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The biggest news before the season began was when Ted Williams’ Pantherjet was shot down on a February 17 dive-bombing combat mission over North Korea. Williams had joined the elite Marine Corps squadron VMF-311, and served 39 combat missions with some of the best Marine pilots – including John Glenn. He survived the crash-landing of his plane, and was up on another mission at 8:08 in the morning of February 17.
Also missing from Boston in 1953 was the Boston Braves baseball club. Almost at the very last minute before the season opened, the team moved to Wisconsin and became the Milwaukee Braves. Boston became a one-team big-league baseball town.
The Red Sox also lost Dominic DiMaggio when he left baseball on May 12. Lou Boudreau had opted for the younger Tommy Umphlett, and so DiMaggio asked GM Joe Cronin to either trade him or release him. When Cronin declined to do either, Dom simply departed the game.
The day before, it had been three swings, three home runs. It was just an exhibition game against the Giants, but Del Wilber swung at the first pitch he saw and hit it to the roof of the Polo Grounds. The last two pitches he’d seen had both been hit for homers, too.
Even without Williams in the lineup, the Red Sox set a major-league record which still stands today, scoring 17 runs in one inning on June 18 against the Tigers, winning 23-3. The day before, they’d beaten the Tigers, 17-1. And, sticking with the theme of 17, they set 17 major-league records in the one game on the 18th. The 23 runs were echoed by the 23 batters sent to the plate in the big inning. Gene Stephens set a record matched by Johnny Damon about half a century later, collecting three base hits in one inning.
In the early summer, a persistent inner ear infection led to Ted Williams receiving a discharge and he returned home in time to throw out the first pitch in the All-Star Game and then take part in 37 regular-season games. The Red Sox were already 15 games behind New York in the standings.By Bill Nowlin