Ted Williams Biography

Ted Williams was a baseball player who spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox. He was a two-time American League MVP and won the Triple Crown twice. He is the last player to hit over .400 for an entire season, having hit .406 in 1941. With a career batting average of .344 and 521 lifetime home runs, Williams was a first ballot Hall of Famer, receiving over 93 percent of the vote in 1966.

Early Years

Theodore Samuel Williams was born August 30, 1918, in San Diego, Calif. His father was a soldier, sheriff and photographer, and his mother worked for the Salvation Army. Williams had one brother, Danny. He learned the game of baseball from his uncle, who had played semi-pro.

Williams was a hitting sensation at San Diego's Herbert Hoover High, batting .583 as a junior and a "measly" .406 as a senior. In addition to playing outfield, he also pitched and compiled a 16-3 record. When Williams was 17 years old, the Yankees offered the youngster $200 a month to sign with the team, but his mother did not want her son to move so far away at so young an age. While still in high school, Williams signed with the local Pacific Coast League team, the San Diego Padres.

In 1937, Williams hit 23 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Padres, and the Boston Red Sox came calling, signing him to a two-year deal. Williams was optioned to the minor league Minneapolis Millers, where he promptly proved himself more than capable of swinging the bat, winning the 1938 Triple Crown with a .366 batting average, 43 home runs and 142 RBI.

Professional Career

Boston Red Sox (1939-60)

In 1939, Williams was called up to the Boston Red Sox as an everyday player. He promptly led the American League in RBI with 145 and finished fourth in MVP voting at the age of 20.

In 1941, Williams had a chance to become the first player in 11 seasons to bat .400 for an entire season. As play began on the last day of the season with the Red Sox scheduled for a doubleheader, Williams was hitting .39955, which would have been rounded up to .400 had he chosen to sit. Instead, he decided to play and ended up going 6-for-8 with a home run in the twinbill, finishing the season with a .406 batting average. No player has managed to hit .400 for an entire season since.

Williams did not play for the Boston Red Sox from 1943-45, instead opting to serve his country with the United States Navy. Although he trained as a military pilot and gunner, he never saw active duty overseas.

After the war and back in baseball, in 1946, Williams returned as if he had never been away. He hit .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBI. The Red Sox won the American League crown by 12 games, and Williams was named MVP. The following season, Williams won the Triple Crown for the second time in his career (having already won in 1942) by hitting 32 home runs and driving in 114 runs, to go along with a .343 batting average.

In 1949, Williams fell just .0002 short of his third Triple Crown, finishing behind George Kell for the AL batting lead -- while again leading the league with 43 homers and 159 RBI. In a season where he went a record 84 consecutive games reaching base safely at least once, Williams was a runaway winner for his second MVP Award.

Williams' 1950 season was cut short when he fractured his elbow chasing a ball during the All-Star Game played at Wrigley Field, and the aftereffects seemed to follow him into the 1951 season, as he hit an uncharacteristically low .318.

Over the next two seasons, Williams' major league action was severely limited. After the Korean War broke out in 1952, Williams again was called into active duty. This time around, he did see combat. Williams flew 39 missions with the Third Marine Air Wing, 223rd Squadron, before officially leaving the Marines in July 1953.

When Williams returned to baseball, he was 35 years old. But his age never slowed him down -- far from it. For the next five seasons, Williams finished no lower than seventh in American League MVP voting. From 1954-58, Williams hit .353 and averaged 29 home runs and 85 RBI per season. In 1957 -- at age 38 -- Williams earned a .388 batting average, allowing him to win his sixth career batting title.

In 1959, now 40 years old, Williams finally started to show the signs of his advancing age. In 103 games, Williams managed just 69 hits in 331 at-bats, good enough for only a .254 batting average, far and away the lowest of his career. As a result, Williams announced that the following season, 1960, would be his last.

Williams left nothing in the tank in 1960, rebounding nicely at the age of 41 to post a batting average of .316, to go along with 29 home runs -- a record for a player in his final season of play that lasted until Dave Kingman some 26 years later.

On June 17, Williams' blast off of Cleveland Indians pitcher Wynn Hawkins was the 500th of his career. On Sept. 28, in his final home game, in his final at-bat, Williams smashed a home run off of the Baltimore Orioles' Jack Fisher to send the faithful into a frenzy. Although the fans chanted for a curtain call, Williams did not emerge from the dugout, still hurt by the fact that he was once booed by the fans way back in 1940 for a perceived "lack of hustle."

Williams ended his career as one of the greatest ball players in history. He won two AL Triple Crowns and two MVP awards -- in four different years -- and was named to the All Star game 19 times. When he retired, he was third all-time in home runs and seventh in RBI and batting average. His career batting average still is the highest in the post-1920 era.

Post-playing career

Williams was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in in 1966 and used his election as a way to campaign for the recognition of former Negro League players. Five years later, the first Negro League veterans were inducted.

Three years later, the Washington Senators hired Williams to be their manager. He stayed with the club for four seasons, including one year after the franchise moved to Texas and became the Rangers. In his first year with the club, it finished over .500 (86-76) for the first time in franchise history. Williams was named Manager of the Year.

In 1970, Williams wrote "The Science of Hitting," a book that included his now famous breakdown of the strike zone, using different colored baseballs to demonstrate what a hitter's expected batting average would be if they swung at pitches in those locations.

Williams was also an avid fisherman -- he was so, good in fact, that he was named to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

In 1984, Williams had his No. 9 retired by the Boston Red Sox. The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, named in 1995, and Ted Williams Parkway in San Diego, 1992, both were named in his honor. On Nov. 18, 1991, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush.

Williams suffered a major stroke in 1994 and lost much of his ability to walk for more than very short distances. At the All-Star Game in 1999, held at Boston's Fenway Park, Williams was on hand to throw out the first pitch. After being brought to the mound via a golf cart, Williams emotionally removed his cap and waved it to the crowd for the first -- and last -- time, receiving a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

At the age of 83, Williams died of a heart attack on July 5, 2002. Controversially -- because his will asked that he be cremated -- after his death, his body was sent to a facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was cryogenically frozen.

Personal

Williams married Doris Soule, his first wife, on May 4, 1944. The couple had one daughter, Barbara Joyce, in 1948. The pair divorced in 1954. Williams then married a model, Lee Howard, in 1961 -- that marriage lasted only six years.

Williams married for the third time only one year after divorcing Howard, another model, Dolores Wettach. The pair had a son, John-Henry, in 1968, and daughter, Claudia, in 1971. They divorced in 1972, four years after the marriage.

Williams began a relationship with Louis Kaufman in 1973 and lived with her until her death in 1993. Williams' biographers consider Kaufman the love of his life.