After Ted Williams and his wife finalized their divorce, suddenly Ted was ready to resume playing baseball again. His first game was May 28, and the Red Sox were already 11 games behind the Yankees in the standings. And they had suffered the worst shutout in team history, a 19-0 loss to Herb Score and the Indians on May 18. The very day before Williams came back, though, rookie first baseman Norm Zauchin entered the game batting .214 with one home run and five RBIs. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning, a grand slam in the second inning, an RBI double in the fourth, and a three-run homer in the fifth – he had 10 RBIs in the game. Second-year right-hander Tom Brewer got the win in the 16-0 shutout of the Senators, finally getting a win to make him 1-6 on the season.
The Red Sox were 67-45 from May 29 to the end of the season; the Yankees were 68-46, just slightly worse. But New York had such a big start that they finished first and Boston finished fourth, still 12 games behind.
The June 2 game at Chicago turned out to be the last game for Harry Agganis, who’d had a couple of hits – one of which should have been a triple, but Agganis had been too fatigued to convert the double into a three-base hit. That night be became ill on the train and was flown back to Boston to be hospitalized. He never left, dying of complications from pneumonia on June 27. He was only 26 years old.
The team was 14 ½ games out of first place on June 2, but closed much of the gap over the next two months and when “Yankee-killer” Willard Nixon beat Whitey Ford before 61,678 at Yankee Stadium on August 9, they were just 1 ½ games back. It was the closest they came. As late as a couple of days after Labor Day, they were only three games out of first but then a steady September swoon brought them down, down, down – losing 14 of their last 18 games.
Though the club finished fourth as it had in 1954, they’d improved in Higgins’ first season, from 69-85 to 84-70. Higgins was named AL manager of the year.
Jackie Jensen, in his first year with Boston, led the team with 116 RBIs. He hit 26 homers, Norm Zauchin hit 27, and Ted Williams hit 28, despite missing all those games at the start. Ted batted .356, but he was well short of qualifying.
Remarkably, he homered those 28 times but only struck out 24 times, one of four years in which he had fewer K’s than HR’s.
Frank Sullivan’s 18-13 (2.91) led the pitchers. Nixon was 12-10 and Brewer was 11-10.By Bill Nowlin
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- Frank Sullivan, Harry Agganis, Norm Zauchin, Pinky Higgins, Ted Williams, Tom Brewer, Whitey Ford, Willard Nixon