On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Raises Batting Average Over .400 for First Time in 1941

On this day in 1941, Red Sox legend Ted Williams went 4-for-5 at the plate with one double and two RBI as part of a 10-3 victory for Boston over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Entering that Sunday, Williams owned a .383/.473/.606 slash line through his first 28 contests of the 1941 campaign. The four-hit showing raised his batting average on the season to a robust .404. It would never fall below the .393 mark again for the remainder of the year.

Yes, when all was said and done in 1941 and the Sox finished with the second-best record in the American League, The Kid owned the best batting average in all of baseball at .406, securing his first of six career batting titles.

Over the course of 143 games played that year, Williams led the junior circuit in hitting (.406), on-base percentage (.533), slugging (.735), home runs (37), runs scored (135), and wRC+ (221). He finished just a handful of RBI short of winning the Triple Crown, but the fact that Williams was statistically the best player in the AL did not result in an uptick in MVP votes.

Instead, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio was named the American’s League Most Valuable Player, in part because of a mid-season hitting streak that spanned 56 games, and he beat out Williams by a fairly wide margin.

That may have been the case because at the time, hitting for a high average was not exactly a rarity in baseball.

By hitting .406 in 1941, Williams became the ninth player since 1871 to surpass the .400 plateau in a single season. Since that time, as you may already be aware, no player has batted .400 or better over the course of a full season. In other words, The Splendid Splinter is the last major-league hitter to bat over .400.

“I hope somebody hits .400 soon,” Williams once said sometime after accomplishing the feat. “Then people can start pestering that guy with questions about the last guy to hit .400.”

It hasn’t happened yet, and it probably won’t happen anytime soon, either. Since the turn of the century, the closest any player has gotten to hitting .400 was Nomar Garciaparra, who batted .372 in 2000, and Ichiro Suzuki, who also batted .372 in 2004.

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Enlists in U.S. Navy

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.

For more on Williams, click here, here, and here.

 

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Pedro Martinez Leads off With Immaculate Inning

On this day in 2002, Red Sox right-hander Pedro Martinez took the mound at Fenway Park for his eighth start of the season, this one coming against the 29-12 Seattle Mariners.

Entering that dreary and cold evening in Boston, Martinez owned a 4-0 record to go along with a 3.49 ERA and .616 OPS against through his first seven starts and 38 2/3 innings pitched of the ’02 campaign.

As indicated by their record, the Mariners were a pretty decent club up to this point in the 2002 season. They had just taken two out of three from Boston in Seattle the previous weekend and took the opener of the three-game set at Fenway the day before Pedro took the hill.

That said, Martinez dominated the M’s in the Sox’ lone win in the Emerald city, and he followed suit with another impressive outing in his third consecutive start against an American League West foe on that faithful Saturday.

What was even more splendid about this performance from Martinez was how he led it off: With an immaculate inning.

That’s right, by getting Ichiro Suzuki, Mark McLemore, and Ruben Sierra to all fan on three pitches each, the Dominican national became the 11th pitcher in American League history to record an immaculate frame. In other words, three batters faced, nine pitches thrown, and three punchouts. Not too shabby.

That set the tone for Martinez to best the Mariners once more, as he went on to surrender just one run over eight solid innings while scattering six hits and one HBP to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

Improving to 6-0 on the year thanks to this start, Martinez went on to finish second in American League Cy Young voting and 20th in AL MVP voting in 2002.

Since Martinez accomplished the feat on this day 18 years ago, Clay Buccholz, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale have been the only Red Sox pitchers to also toss an immaculate inning, with Sale doing it on two separate occasions last season.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Luis Tiant Signs With Boston

On this day in 1971, the Red Sox signed free-agent right-hander Luis Tiant to a minor-league contract.

Tiant, 30 at the time, had just been released by the Braves two days earlier after Atlanta refused to promote him to the majors.

The beginning of the 1971 campaign was eventful for Tiant. He had been diagnosed with a crack in a bone in his right shoulder the year prior and missed ten weeks of the 1970 season because of it.

Entering 1971 as a member of the Twins organization, Tiant missed two weeks of spring training due to a pulled muscle in his rib cage and was subsequently released by Minnesota in late March.

As previously mentioned, the Braves picked the veteran righty up on what was then called a 30-day trial contract with their Triple-A affiliate in Richmond.

That experiment did not work out however, as Atlanta eventually cut Tiant loose on May 15th. He was on the open market for just two days before the Red Sox acquired his services on the 17th.

Tiant’s Red Sox tenure began in Louisville home of the Sox’ Triple-A affilate at the time,, where he posted a 2.61 ERA over 31 innings of work, which was good enough to earn him a call up to Boston on June 3rd.

The Cuba national’s first major-league experience with the Sox did not go so well as he went just 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA over 21 appearances (10 starts) and 72 1/3 innings of work in ’71.

