Along with DiMaggio and Mantle, Ted Williams was one of the baseball legends that became part of the hobby boom in the 1980s and beyond. He worked with industry powerhouse Upper Deck Authenticated around their launch in the early 1990s, and later created his own brand by signing thousands of items for his family business. From the beginning, Williams showcased a confident-looking autograph, which coincided with his personality. During the 1940s and 1950s, a clubhouse attendant would often add Williams to team-signed items on the Hall of Famer’s behalf. The Boston Red Sox were also known to occasionally use a stamp during the same time period. While playing and long after his career, Williams utilized a secretary to help sign fan mail and occasionally employed a stamp. Williams possessed a beautiful autograph, but after suffering a series of strokes in the mid-1990s, the great slugger struggled to sign items, such as baseballs, with the same precision. That said, Williams continued to sign large numbers of autographs up until the time of his death. One of the most forged figures in the hobby, huge volumes of Williams counterfeits were seized as part of the late-1990s FBI sting referred to as Operation Bullpen.
Ted Williams died in 2002 at the age of 83.
Theodore Samuel Williams (August 30, 1918 - July 5, 2002) was one of the few people in the world who actually lived out his dream of being remembered as, “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” Williams began playing in the sandlots of San Diego and moved on to high school as a pitcher, often striking out a dozen of more batters per appearance. His pitching prowess notwithstanding, Ted signed with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League and then the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association where he captured his first Triple Crown, hitting .366 with 43 home runs and 142 RBI. The Kid, as he was dubbed in Boston newspapers, was the most anticipated athletes and he did not disappoint as he led the American League in RBI with 145, blasted 31 home runs and batted .327 in his first year in Beantown. As a rookie, he finished fourth in AL MVP voting. In 1940, Williams earned his first of 19 All-Star Game appearances, but also led the league in on-base percentage for the first of 12 times during his 19-year career. He continues to hold the highest on-base percentage in the history of Major League Baseball with a .482 OBP. His preparedness was unmatched as he studied opposing pitchers and their nuances in certain situations, ultimately determining what their “out pitch” was in every case.
In 1941, Ted became the first Major League batter since Rogers Hornsby in 1924 to eclipse the elusive .400-mark batting .406 in 143 games and the last to accomplish the feat, though many have made runs. Prior to 1941, George Sisler (.420) was the last American Leaguer to hit better than .400 in 1922. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, players were lining up to enlist, but Williams chose to play out his 1942 season for personal financial reasons, to which he was chastised by the media with whom he had a strained relationship with from the early days in his career. His decision was both Boston’s and his personal gain as he won the Triple Crown, leading the American League in average (.356), home runs (36) and RBI (137). Despite this extraordinary achievement, Ted finished second in AL MVP voting behind Joe DiMaggio, who put together a 56-game hit streak, the longest in Major League history. When the season concluded, Williams joined the United States Navy as a naval aviator and served as a training instructor and never seeing any combat. After losing three prime years to World War II, Ted returned to the Red Sox in 1946 having not lost a step as he batted .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBI to win his first AL MVP award while also leading Boston to their first World Series appearance since 1918. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games in Williams’ only World Series appearance. In 1947, he stood atop the baseball world winning his second AL Triple Crown as he hit .343 with 32 home runs and 114 RBI while also leading the AL in runs (125), walks (162), on-base- percentage (.499), slugging percentage (.634) and total bases (335).
Despite losing five years to World War II and the Korean War, The Splendid Splinter won two Most Valuable Player awards (1946, 1949), was a six-time American League batting champion, hit 521 home runs, led the AL in OBP 12 times, walks eight times, runs scored and total bases six times, RBI and home runs four times and retired with a lifetime batting average of .344 over his 19-year career. Prophetically, he became one of the greatest hitter to ever live. Ted Williams hit his 521st (and last) home run at Fenway Park in his final at-bat of his career. Theodore Samuel Williams was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. In Ted’s induction speech for Cooperstown, Williams became one of the first enshrinees to speak out in favor of Negro League players earning consideration for induction into the Hall of Fame. Upon his retirement, Ted served as the manager for the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers for four years (1969-1971/1972) where he compiled a record of 273-364 in 637 games. Williams advocated for the “Jimmy Fund”, which raised money for adult and pediatric cancer and research at the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He was an avid fisherman and teamed with Sear Roebuck to develop a line of sporting goods, both for baseball, but also for the outdoorsman. Forever recognized for his amazing hitting, Williams made one of his final public appearances at the 1999 MLB All-Star Game at Fenway Park notably shaking hands with fellow batting champions Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and others. Ted Williams died on July 5, 2002.
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