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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ted Williams: the mythology of the final games of 1941.

See data.

The Ted Williams mythology had two components:
1. Williams did not need to play on the final day of the 1941 season, because his batting average (BA) would round up to .400 and that would be recognized as .400.
2. Williams boldly and courageously batted in both games of a doubleheader in Philadelphia against the As, risking his .400 BA with each plate appearance (PA).

Neither of these is correct.

1. is contradicted by Williams own website.  See below.
2. is contradicted by the arithmetic.

From the Ted Williams website:

According to the mythology, Joe Cronin asked Ted if he wanted to sit
out the doubleheader ... The Boston Globe reported that he had fallen
below .400 ...

Didn’t Cronin know that? Of course he did. When you read the journals
of the day, you can see that the exchange quite probably took place a
day or two earlier, at a time when Ted was hitting .401. “If he’s over
.400 after two games, I may bench him,” Cronin was quoted as saying
during the first off day in Philadelphia. “Whether he likes it or


The real mystery is how Williams and/or Cronin made the mistake of letting Williams BA fall below .400 in the first place.

Williams was stumbling badly and he had three games remaining against Philadelphia.  Maybe in the first game he did not think that he would go 1 for 4.  That's what dropped him below .400.  That's why he had to play on the final day.  After going 2 for 3 in game 143 Williams BA was .41062801932367.  Boston played 155 games in 1941.

Sunday September 28, 1941 Williams BA before the final day doubleheader: .39955357142857.  The Philadelphia  As finished last: 64-90 .416.  The 1941 AL H/9 innings was 9.3.  Philadelphia had 10.0; only St. Louis Browns were worse: 10.1.

Starting for Philadelphia in game one of the doubleheader was 20 year old rookie right-hander 6' 4" Dick Fowler who was making his fourth MLB appearance and third start since Sept. 13, 15 days earlier.  Fowler pitched well in his debut: CG, 7 hits, one run (earned).  A week earlier in his second start Fowler went 8 innings: 9 hits, 6 runs (4 ER).

Had Williams gotten a hit in first PA of game 154 against 
Fowler then made out in his second PA his BA would have been .400 on the nose.  Boston player/manager Joe Cronin could have pulled Williams.  Once Williams went 2 for 2 he was playing with house money.  Continuing to bat was not a risk.  Here is how Williams BA changed that day:

Game one of doubleheader (game 154):

0.40089086859688 1 for 1
0.40222222222222 2 for 2 HR
0.40354767184035 3 for 3
0.40486725663717 4 for 4
0.40397350993377 4 for 5

Game two of doubleheader (game 155):

0.40528634361233 1 for 1
0.40659340659341 2 for 2
0.40570175438596 2 for 3

Williams did display courage that day but not the way that the myth suggests.  Williams needed courage to deal with the pressure and harness his talents to execute.  Getting that hit in his very first PA completely defused the situation.  Williams was home free, raising his BA above .400 where it could be monitored by his manager Joe Cronin who could and would have removed Williams in order to preserve that special achievement for which Williams is best known: the last batter with a .400 BA, not someone whose BA rounded up to .400.

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