By guest blogger, baseball historian and author Gary Livacari
Ted Williams’ 1941 season is often considered one of the greatest offensive seasons ever. He led the league in all the following categories: runs (135), home runs (37), walks (147), batting average (.406), on-base percentage (.553), OPS (1.287), and OPS+ (235). His .406 batting average is still the highest batting average in the major leagues since 1924, and the last time any major league player has hit over .400. His .553 on-base percentage stood as a major league record for 61 years, and his .735 slugging average was the highest in the major leagues between 1932 and 1994. Williams also had 185 hits and was second in RBIs with 120. He accomplished all this while striking out only 27 times in 606 plate appearances.
In the ninth inning of the 1941 All-Star game, Ted hit a walk-off three-run homer to win the game for the American League, 7-5. He later described that game-winning home run as “the most thrilling hit of my life.” After a season like this, it’s hard to believe he was denied the MVP award. Perhaps revealing the New York bias of the Baseball Writers of America, the award went to Joe DiMaggio (who also had a fabulous year).
Would He Sit Out the Last Two Games?
On September 28, before the final two games of the 1941 regular season, a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, he was batting .39955, which would have been officially rounded up to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin offered him the chance to sit out the final day, but Ted Williams famously declined, saying: “If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.” He proceeded to go 6-for-8 and finished the season at .406.