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Richard Hoffer
July 19, 1993
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July 19, 1993

Williams Does It!


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American League

National League

Ted Williams, Bos


Pete Reiser, Bkn


Cecil Travis, Was


Johnny Cooney, Bos


Joe DiMaggio, NY


Joe Medwick, Bkn


Jeff Heath, Cle


Stan Hack, Chi


Dick Siebert, Phi


Johnny Mize, Stl


Barney McCosky, Det


Floyd Vaughan, Pit


Sam Chapman, Phi


Nick Etten, Phi


Taft Wright, Chi


Dixie Walker, Bkn


Roy Cullenbine, Stl


Enos Slaughter, Stl


Luke Appling, Chi


James Brown, Stl



PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 28, 1941—You can say this about the Kid: He does some damage. He hit a shot here today in Shibe Park that punched a hole in one of Connie Mack's loudspeaker horns way out there in right center. You add that bit of destruction to all the lights he took out in Fenway last year while he was taking target practice with a .22 on the 400-foot sign, and you've got to admit that Ted Williams is a player who brings a lot of overhead to the ballpark. If the Kid continues to dismantle American League stadiums piece by piece, well, the boys in the press box will have to come up with another nickname for him—maybe the Splendid Splinter or some such. (Hey, you heard it here first.)

Of course, if the Kid turns in a couple more .400 seasons like this one for Boston, Mr. Tom Yawkey will gladly pay Mr. Mack for the horn, even on top of the $18,000 salary he pays Williams. And don't be surprised to see the Red Sox owner give his young slugger a raise. It's well known that Mr. Yawkey thinks the world of the Kid—just last year the two spent a couple afternoons together shooting pigeons inside Fenway with 20-gauge shotguns.

But on Sunday against the last-place Athletics in Philadelphia, in a season-ending doubleheader, Williams worked alone and used no firepower other than his Louisville Slugger. Including that bolt off the speaker on the right-center wall (after the game, Williams said it was the hardest he'd ever hit a ball), he was 6 for 8 in the twin bill and—whew!—finished the season with a .406 average. Keep in mind, it's been 11 years since anyone topped that magic mark; the last was Bill Terry, who batted .401 back in 1930 for the New York Giants.

Williams, who's just 23 and looks like he has a few more .400 seasons ahead of him, provided more drama in getting this .400 than he would have liked. He was hitting as high as .438 in June and .414 in mid-August, and people were wondering if he'd break Hugh Duffy's record of .440, set before the turn of the century. That was the big question.

When all was said and done today, Williams broke no records and made little news—not like Joe DiMaggio did with his 56-game hitting streak earlier this season. But we've been watching the Kid three years now, and the boys knew Williams would hit .400 before DiMaggio. Hey, even during the Yankee Clipper's great streak, Williams outhit him .412 to .408.

But the Kid cooled with the weather, and in a recent 10-day stretch he dropped nearly a point a day. With only the final three games in Philadelphia left to play, he stood at .401. That meant he'd need to go 5 for 12 to finish at .400. That's just the way things stood. Trust us. Some of the boys figured it out.

The two off days before the last series gave all of us too much time to think. Some of the writers played with the numbers, and within a day one of them had discovered that Williams would dip below .400 as soon as he went 0 for 2. Decimal points were being carried out so many places that the sports page looked like a science journal. Even Joe Cronin, the Red Sox manager, was agonizing. The pennant race, of course, ended weeks ago as the Yankees ran away with it, and Boston had already clinched second. So Cronin thought about not playing Williams at all in Philly. In fact, he approached the Kid on Friday and offered to sit him out, to protect that .401. But Williams told Cronin to pass the word that he wouldn't take any mollycoddling.

Still, the skipper was in a dither. Cronin gathered some of us in the lobby before Saturday's game and announced his plans. He said, "You've got to admire the kid for being so courageous, but if he gets his hits, I may yank him in the second game Sunday."

On Friday, Williams went with a catcher and a coach to Shibe Park and took extra batting practice, experimenting with the placement of his right foot, pointing the toe toward second base one time and more toward third another. A Phill writer thought that was a sign of desperation and wrote, "He's worried, though you can't get him to say so. He must be a little on the panic side."

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