On this day in in 1942, Red Sox legend Ted Williams enlisted in the United States Navy a little more than five months after Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese forces and the U.S. entered World War II as a result.
At the time of his joining the Navy reserves voluntarily, Williams was 31 games into what would turn out to be a superb 1942 campaign.
The Kid was coming off a 3-for-5 effort in Cleveland the day before his enlistment, raising his slash line on the year to a robust .319/.458/.611 to go along with nine home runs and 37 RBI.
Despite being exempt from the draft due to his mother’s dependence on him, Williams faced criticism from fans and media alike as his courage was put into question.
Still, even though he didn’t have to, Williams, who was 23 at the time, enlisted in the Navy on May 22nd and was sworn in that same day.
From there, the Splendid Splinter went on to finish second in 1942 American League MVP voting behind Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon despite winning the Triple Crown and leading the junior circuit in several offensive categories.
The Red Sox finished second in the American League that year, and in November, Williams was called into active duty.
For the next three years, in what would have been his age-24, 25, and 26 seasons, Williams never saw any live combat, but he did spend his time training, eventually earning his wings and Marine Corps commission in 1944 and attending flight school in Florida for a few years before being discharged in January 1946.
Williams re-joined the Sox that spring and picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He was however recalled to military service later on in 1952, serving as a Marine Corps captain and member of the first Marine Air Wing during the Korean War.