Also considered: Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio
The 40’s were a decade marred by World War II causing most players to miss entire seasons at a time while serving in the war. Ted Williams ended up missing the seasons from 1943-45 flying fighter jets and yet still runs away as the player of the decade. The Splendid Splinter is often thought of as the greatest pure hitter the game has ever seen. He also remains the most recent man to hit over .400 (.406) in a single season back in 1941. Which was coincidentally the same season that Dimaggio’s illustrious 56-game hitting streak occurred as well. And while that may seem like an indictment of the pitcher’s back in the 40’s, it’s not. Bob Feller and Hal Newhouser could pitch on any team or era in history.
Teddy Ballgame was astonishing in just seven seasons throughout the 40’s posting a decade triple slash of .356/.496/.647 (batting average/on-base/ops). Which only serves as the appetizer to what he did across the entire decade:
- Seven seasons over .300 Average
- Six seasons with a .490+ OBP (.553 in ’41)
- Seven seasons with a 1.000+ ops (18 of his 19 seasons he achieved this feat)
- Four straight seasons with an OPS+ above 200
- Seven 120+ Runs seasons
- Seven 110+ RBI seasons
- Five 30+ HR seasons
- Six seasons finishing in the Top 3 MVP voting
- 65.5 WAR
- 9.4 WAR average
- Three straight 10+ WAR seasons
- 10.9 WAR in ’41, 10.1 WAR in ’42, 10.5 WAR in ’46
(.356/.496/.647, 1,303 H, 234 HR, 893 RBI, 951 R)
*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1930-39*
“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”
The thing was that over the decade (and pretty much his entire career) Ted wasn’t just succeeding three times out of ten. He was steadily sitting at a five out of ten clip. I wish I had the words to convey the magnitude of what he did. I’ll instead just continue to list off some of his accolades throughout the decade. In 1942 and 1947, Williams won the American League Triple Crown. In 1946 and 1949, Williams was named the league MVP. So he twice won the Triple Crown and on separate occasions won the MVP. That’s 4/7’s of his seasons right there..
All of this only touches on 7 of his 19 phenomenal seasons. He posted a 1.000 OPS season in the last year of his career at the age of 41. And while many look at his career in wonderment because of the seasons lost to the wars, I tend to take a different perspective. He saw the importance of what was at stake and never backed down. No matter the challenge at hand. He served his country first and foremost. Then came back and served the game of baseball. And for that, my cap goes off to your Ted.
Ted Williams comes in as the fifth selection to my Player of the Decade team. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day. Tomorrow will be the 1950’s.