Originally written on New England Sports React  |  Last updated 10/20/14

12 Jul 1999: Ted Williams the Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer throws out the first pitch as he stands next to Tony Gwynn of the National League Team is in action during the 1999 MLB All-Star Game against the American League Team at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The American League Team defeated the National League Team 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport

It was 71 years ago to the day that “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams surpassed a .400 batting average, collecting six hits in eight at-bats in a double-header against the Philadelphia Athletics on the final day of the regular season. Williams ended the season hitting .406, the numbers after which the infamous glassed-in club behind home plate at Fenway was previously named. The feat has yet to have been accomplished since. The fact that over 70 years of baseball have passed without .400 being reached by another player magnifies the greatness of Williams’ accomplishment, as well as highlighting his personal greatness as a baseball player. The man won two Triple Crowns, for crying out loud; it’s doubtful that this will ever be replicated by another player. Since his final Triple Crown in 1947, only one player has earned the honor (Carl Yazstremski in 1978). Miguel Cabrera is currently on the verge, however, leading in all of the major categories excluding home runs, one in which he trails Josh Hamilton by only one dinger. But back to Williams. I’ve heard tales from relatives and my father about his ability to hit a baseball, how he could literally see the seams on a ball before hitting it and used this ability to determine what kind of pitch was being thrown. Many refer to him as one of the greatest hitters of all-time, trailing Babe Ruth in the discussion due to the disparity in their statistics. Williams was in the service for five seasons, however, and given that time back I’m sure he would’ve surpassed 600 home runs and ultimately earned more notoriety. Playing in Yankee Stadium, heck, I’m sure he could’ve surpassed 700 home runs as the Babe did with that short right field porch. Williams instead played in Fenway, who’s right field fence is just 302 feet away right down the line but extends out to 380 in right-center and 420 in deep right-center. It’s likely that many a home run was lost due to this fact. Despite the lost home runs, however, Williams is still widely regarded for his ability to hit the ball incredibly well. His power came from his lanky figure and bat speed along with his sweet-spot stroking, a mechanically-sound swing rarely seen in today’s home run hungry league. Williams will forever be known as the greatest left-handed hitter in Red Sox history, and his .406 average is an impressive accomplishment that to this day deserves significant recognition.

-Ryan Hartley

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