Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams
By Dom Forker
Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, distinct but similar-type players, were arguably Baseball’s Greatest Player and Basevall’s Greatest Hitter.
In their first major league seasons, Joe scored a rookie-record 132 runs, and Ted drove home a rookie-record 145 runs. More than seventy years later, their records still stand.
Joe should have batted .400 in 1939; Ted did hit .406 in 1941. Batting .412 in early September, the Clipper suffered a serious eye infection, and his average plummeted to 381, which was still 21 points higher than Jimmie Foxx, the runner-up hitter in the batting race.
The year 1941 was a mystical one in baseball history. DiMag hit safely in a record 56 consecutive games. During Joe’s sensational run, Ted out hit him, .412 to .406. Unbelievably, at the All-Star Game, Joe’s streak stood at 48 consecutive games, and Ted was batting .404. You can believe that they got the attention of the other Stars that year.
Ted won Triple Crowns but not MVP awards in both 1942 and 1947. (There are two stories there.) Joe beat out Ted in the 1947 voting, 202 to 201.
The Kid hit the game-winning walk-off home run in the 1941 All-Star Game. In the 1946 Mid-summer Classic, he got four hits, including two home runs, one of them the first ever four-base blast off Rip Sewell’s celebrated “eephus ball” pitch.
Early in 1947, co-owner Dan Topping of the Yankees and owner Tom Yawkey of the Red Sox agreed on an even-up trade of Joe for Ted. If it had been made, it would have altered baseball history considerably.
Joe and Ted were known for their gallant comebacks. In his last three years (1949-1951), the Clipper returned from either injury or illness to lead the Yankees to three consecutive world titles. In his last three games of the 1951 World Series, his final one, he batted .545 with one home run and five RBI. In his last major league at bat, he doubled off the right center field wall at Yankee Stadium. He broke into the majors by playing on four consecutive world championship clubs.
In 1946, back from World War II, Ted hit the first pitch that he had seen in four years for a 460-foot home run. Incredibly, he hit a home run in his last at-bat before he left for the Korean Conflict and in his first full game back from Korea…
Ted came five hits shy of batting .400 for the fourth time in 1957. (Yes, fourth time!) He hit .388 to win the batting title at the record age of 39. Overall, he won six batting crowns. Realistically, he could have won 12 titles.
The Kid, in his last major league at-bat, hit a farewell home run–at Fenway Park! During his career he hit 92 game-winning home runs!
Joe, in his last major league game, a World Series clincher, got intentionally walked twice!
Joe and Ted were even linked by the numbers that they wore on their backs. In his rookie season, Joe wore Number 9 (Ted’s number), and in spring training of his rookie year, Ted wore Number 5 (Joe’s number).
Today some people call them Number 5 and Number 9!