Teddy Samuel Williams was born August 30, 1918, in San Diego, California. He grew up in a family which loved baseball and his uncle taught him how to play the game when he was only eight years old. Showing great promise in high school, the young Williams was actively recruited by Major League teams such as the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Williams decided to stay in San Diego, playing for his local minor league club, the Padres.
In 1939, Williams joined the Boston Red Sox and the rest was history. He excelled with his new club from the very beginning, placing fourth in league Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting in his rookie year. In 1941, Williams batted a .406 average, a feat which has never been repeated in professional baseball. Williams finished the season with 37 home runs, 120 runs batted in (RBI), and a slugging percentage of .735. Williams’ heroics on the field earned him several nicknames over the years, including “The Thumper,” “The Splendid Splinter,” “The Kid,” and “Teddy Ballgame.”
Beyond his heroic contributions to America’s pastime, Williams was a U.S. Veteran and enlisted in the military in 1942, after the U.S. entered World War II. He joined the Navy Reserve on May 22, 1942, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps as a Naval Aviator in 1944. Williams was part of only 10 percent of Navy fliers to earn their wings, graduating at the top of his class at the Pensacola Naval Air Base. Refusing to play on a service team, he chose combat and refused the chance at discharge.
After his service to his country, Williams returned to playing baseball at the highest level for the Red Sox, breaking numerous records and earning the highest honors in the sport. In 1946 and 1949, he was named the American League’s MVP and in June 1960, became the fourth player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs. Williams was selected to the All-Star Team a total of 17 times.
In 1952, Williams was recalled to the military to participate in the Korean War conflict. He joined the Third Marine Air Wing, 223rd Squadron. Williams participated in numerous flying missions during his second stint in the military. He was hit by enemy fire during a mission over Kyomipo, Korea but safely crash-landed uninjured, flying again the very next day. Williams flew a total of 39 missions and earned numerous military accolades and medals during his military tenure. He left the military in 1953 as a result of personal health issues.
Following his military career, Williams returned to baseball until 1960. In the final at-bat of his career, he hit his 521st home run. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, in his first year of eligibility. Ted Williams passed away on July 5, 2002.
We honor your service, Ted.
Graphic designer: Dominique Ramirez
Editor: Ben Szalinski