When you think back on some of the best players in the history of the sport – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken – you’re immediately reminded of their overall greatness.
Their individual records, career numbers, and even participation in various legends and lore elevate them right out of reality. They are, for lack of better words, the heroes and champions of the game.
— HistoryIT (@HistoryIT) January 7, 2017
Although The Babe was well known for his participation in baseball, his lasting legacy will always be his stint as a professional boxer (that’s not true).
But even heroes and champions aren’t perfect, and even Babe Ruth had to have a bad season (or at least “a worst season“) at some point in his career.
Which is why we at Baseball is Fun have decided to take a look back at some of the best players in history, with special attention on their least productive season.
First up: Ted Williams.
First, some of the good.
Ted Williams is easily one of the very best players to ever play the game. Active from 1939 to 1960, Williams played in parts of 19 seasons with the Boston Red Sox (taking some time off for military service) and was an All-Star … 19 times. He also won the AL MVP award twice, the Triple Crown twice, and led the league in home runs (four times), RBI (four time) and batting average (six time) throughout his career.
He’s Ted freakin’ Williams.
HOWEVA, a rule is a rule and even the late, great Ted Williams had to put up a worst season by his standards, and that season came in 1959.
In the second to last year of his playing career, Williams played in 103 games for the Sox, amassing 331 plate appearances in the process. And for the first time in his entire Major League career, he hit below .300.
1959 Slash Line: .254/.372/.419; 10 HRs
Before that 1959 season, Williams had not only never hit below .300 in his career, he never hit below .318 in any one season. His on-base percentage – .372 – while still very excellent, also represents (by far) the lowest mark of his career. Before 1959, he never got on base at lower than the .436 (!) mark he put up in his ROOKIE SEASON.
Of course, with a career slugging percentage of .634, the .419 mark he put up in 1959 also represents the lowest of his career – a record previously held by the .556 mark he put up in 1951 alongside 30 homers. For what it’s worth, .556 would have ranked sixth across all of baseball in 2016. Also, I’m compelled to point out that in the worst season of his career, Ted Williams still walked (15.7%) more than he struck out (8.2%).
But Williams didn’t end his career on a down note. In fact, during his final season, 1960, Williams cranked it way back up:
1960 Slash Line: .316/.451/.645; 29 HRs
He even cracked a homer on the very final at-bat of his career, prompting a famous essay in the New Yorker: “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” And despite that “horrific,” season in 1959, Ted Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot just six years later with 93.4% of the vote.