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Baseball Analysis  John Holway


By John B Holway

Alex Rodriquez has passed Ted Williams on the exalted list of all-time home run hitters, and Manny Ramirez is waiting to be next in line.   A-Rod slugged #522 in April.  But it took two wars to do it.  I don't mean Iraq and Afghanistan.  I mean World War II and Korea.

          The Big War should have been the best years of Ted’s life.  He had just turned 24 when he left for Navy flight training at the end of the ’42 season.  He was already the second youngest. 400 hitter ever.  He had just won his first triple crown.  He had slugged more homers than anyone his age, ever. He was ready for his greatest seasons.         

Babe Ruth set records in each of the ages Ted would miss – hitting 29, 54, and 59.  Jimmie Foxx hit 58, Roger Maris 60. 

          At those ages, Ted was also breaking new records – on the aerial gunnery range at the Pensacola Naval Station.

When we compare Ted to all the other great hitters, we are comparing them at their peaks to Williams before and after his.

How many homers did Ted lose?

Babe Ruth hit no less than 237 home runs in Ted’s missing ages.  In the first three years, comparable to wm’ first stint in the Navy, Babe set new records each year with 29, 54, and 59.  In all five seasons he hit no less than 237.

A-Rod used the first three years to pop 41, 52, and 57 homers – 150 in all.  Without them, he would now be sitting on 377, or 144 behind, and still running to catch up.  And he wouldn't  be able to count any in 2010 and 2011, Ted’s Korean war ages.  He'll probably pass Ted sooner or later; it will just take him four or five years longer.

If every batter in history had missed the same five ages that Williams lost, he and Hank Aaron would be the only two over 500.  The leading home run hitters would be:

Aaron         578

Williams     507*

Ruth           477

Griffey, Jr.  441

Mays          439

Robinson   419

Mathews    414

Jackson     412

McCovey   407

Thomas     381


Murray        380

Rodriquez  377

Ott              374

Foxx           360

Killebrew    358

Mantle        352

Banks         342

Schmidt     340

Ramirez     312

Gehrig        298

* I have deducted 14 that Williams hit in two partial seasons during the Korean war years.


          I don't include Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa, because their careers were not typical.  They had their best seasons in their mid-to-late 30s.  Most other hitters hit their peaks at about the same ages Williams lost. 

I agree that Ruth lost many potential home runs when he was pitching in the Dead Ball era; otherwise he would be higher on the list.  Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize missed four years in Service, Joe DiMaggio three, and Mays one etc.  But none of them lost the same three big ages – 24 through 26 – that Ted missed.                

          The list is intended only to suggest what a huge hole those five ages would have left in the careers of everyone else.

          Aaron’s impressive  total is based on longevity.  On a home run per at bat basis, he is far behind Ted.  And of course nobody on the list batted 406.

I asked Williams about it in 1957 – believe it or not, no one else had asked him yet.  His answer surprised me.  “Just take my lifetime average and give me that.”

I protested.  Those weren't average years he lost.  Those were mountain-top years in almost every other sluggers’ lives.       For example, Roger Maris, a man with almost no previous home run credentials, suddenly shot up to 61 at the age of 26, the last year Ted spent in World War II.  Could  Ted have done it?

He shook his head firmly:  “I had that park against me.”

I also believe Williams could have hit .400 at least once in the missing five seasons, maybe more.  He was the second youngest 400-hitter when he entered the Navy (Joe Jackson was a few months younger).  In Williams’ first three missing years, Ty Cobb, who had never batted.400 before in his life, hit .420, .410, and .390.  Rogers Hornsby also reached .400 and averaged .385.  Why couldn't Ted have done it?

Furthermore, the Red Sox might have won two pennants in those years.  The Sox players were about three years younger than the Yankees, man for man, and they were just coming into their peak seasons, as the Yanks were just passing their peaks.  The Cardinals proved that by beating New York in five games in the ’42 Series, and the Sox confirmed it by beating them by 17 games in the 1946 season.

