Today’s quick Collective Troll card of the Day is from the 1971 Topps set (again), #381 of Washington Senators Manager Ted Williams. Ted Williams was born Teddy Samuel or at least that is what his birth certificate says. For baseball’s sake his name is Theodore Samuel Williams. He went by a lot of names over his amazing playing career, Teddy Ballgame, The Kid, The Splendid Splinter, The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived, The Thumper or Mr. Comeback (because he always seemed to be coming back from something) but in 1971 he went by Coach or Sir or Mr. Williams. Williams spent 4 years as a big league manager and was named Manager of the Year in his first year with the Washington Senators in 1969 after leading them to their only winning season (86-76) of the Decade. He (his team) didn’t do nearly that well the following 3 years and in his final season, managing the Texas Rangers he (they) went 54-100. His standout players were Rich Hand, the teams leading starter who led them with a 10-14 record and a 3.32 ERA and Ted Ford, the Rangers top slugger who belted 14 homers and drove in 50. I imagine that after spending 154 games with those guys Teddy’s giant smile faded. This card (not this particular copy) was the first Ted Williams card I owned as a kid. This card just came to me from Jeff D. along with some other AMAZING stuff which will be posted in time. Having this card in my possession again reminds me why I was so anxious to drop my snow shoveling cash on it back in the early 80’s. I love the gigantic smile on Williams’ face, the blue sky (symbolizing hope) in the background, the perfect (facsimile) signature across his Senators jacket and the fact that he looked like he could still swing it at 54 years of age. One thing that boggled my 8-year-old mind then and still boggles my 30-something mind now is the part of the card where it says “FIRST YEAR IN PRO BALL-1969” and then “FIRST GAME IN MAJORS-1969”. I think ya missed the mark by 30 years Topps! Whew. I feel better; I have been for 30 years to get that off my chest! The BotC also states “The oldest player in baseball history to win batting crown with .388 mark at age 39, 1957, Ted slugged a 400-foot homer on his final at-bat in majors, 9-28-60. His .344 Average is 11th on all-time list.”
My math is fuzzy sometimes, but I think that Ted Williams was 38 in 1957, but he did win a batting title the following year at age 39 when he hit .328 in 1958 to win his 6th batting title. In 2004 Barry Bonds won a batting title when he hit .362 for the Giants-he was 39 also. Since Williams was born in August and Bonds was born in July, I think Bonds became the oldest ever by a couple of weeks, but Williams didn’t need the juice to do it! The back of the card also shows Williams’ managerial record in 1970 with the Senators who were 70-92. The star of that team was the Capital Punisher, Frank “Hondo” Howard who led the AL with 44 homers and 126 RBI-a feat that Williams accomplished (leading the AL in homers and RBI) a few times himself. Hondo also started in left-field for the American League All Stars, a position that Williams held 12 times himself. Teddy Ballgame retired without winning a World Series ring, but left behind one of the most amazing stat sheets in history. He is widely regarded as the Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived even though he missed three full years (in his prime) to military service. He returned in ’46 after spending 3 years away from the game and batted .342 with 38 homers and 123 RBI-that began his nickname of the Comeback Kid-he came back from a lot of things, but in ’46 he came back from war. That was the only year that Williams’ Red Sox made it to the World Series, they dropped it in 7 games to the St Louis Cardinals and Williams hit .200 in the Series. A few bits of statistical trivia from the Cliff Clavin vault… Williams batted over 300 in each of his first 17 seasons. Never in his career did Williams ever top the magical 200 hits total that Baseball Writers place SO much importance on. He also didn’t reach the magical 3000 hits mark, but is still considered by most (this Troll included) to be the best hitter ever. I’m just saying, too much importance is placed on those figures when determining greatness… He DID win 2 Triple Crowns (only player other than Rogers Hornsby to do that) and nearly won a 3rd. His .482 career on base percentage is the highest of all time. His slugging percentage of .634 is second. His career .344 batting average is 7th of All Time, but it is the highest of any player who played after 1950. He was elected into the Hall of Fame (first ballot!) in 1966 and he campaigned for Negro League veterans to be inducted as well-5 years later Satchel Paige became the first. Writing about the Red Sox isn’t exactly my forte, but sooner or later any baseball fan is gonna have to acknowledge the greatest hitter ever. Thanks so much for the card Jeff D! It broke back a ton of memories… It couldn’t have been easy for someone who was used to being the best to coach the worst, but he did aight. I will end this with a quote from Teddy Ballgame himself: “A man has to have goals. . And that was mine, to have people say 'There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” I love this game, I love this hobby, troll out!