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: 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.