Williams, Ted

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Williams, Ted

Ted Williams (Theodore Samuel Williams), 1918–2002, American baseball player, b. San Diego, Calif. At the age of 17 he began playing professional ball with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. In 1938 he tried out with the Boston Red Sox in spring training, and a year later he joined the club as a regular outfielder. Except for service (1943–45) in World War II and again (1952–53) in the Korean War, Williams played continuously for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 until his retirement in 1960. One of the greatest natural hitters the game has ever known, he batted well over .300 in 1939 and in 1940; in 1941, besides hitting .406 to win the batting championship, he led the American League in home runs (37). In 1942 the tall, rangy left-hander, known as the "Splendid Splinter," was again top batter in the major leagues with a .356 average, while leading the American League in home runs (36) and runs batted in (137).

Williams, controversial to some baseball fans due to his generally abrasive personality and frequently abusive behavior, particularly evident in his relationship with the press, helped lead the Red Sox to a pennant in 1946. Although opposing teams often employed the "Williams shift" —moving fielders toward right field, where Williams customarily drove his base hits—he continued to lead the league in batting in 1947 with .343, in 1948 with .369, in 1957 with .388, and in 1958 with .328. Williams had a lifetime batting average of .344 and hit a total of 521 home runs. He managed the Washington Senators from 1969 to 1971 and remained manager when the club became (1972) the Texas Rangers, retiring shortly afterward. After his death, Williams' body was the subject of highly publicized litigation among his children. His son and a daughter had had his body and head cryonically frozen, but their half-sister, who dropped her lawsuit after several months, asserted that Williams had wanted to be cremated.

See his autobiography, My Turn at Bat (1970, repr. 1988), and The Science of Hitting (1972), both coauthored by J. Underwood; biographies by L. Montville (2004) and B. Bradlee, Jr. (2013).

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