He had requested a draft deferment in 1942 because he was his mother’s sole support. Many other players played baseball instead of enlisting in 1942 (Joe DiMaggio, for example), but the press called Williams’s choice unpatriotic and derided him for it. He decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy and entered active duty in November 1942.
Combining keen vision with quick wrists and a scientific approach to hitting, he set numerous batting records despite missing nearly five full seasons due to military service and two major injuries. His accomplishments include a .406 season in 1941, two Triple Crowns, two MVPs, six American League batting championships, 521 home runs, a lifetime average of .344, 17 All-Star game selections and universal reverence.
Again, Williams' depressing effect on his teammates has never been proved. Despite ample coaching to the contrary, most insisted that they liked him. He has been generous with advice to any player who asked for it. In an increasingly combative baseball atmosphere, he continued to duck beanballs docilely. With umpires he was gracious to a fault. This courtesy itself annoyed his critics, whom there was no pleasing
Although he batted .344 for the year, he was in something of a hitting slump in the early months. The criticism and heckling that arose from the sporting press and the fans soured Williams’s attitude; thus began a career-long feud between Williams and the media and a love-hate relationship with Boston fans. Williams began refusing to acknowledge cheering fans—for the rest of his career he would never again tip his cap to the crowd.
"I've been associated with the Jimmy Fund since the late '40s. A great, great charity - helping sick kids in Boston. I never wanted any publicity about going to the hospitals. Seeing those kids just rips your heart out. So many sad stories. It's the least you can do."
There were those who said that Williams had super-human vision. Williams did have extraordinary vision, 20-10, but his excellence came from his dedication. "I was a guy who practiced until the blisters bled," Williams said. "And then I practiced some more."
Loud, abrasive, and brash. he was also brutally honest with the press and fans. He was driven to excel by a force so large and unrelenting that it alienated many in the very profession that should have heralded his brilliance.
Ted Williams surprised many people when he took the occasion of his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to call for the recognition and inclusion of Negro League Players. To those who knew him, the only surprise may have been that he made such a public pronouncement of what had been his practice throughout his life. Williams was never a crusader, but he lived his life as a believer in merit, regardless of race or background.
"They named me to what they called the All-Century Team in 1999. When I was a kid, I would tell people, tell anybody who would listen, "All I want out of life is that, when I walk down the street, folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.'" God, I worked so damn hard to make it happen. And when you see how people respect what you did, respect what you are - dammit, that makes it all worthwhile."
Williams was born on August 30, 1918, in San Diego, and began his major league career with the Red Sox in 1939. 1941 marked Williams' best season. In addition to his .406 batting average--no major league player since him has hit .400--the left fielder led the league with 37 homers, 135 runs and had a slugging average of .735.