The Curse of the Bambino should really be called “The Curse of World War II.”

Imagine Williams in two, maybe even three, World Series in the little bandboxes of Brooklyn or St Louis, with all the publicity that would have brought him!    

After listening to me, Ted interrupted.  “I don't want to take anything away from what other guys did,” Ted said. 

But, he admitted, “some day I'd like to put up a plaque on a rec room wall of all the home run hitters in history, and put me down where I'd be if there hadn't been any wars.”

Where do you you think he would rank?


“If you think you've read everything about Ted Williams, think again.  I knew him for 65  years since we were friends in high school, and I've never read any book like this one.  Holway has new facts and statistics and pictures on almost every page.  He spent hours talking to Ted and found out things Ted never told anyone else.  Most people don’t know that he was half-Mexican or how his uncles taught him to play, and even I didn't know that he called his shots on at least 17 home runs.  There’s a lot of new stuff on his battles with the writers, his famous All Star Game home run, Joe DiMaggio’s streak, and about Cobb, Sisler, Hornsby, and other .400 hitters.  This book really brings the man and that era to life.  It’s a box seat ticket to history.”  Bob Breitbart, director, San Diego Hall of Champions.


“Well done.   There were plenty of people who racked Ted up and wanted to bring out the bad in the guy.  He had a lot of pressure on him, but he was a really compassionate guy.  Holway has told it like it is.”  Bobby Doerr, Hall of Fame, Red Sox 1938-50.


 “The ballplayers all loved Ted.  He was a great hitter, a great human being, and a great friend.  Holway’s book captures the spirit of those years – absolutely.  Reading it is like being there in person.  Every serious baseball fan should have it in his library or on his coffee table.”  Bob Feller, Hall of Fame, Indians, 1936-56.


 “Holway is the John Wayne of the keyboards.”  John Thorn, editor, “Total Baseball.”


About The Last 400 Hitter


 “Holway’s accounting of the miraculous 1941 season is a joy to read.  Thoroughly researched and carefully detailed, it is an affectionate tribute to a ballplayer, a season, and an era.”  Lawrence Ritter, author,The Glory of Their Times.”

   “I entered baseball at just about the same time Ted did, so it was great fun reading about Ted’s life, and it brought back many memories.  John B Holway has skillfully revived a remarkable period in baseball history, as well as the turbulent world surrounding it.  I thoroughly enjoyed reliving those times through this delightful book.”  Jean Yawkey, former Red Sox chairman of the board.

  $35 + $4 s&h,  soft cover.  Scorpio Books, Box 1574, Springfield Virginia 22151

             18 new stories, many new pictures, and exclusive never-before published statistics span more than a century of history and bring to life an era that will never return.

            Ted Williams recalled that in his rookie year of 1939, at each city the veterans pointed out, “Josh Gibson hit one there…. That's where Josh Gibson hit one.”  “Well,” said Ted, “nobody in our league hit ‘em any farther than that.”

            Read about:

            Doc Sykes, who hurled a no-hitter, out-raced KKK night-riders, and watched a cross being burned on his lawn.

            Laymon Yokely, who whiffed  Jimmie Foxx and Hack Wilson; Hack handed him his bat, saying, “Here, you take it, it’s no use to me.”

            Frank Duncan, who started a riot and later sent Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers..

            Connie Johnson, who reached the majors and tells of dueling Williams at the plate.

Piper Davis, who dazzled  Globe Trotter fans and taught a teen-age rookie to get back up after a beaning.

 “You taught me to survive,” Willie Mays told him.  “You were the pioneers, you made it possible for us.”


Blackball Tales, Holway’s third series of oral compilations relates the joys, travails, and aspirations of members of the Negro Leagues.  Holway has done as much as anyone to chronicle the story of segregated baseball.  Highly recommended for general libraries.”  Library Journal.  

$30 + $4 s&h softcover. Save $8.  Buy both books for $65, and we pay the s&h



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