July 07, 2002
RIP, Ted Williams

It's been a busy weekend for me, as we threw a housewarming party on Friday night, so I haven't had a chance to blog about the death of Ted Williams. The ESPN piece linked gives a good overview of him, but there's two bits in it that I'd like to expand on. One has to do with the near-trade of Williams for Joe DiMaggio. It was the Yankees who backed out of the trade, giving the reason that their fans thought DiMaggio was the better player. I'm a diehard, lifelong Yankees fan, but the numbers say that Williams was better. Yankee fans will argue that DiMadge was a stellar performer at a much tougher position as well as a much better baserunner. It quickly becomes a bigger morass than Vietnam, which may speak to the wisdom of not taking that particular road.

It also leads in to my second point, about what DiMaggio and Williams said about each other post-retirement. They both figured that stoking the who's-better debate would likely be counterproductive in the long run, so they came to an agreement where DiMaggio would call Williams "the best pure hitter he ever saw" and Williams would call DiMaggio "the best player he ever played against", thus acheiving equal parts truth, wiggle room, and accession to ego.

Jayson Stark now wonders who is the best living player with Teddy and Joltin' Joe deceased. Again, with all due respect to the Yankee Clipper, I think it's only deference to his legend that put him above Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the first place. (There was also a poll taken in the 1960s that asked this question. DiMaggio won, and no one ever had the cheek to ask when we should ask again.) My vote goes to Mays, but it's close. And I refuse to consider Pete Rose a serious contender.

Rest in peace, Teddy Ballgame.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 07, 2002 to Baseball