox was every boys team. Trading baseball card was the thing of the day. Guess what, at one time I had two Ted Williams cards and was the envy of all my friends. When I went off to college I lost track of my collection like so many others. Today I continue my boyhood collecting, but now US stamps. Mystic Stamps has played an important part in providing quality stamps, stamp related supplies, and great historical accounts.

  7. I have Ted Williams books in my library, including his autobiographies.
    I have aquired knowledge about this most interesting man.
    The 1999 allstar game mentioned in the article was at Fenway Park in Boston where he of course played his entire career. Also, his final hit was a home run at Fenway Park. I would recommend his biographies and autobiographies to anyone interested.
    Also, baseball players seldom, if ever protest and/or riot. The comments above concerning such crap are totally off subject/content and are despicable.
    Thank you again Mystic for great history articles evey day.

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