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: 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.

Chase d’Arnaud Is One of the Greatest Red Sox Hitters of All Time

When you think of great hitters that have donned a Red Sox uniform over the course of the franchise’s storied history, names that first come to mind probably include legends such as Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Nomar Garciaparra.

As revered as those three individuals are, there’s probably one former Red Sox player you weren’t thinking of. His name? Chase d’Arnaud.

You might be thinking to yourself, Chase d’Arnaud only played two games with the Red Sox a few seasons ago. How could he possibly be regarded as one of the best hitters in the franchise’s history?

Well, I’ll tell you why that is. d’Arnaud owns a career 1.000 batting average with the Red Sox. It’s that simple. According to FanGraphs, six players have accomplished that feat and d’Arnaud is the only one who wasn’t a pitcher. Boom.

Claimed off waivers by Boston from the Atlanta Braves on April 27th, 2017, d’Arnaud made his Red Sox debut on May 7th as a pinch-runner and scored a run in a 17-6 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Two days later, d’Arnaud, then 29, got his first plate appearance with the Red Sox in Milwaukee, when he pinch-hit for Drew Pomeranz in the top half of the sixth inning.

Facing off against Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta, d’Arnaud reached on an infield single and came in to score on a Mookie Betts RBI double a few moments later.

The very next half inning, d’Arnaud’s day came to an end with Fernando Abad entering the game in relief of Pomeranz.

d’Arnaud did not appear in another game in any capacity for the Red Sox and on May 18th, he was designated for assignment to make room for right-hander Hector Velazquez.

In total, the California native went 1-for-1 with that single and two runs scored in his brief tenure with the Red Sox. That’s good for an OPS+ of 430 and a wRC+ of 474. Not too shabby when you don’t think about the number of plate appearances. Hall of Fame numbers, really.

So, without taking qualifications into consideration, Chase d’Arnaud really is one of the best hitters the Red Sox have ever seen.