Ted Williams draws 2,000th career walk

Written by: Kristen Gowdy

There is little debate that Ted Williams was one of the best hitters ever. His numbers speak for themselves.

“Ted was the greatest hitter of our era,” Hall of Famer Stan Musial said. “He loved talking about hitting. He studied hitting and pitchers. He was the greatest.”

But his .344 lifetime batting average, 1,839 RBI and 521 career home runs were only part of what made Williams so fearsome at the plate.

“He had the greatest pair of eyes I ever saw,” said former big league pitcher George Pipgras. “I never saw him swing at a bad ball.”

The player nicknamed The Splendid Splinter led the American League in bases on balls eight times in his 19-year career with the Boston Red Sox, and on Aug. 20, 1960, he drew his 2,000th career walk. At the time, the only other player to have reached that milestone was Babe Ruth.

The walk came in Williams’ first at bat in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Williams led the Red Sox to an 8-6 victory with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, including six RBI, two home runs and three runs scored in front of 17,437 fans at Fenway Park.

Boston finished the 1960 season with an unremarkable 65-89 overall record. Williams, however, was a bright spot: In 113 games, Williams hit .316 with 29 home runs and earned an All-Star berth, the 17th of his career.

Ted Williams, nicknamed The Splendid Splinter, led the American League in bases on balls eight times in his 19-year career with the Boston Red Sox. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

He retired following the 1960 season with 2,021 career walks, which ranked second all-time behind the Great Bambino’s 2,062 until Rickey Henderson broke Ruth’s record with 2,190. Today, Williams is fourth on the all-time list behind Ruth, Henderson and Barry Bonds, who holds the all-time mark with 2,558 career walks.

“After Bobby Doerr left the Red Sox, I told my Yankee pitchers never to throw the ball over the plate to Mr. Williams,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said. “We tried to get him to go for the ball but his judgment standing sideways was better than the umpires’ standing straight.”

In 1966, Williams earned enshrinement in Cooperstown as just the second player ever to win two batting Triple Crowns, doing so in 1942 and 1947. His career .482 on base percentage is the best in big league history.

His goal was to be the greatest hitter that ever lived, and some argue that he was.

But by the time Williams’ career ended, he was also regarded as one of the most disciplined and patient batters to have ever played the game.

“I’ll never forget Ted coming to the plate,” former big league pitcher Gene Conley said. “You talk about a guy putting you back on your heels on the mound. He dug in, and he looked so big up there and the bat looked so light in his hands… Confidence just oozed out of him. He took something away from you even before you threw a pitch.”

Kristen Gowdy was the 2014 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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