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Monday, September 26, 2011

Ted Williams: did he sulk in his tent in 1956, too?

I have documented how Ted Williams quit at the end of two seasons: 1951 and 1960.  See:

Ted Williams in 1951 Red Sox games 142-150 ... and abandoning his team.  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2011

I just noticed that he may have also done this in 1956.

At the end of the 1956 season the 37 year old Williams had very little to play for.  The Yankees had clinched the pennant and Williams had blown his late season BA lead over the 24 year old Yankee phenom Mickey Mantle who was limping towards the triple crown, which Williams had accomplished the two most recent times.  This must have galled Williams, especially since his Red Sox played the Yankees in six of the final eight games of 1956 and Williams blew his BA lead mostly against the Yankees.

Mantle must have been injured because manager Casey Stengel had Mickey PH in six of the final seven Yankee games, including two of the the last three at Yankee Stadium against Boston.   When Mantle reached base as a PH Stengel would remove him for a pinch runner even though Mantle was the fastest man in MLB.

Friday September 21, 1956 Williams BA entering the series in Boston was .355, Mantle's .350.  In those three games against the Yankees Williams went:
2 for 4 .356
0 for 4 .353
0 for 3 .350

3 for 5 .352
2 for 3 .354
1 for 1 .356

After two games against Washington Williams was still at .350 heading to New York for the final three games series.  Mantle PH three times in Baltimore: BB, 0 for 2, .354.

Friday September 28, 1956 (Yankees won 7-2):
Williams 0 for 3: .348 (2 GDP)
Mantle 1 for 4 (HR 52): .353

Saturday September 29, 1956 (Red Sox won 7-5 in 13 innings):
Williams 1 for 6: .345 (GDP.  After Williams grounded into a force play in the 12th, Faye Throneberry replaced Ted Williams playing LF batting 3rd in the 13th.)
Mantle: .353 (PH bases loaded BB for game tieing RBI in 8th)

Sunday September 30, 1956  (Red Sox won 7-4 in 10 innings)::
Williams BB with bases loaded, no out first inning; Gene Stephens pinch runs for Ted Williams: .345
Mantle 0 for 1: .353 (Mantle pinch hits for Jim Coates in 9th; ground out, game tieing RBI.)

Mantle had one RBI in each of his last three games.  He needed them.  Al Kaline of Detroit had two RBI in each of his final two games to finish with 128, second to Mantle's 130.  Mantle led by 20 in HR: 52 to Vic Wertz 32.  If anything Mantle needed to play to ensure that he would lead AL in RBI in order to win his triple crown.

Why did Williams leave after only one plate appearance?  Did he think he could still catch Mantle if he went 4 for 4 and Mantle 0 for 4?  When Mantle was not in the starting lineup another 0 for 1 would not drop Mantle's BA below .353.

Had Williams gone 4 for 4: 142 / 404 = 0.351485149

If Mantle had merely gone 0 for 2: 188 / 535 = 0.351401869

Williams would have beaten Mantle.  Did Williams leave the final game in the first inning because his BB combined with Mantle's absence from the starting lineup meant that Williams could not catch Mantle?

If so, what does that say about Ted Williams?

Williams had highest AL BA in 1941, 1942 (triple crown), 1947 (triple crown), 1948.  Williams had career highs 43 HR and 159 RBI in 1949 but lost by the slimmest margin of anyone winning 2 of 3 triple crown categories.  George Kell of Detroit led AL in BA over Williams by .05%:

.000155693649 difference

Williams knew how those decimal points worked.

Williams was injured in 1950 and played only 89 games.  In 1951 Williams .318 BA was a distant fourth to Philadelphia As Ferris Fain's .344.  Williams missed most of 1952 and 1953 with his second stint of military service.  In 1954 Williams played in only 117 games with 386 AB and AL leading 136 BB.  In 1955 Williams played in only 98 games as twenty year old Al Kaline led AL in BA with .340.  The qualifying standard from 1945-1956 was:

"2.6 at bats per team game ... from 1951-1954 a player could lead if they still led after the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to their at bat total"

For Boston in 1954 that meant 2.6*154=400.4.  Williams had 14 fewer AB to qualify.  Adding those 14 AB would have given Williams this: 133/400=.3325.  Bobby Avila of Cleveland had .341 BA; Williams .345.

So in 1956 Williams barely qualified with his 400 AB.  Note: Williams also had 102 BB.

With his Red Sox not competitive after 1951 what else did Ted Williams have to play for except leading AL in BA, the gold standard in those days.  Losing to the Mercurial Mantle who resorted to bunting to break a slump only made matters worse.

Ted Williams exacted revenge the very next season.  In 1957 Mantle had his second consecutive aberrant BA with a career best .365 but that was a distant second to the .388 posted by Williams at age 38.  In 1957 Williams had 420 AB, 119 BB, 546 PA.  The new qualifying standard was:

"3.1 plate appearances per team game"  For Boston that was 3.1*154=477.4.  Williams 546 PA far exceeded the requirement.

Williams led AL in BA for the final time in 1958 with .328 beating teammate Pete Runnels .322.  Mantle dropped back to his norm with .304: 7th in AL.

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