After the 1941 season, Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx traveled to San Diego and played a couple of exhibition games. Williams didn’t have long to savor his success at hitting .400; on December – just a little over two months after the end of the ’41 season, the United States was at war after Japanese warplanes attacked American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Williams was the sole support of his mother and entitled to exemption from military service but there were those who criticized him, calling him yellow. President F. D. Roosevelt wrote a “green light” letter, saying that baseball should be played, with America’s national pastime serving as a reminder of the way of life the U.S. was fighting to preserve. The importance of the game and its stars to me in uniform was immediately highlighted when Williams routinely received demonstrative acclaim at exhibition games throughout the spring.

Johnny Pesky and Ted both signed up for a Naval flight training program which granted them the opportunity to play out the season (while taking nighttime classroom work) before being called up. Williams was able to pay off an annuity for his mother, and Tom Yawkey gave Pesky a generous bonus which allowed the rookie shortstop to purchase a house for his parents.

Johnny Pesky hit safely 205 times, leading the league. His .331 average was second in the league only to Ted. Johnny came in third in A.L. MVP voting.

Williams hit .356, spectacular by any standard – unless it was compared to the 50 points higher he’d hit in 1941. He won the Triple Crown, with that league-leading average and his 137 RBIs and 30 homers. Despite leading in all three categories (not to mention walks, on-base percentage, slugging, and total bases), He was denied the MVP. Joe Gordon of the pennant-winning Yankees won that award, despite not leading the league in anything but striking out and grounding into double plays. The media had already turned on Ted.

Tex Hughson had a great season pitching (22-6, with a 2.59 earned run average). Charlie Wagner won 14 for the second straight year, and Joe Dobson won 11. The staff won 93 games, the most they’d won since 1915, thanks in good part to bringing the ballclub ERA down to 3.44. But again the Yankees finished first.

By Bill Nowlin

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Charlie Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Dobson, Joe Gordon, Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, Tex Hughson, Tom Yawkey, World War II


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