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Ted Williams: More than the Greatest Hitter of All Time

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IJune 6, 2009

BOSTON - CIRCA 1955:  (UNDATED FILE PHOTO) Baseball legend Ted Williams (1918 - 2002) of the Boston Red Sox holds a bat circa 1955. The 83-year-old Williams, who was the last major league player to bat .400 when he hit .406 in 1941, died July 5, 2002 at Citrus County Memorial Hospital in Florida. He died of an apparent heart attack.  (Photo by Getty Images)

All Ted Williams ever wanted growing up was to be known as the greatest hitter of all-time.

In a career that spanned four decades, Williams left little room for argument in regards to that discussion.

The Splendid Splinter had a career batting average of .344, ranking him tied for seventh all-time in the major leagues.

Williams also hit 521 career home runs, won the American League Triple Crown twice, and was the last player in baseball to hit .400 when he accomplished the feat in 1941.

He was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1966, receiving over 93 percent of the votes to gain acceptance into the hall.

All of these accomplishments and more are what put Ted Williams into the argument as one of the best players to ever play the game.

His career was put on hold twice, for almost five full seasons for two wars, and it is what Williams did in those five years that make him a true American icon and hero.

Today is the 65th anniversary of D-Day. It is a day that goes mostly unnoticed by the general public, but it is a day more important than any of us could ever realize.

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D-Day was the turning point in World War II; the pivotal day of the 20th century that helped turn away evil forces and ensured people the chance to live freely around the world.

Originally, Williams sought to avoid immediate entrance into the military and build up a trust fund for his mother. Williams was his mother's sole support, but due to constant media scrutiny, Williams enlisted in the Navy on May 22, 1942.

Williams spent much of the war training as a fighter pilot. He received his wings in May 1944, and he then served as a flight instructor teaching young pilots.

While in Pearl Harbor awaiting his assignment, the war ended and Williams was released from his duty in January 1946.

He returned to baseball that season and won his first of two MVP awards. Williams also led the Red Sox to the World Series that season.

The Red Sox came up short against the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games that year. Williams had a horrible series, hitting only .200 and striking out five times in the series.

Williams was once again called on to serve in the military in 1952. Although he was 34 at the time, he completed an eight-week refresher course of flight training and headed over to serve in the Korean War.

While serving, Williams flew 39 combat missions in less than a year in Korea. He was discharged in 1953 after a bout with pneumonia revealed an inner ear infection.

After returning from war, Williams went on to play seven more full seasons before retiring after the 1960 season.

In his final at-bat, Williams hit his 521st career home run, which put a stamp on the career of the greatest Red Sox player.

Williams never publicly complained about the significant time lost in his career to his military service. He had every right to and no one would have blamed him for doing so.

Of course, it is all speculation, but you can make a legitimate case that Williams would have easily had over 3000 career hits and could have challenged Babe Ruth's 714 career home run total had he played those five years.

Baseball's loss was America's gain as Williams made his sacrifices with dignity and respect, something today's athletes know very little about.

Williams was said to be a real-life John Wayne. I can think of no better comparison to Williams and Wayne was only portraying an image, Williams lived the image of a true American hero.

Although he is gone, Ted Williams' contributions to baseball and his country will not soon be forgotten.

I urge any of those that have the opportunity today to thank someone that you know that either served in a war or is currently serving their country today.

If that isn't possible, maybe take the chance to learn a bit more about Ted Williams, a hero that this country takes for granted but couldn't thrive without.

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