Inside Pitch

Jan. 20, 1966: Ted Williams elected to Hall of Fame

By Samantha Carr
January 20, 2010

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Ted Williams lived up to his nickname at the plate. But during his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, the votes were anything but splintered.

Williams, often referred to as the “Splendid Splinter” for his hitting ability and his slender build, was the only player elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the election held 44 years ago this week: Jan. 20, 1966. He received 93.4 percent of the vote, good for the 18th-best percentage all-time.

Ted Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

But despite the fact that only one player was elected that year, that 1966 BBWAA ballot turned out to be one of the deepest ever. Of the 47 players on the ballot who were not elected that year, 18 of them have been elected since.

Williams spent 21 seasons in left field for the Boston Red Sox, and his career was twice interrupted by military service. He served in the Marine Corps in both World War II and the Korean War.

Despite missing almost five full seasons due to service, Williams set numerous hitting records and was named to 19 All-Star Games. A two-time American League MVP, Teddy Ballgame led the league in batting six times, slugging percentage nine times, total bases six times, run scored six times, walks eight times and won the Triple Crown twice. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting 10 other times.

“Ted (Williams) was the greatest hitter of our era,” said Hall of Famer Stan Musial. “He won six batting titles and served his country for five years, so he would have won more. He loved talking about hitting and was a great student of hitting and pitchers.”

A career .344 hitter, Williams was the last player to hit .400 in a season (in 1941 with an average of .406) and holds the highest career batting average of anyone with 500 or more home runs (521). He had 2,654 hits in his career and believed hitting was a science.

“He studied hitting the way a broker studies the stock market,” said Carl Yastrzemski.

He was also a student of history. During his Hall of Fame Induction speech, Williams campaigned for the election of Negro League players into the Hall of Fame.

“I hope that some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way could be added as a symbol of the great Negro players that are not here only because they were not given the chance.” he said.

Paige’s induction followed in 1971, and 34 Negro and pre-Negro leagues players and executives have since been elected.

“When Ted (Williams) was a young man, he often said it was his goal that people would say of him: ‘There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.’ Ted (Williams) fulfilled that dream,” said Commissioner Bud Selig.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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