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.