Fortunately though, El Tiante would wind up being one of the better starting pitchers of the decade in his time with the Red Sox.

From 1972 until 1978, Tiant owned an ERA of 3.30, an ERA+ of 121, and a FIP of 3.50 over 253 outings (228 starts) and 1,702 1/3 total innings pitched. Per FanGraphs, he was the 14th-most valuable starting pitcher in baseball during that time period in terms of fWAR (28.0) while compiling two All-Star appearances and three top-six finishes in American League Cy Young voting.

In his lone postseason action with Boston in 1975, the Red Sox won all four games Tiant started in against the Athletics and Reds, although they did go on to fall to Cincinnati in the World Series that year.

Following the 1978 season, Tiant inked a two-year deal with the Yankees and went on to also pitch for the Pirates and Angels before calling it quits in 1982.

Inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997, Tiant currently serves as a special assignment instructor for the club.

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Bobby Doerr Walks It off in First Televised Game at Fenway Park

On this day in 1948, the Red Sox played their first televised game at Fenway Park.

According to author Ed Walton, WBZ-TV, which was affiliated with NBC at the time, “tried out [experimental] cameras for the first time at Fenway” on that day with “few homes equipped yet with the expensive [television] sets.

There were two cameras used at Fenway, per TSN, and each was worth around $10,000. One camera was pointed towards the infield from behind home plate, while the other was pointed in the same direction from along the first base line.

The Red Sox, entering that Wednesday with a record of 8-11 on the young season, were playing host to the even worse-off White Sox in front of slightly over 8,200 spectators at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. I’m not sure how many were watching from home, but based off what Walton stated above, I’d say not many.

Nine full innings was not enough to decide this particular contest, as both sides headed to extras knotted up at three runs a piece.

That stalemate would not last long though, with Chicago jumping out to a 5-3 advantage on a two-out, two-run double off the bat of Bob Kennedy before Sox right-hander Cot Deal relieved Denny Galehouse and escaped the top half of the 10th without giving anything else up.

Down to their final three outs and at risk of falling to 8-12 on the year, Ted Williams got things started in his side’s half of the 10th by drawing a leadoff walk off White Sox reliever Earl Harrist.

The Splendid Splinter advanced all the way to third on a one-out single courtesy of Wally Moses, and just like that, the winning run came to the plate in the form of franchise legend Bobby Doerr.

Coming into that at-bat, Doerr was a lifetime .250 hitter (1-for-4) against Harrist, with that one hit being a triple.

This time around though, Doerr made sure to touch all the bases, as he took the White Sox right-hander deep to left for a three-run home run, plating Williams, Moses, and himself on his third home run of the season.

The walkoff blast improved the Sox’ record on the year to 9-11, and they would go on to have an exceptional season.

Although it’s not clear how well this game went in terms of television ratings or anything, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WNAC-TV (Channel 7) did begin regularly broadcasting both Boston Braves and Red Sox games beginning that June.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Dom DiMaggio Lifts Sox to 15th Straight Win

On this day in 1946, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to a franchise-best 15 games in a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Playing in front of over 64,000 fans in the Bronx, the Sox jumped out to an early three-run lead in the top half of the second on back-to-back two-out run-scoring hits from Joe Dobson, that day’s starter for Boston, and George Metkovich off Yankees right-hander Red Ruffing.

Fast forward to the bottom half of the fifth, with the Yankees lineup turning over for a second time, and Dobson began to waver on the mound.

The right-hander allowed the first three hitters he faced in the frame to reach base via a catcher’s interference, a single, and a walk to fill the bases for vaunted Yankees cleanup man and future Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

Heading into his third at-bat of the day 1-for-2 with a third inning single, DiMaggio came through with what could have been the biggest hit of the day this time around, as the 31-year-old crushed a grand slam deep to right field to simultaneously put his side up a run while also ending Dobson’s outing.

From there, Sox reliever Earl Johnson entered in the fifth and held the Bronx Bombers in check the rest of the way.

An inning and a half after Joltin’ Joe had crushed that grand slam, Boston came into the top half of the seventh trailing by one with just nine more outs to work with.

Facing off against Yanks reliever Joe Page, franchise legend Bobby Doerr led things off for a walk, setting up first baseman Rudy York to drive him in from first on an RBI triple down the left field line.

That brought up another franchise legend to the plate in the form of Dom DiMaggio, Joe’s brother, with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away from home.

The Little Professor delivered in the clutch, driving in York from third with a run-scoring single to right to make it a 5-4 contest, which would go on to be the final score on that faithful Friday evening.

The one-run victory extended the Red Sox’ winning streak to 15 consecutive games and improved their record on the year to an outstanding 21-3. The streak came to an unfortunate end one day later at the hands of the Yankees, but Boston did go on to win the American League pennant that year.