Ted Williams in Korean War Service
Some of the greatest players in baseball history have lost many years of their careers serving in the military, but Ted Williams is a special case. After being drafted in 1942, the Splendid Splinter served in the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He returned to the Red Sox in 1946. Six years later, Williams was called back to active service, this time to serve in the Korean War.
Williams is one of two members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the only Hall of Fame player to have served in multiple wars. (Pioneer / Executive Larry MacPhail served in World Wars I and II).
Sunday marks the date in 1952 when the Marines selected Williams from a list of inactive reserves for service in Korea.
According to Ben Bradlee Jr.’s book, âThe Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams,â Williams was surprised by the news. While he knew he was technically eligible, Williams reportedly made an informal arrangement with then-commander Alexander Vandegrift at the end of World War II, agreeing to remain in the reserves to assist with recruiting, with the understanding that ‘he would not be recalled. in active service. A captain directly involved in the selection process later told friends that when the Marines selected Ted Williams for the assignment a second time, they didn’t realize he was the baseball player.
Williams attended spring training and played six games early in the 1952 season before returning to active duty. The Red Sox held “Ted Williams Day” in front of 24,764 fans at Fenway Park on April 30, 1952, the date of Williams’ last game before returning to duty. The Red Sox pledged to pay Williams the full salary of $ 85,000 for 1952, and friends offered the slugger a Cadillac.
“I’ve always thought that one of the best things that could happen to a baseball player was to have a day for him or her, and being honored today with so little fanfare makes me feel humbly honored, “Williams said in a speech to the Game.” I had no idea in 1938 that I was joining such a wonderful organization and had to be with such a great landlord. I wish I could stay all summer because I I’m sure the Sox will surprise a lot of people. I really hope you, the fans, stick with them. It’s a day that I will remember for as long as I live, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. “
In typical Williams fashion, the slugger hit a decisive two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, propelling Boston to a 5-3 victory over the Tigers.
He didn’t get another appearance on the MLB set until August 6, 1953.
In total, Williams has spent nearly five full seasons of his career serving in the military rather than playing for the Red Sox. Here are his game totals for 1942-44 and 1952-53.
1942: 0 games
1943: 0 games
1944: 0 games
1952: 6 Games
1953: 37 games
That’s 43 games in total over five seasons. And those were choice years, spanning his 24-year-old to 26-year-old season as well as his 33 and 34-year-old seasons.
To be clear, Williams’ numbers are exceptional and his place in baseball history is assured. He won two MVP awards and had 2,654 hits, 2,021 walks, 521 homers and 525 doubles while hitting .344 / .482 / .634. He hit .406 in 1941, making him the last hitting qualifier to end a season averaging .400 or better. Many consider him to be the best hitter who ever lived.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder what Williams’ numbers would have looked like without the interruptions. The two times that Williams has been on duty, he hasn’t missed a beat.
In his first season after WWII, Williams won his first MVP Award, finishing with 38 home runs, 123 RBIs and an average of .342 and leading the Majors in OBP (.497), strokes (.667), walks (156) and performs (142) over 150 games.
Returning from the Korean War in 1953, Williams played 37 games (26 starts) for Boston in the home stretch and produced a .407 / .509 / .901 slash line and 13 home runs. He missed time with a broken collarbone the following season, but in 117 games he averaged .345 with 29 home runs while leading the MLB in OBP (.513) and OPS (1.148) .
And remember, he did all of this after participating in active combat. During his tour of duty in Korean, Williams flew 39 missions and was hit three times in combat. In fact, he had to perform a forced landing after his plane suffered damage on its first mission.
Future astronaut and US Senator John Glenn was in the same squadron as Williams.
“He hasn’t escaped his duty at all,” Glenn said of Williams. âHe went in there and dug them up like everyone else. âHe never mentioned baseball unless someone else mentioned it. He was there to do a job. We all were. He was just one of the guys.
In 1953, Williams was hospitalized with pneumonia and diagnosed with an inner ear infection which disqualified him from his pilot duties. He was released from the Marines on July 28, 1953, and was back with the Red Sox less than two weeks later.
Considering his performance coming back from each of his shifts, it is no exaggeration to project that Williams would have been formidable in the years he missed as well. While it’s impossible to know exactly how he would have performed, we can get an idea of ââthe production he lost based on what he actually did before and after his military service.
Here are Williams’ average numbers over the four full seasons before (1939-1942) and after (1946-49) his service in World War II, and the four full seasons before (1948-1951) and after (1954-57). ) his Korean War Service.
Williams’ middle season, 1939-42 and 1946-49:
148 G, 186 H, 33 HR, 130 RBI, 138 BB, 9.0 bWAR
Williams’ middle season, 1948-51 and 1954-57:
127 G, 151 H, 31 HR, 106 RBI, 120 BB, 7.3 bWAR
By extrapolating these numbers, we can project the statistics Williams might have displayed in the nearly five full years he missed.
444 G, 558 H, 99 HR, 390 RBI, 414 BB, 27.0 bWAR
254 G, 302 H, 62 HR, 212 RBI, 240 BB, 14.6 bWAR
698 G, 860 H, 161 HR, 602 RBI, 654 BB, 41.6 bWAR
If we merge these hypothetical numbers with Williams’ actual numbers (subtracting his actual 44-game performances in 1952-53 to avoid double-counting those years), it is clear that Williams would most likely have achieved some incredibly rare statistical numbers. ‘he had not been called up for military service.
We’re talking about 3,400 hits, 660 home runs, 2,400 RBIs, 2,600 walks, 6,000 base hits and 160 bWAR.
Here is how many players have reached these marks.
3,400 calls: 8
660 circuits: 6
2,400 RBI: 0
2,600 walks: 0
6,000 times based on: 0
160 bWAR: 4
In fact, Williams lost over 300 hits under 3,000, and he didn’t join the 500 home run club until his last season in 1960. Teddy Ballgame remained a strike force until the very close, ending the year with a 1,096 OPS and homering in his last at bat.