Any player/Any era: Ted Williams

What he did: I’ve written about the Splendid Splinter before, though I was motivated to feature him again thanks to a computer baseball game that I like. I’ve been burning large amounts of free time lately playing a demo for Baseball Mogul 2012, a sim that allows creating historical rosters. One of the niftier game features lets users pull players out of retirement, and today, I wondered how Williams might do on the 1963 New York Mets with their bathtub of a park, the Polo Grounds.

I plugged a 44-year-old Williams onto those Mets, and with other aging imports like Stan Musial and Yogi Berra in the lineup, Williams hit about .350 and helped New York to an 82-80 record (and that was with fellow 44-year-old unretiree Bob Feller going 7-22 with an ERA north of 6.00. It wasn’t pretty.) All of this makes me wonder if Teddy Ballgame’s 1960 retirement may have come a few years too soon.

Era he might have thrived in: For all their struggles, including a historically bad 40-120 in their inaugural 1962 season (which the demo won’t let me play), the expansion-era Mets were largely a veteran club. Their debut team featured the likes of elder baseball statesmen such as Gil Hodges, Richie Ashburn, and Frank Thomas among others, and at 43 on Opening Day that year, Williams wouldn’t have been terribly older. He might also have been a threat for the National League batting title and at least 30 home runs in the Polo Grounds, not to mention eight or ten more wins for the Mets.

Why: Most famous baseball players are pretty well done by the time they hang up their spikes or are forced to retire. Ken Griffey Jr. and Babe Ruth both quit at 40 after playing like men bused in from nursing homes. Steve Carlton made more stops at the end of his career than a kid with a paper route. Williams, on the other hand, may have had some more baseball in him, hitting .316 with 29 home runs and an OPS+ of 190 in his final season. Granted, his defense wasn’t anything nice at the end, though for a team like the Mets, Williams’ bat may have been enough to compensate.

There are other factors that might have made this interesting as well. The famously tough New York media would probably have been no problem for Williams who was excoriated and libeled by what passed for media in Boston during his career. I’m also curious how Williams might have gotten on with the Mets’ first manager, Casey Stengel. The Old Perfessor clashed with the conservative Joe DiMaggio in his time with the Yankees and once called Mickey Mantle his greatest disappointment, but otherwise seemed to have the temperament to welcome a hard worker and candid spirit like Williams. Whatever the case, I doubt it would have been too much to derail Williams’ stint as a Met.

I’ll admit I often wonder why players aren’t coaxed out of retirement more often. My guess is that a 44-year-old formerly elite player would be of more value than an average player ten years younger, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for fan interest, either. When the U.S. men’s basketball program was in the toilet a few years ago, I thought it would have been cool to draft the ’92 Dream Team back into action, with ageless wonders like Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler still capable of gold medal work. And then there’s Ty Cobb. Around the time Williams retired, Yogi Berra was asked what Cobb might hit in the modern game. Berra guessed .260. When asked if he thought pitching was that much better, Berra added something to the effect of, “Yes, but you have to remember Cobb’s about 70 years old.”

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBabe RuthBad News Rockies,Barry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob Watson,Bobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der Ahe,Denny McLainDom DiMaggioEddie LopatFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertPaul Derringer, Pee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey Henderson,Roberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam Thompson,Sandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWill ClarkWillie Mays

5 Replies to “Any player/Any era: Ted Williams”

  1. “I’ll admit I often wonder why players aren’t coaxed out of retirement more often. My guess is that a 44-year-old formerly elite player would be of more value than an average player ten years younger, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for fan interest, either.”

    Yet, when a player, great or otherwise attempts to get a few more good years out of their aching bodies by using anything resembling perfomance enhancing drugs, everyone turns against them. Seems like a strange dichodomy where it’s okay to see Willie Mays stumbling around trying to catch a fly ball or watch mediocre pitchers sneak fast balls by Babe Ruth, if there was something that was available to help them play at a higher level for even a few more years.
    Just a thought.

  2. A thought, yes, but opposite of what I’m suggesting and not really relevant to this discussion. My post is about seeing if a 40-something retired superstar might still have enough juice to be above replacement-level value or better on a bad team. My guess is yes.

  3. You wonder how Teddy would have done in ultra-hitters environments like the 1890s, or 1930. And if he’d played his entire career with a c. 2000-Coors Field as his home home ballpark…

  4. According to the bbref converter, per 162 games, these would be his totals.

    Converter only goes back to 1901 but these numbers should be suspect.

    Neutral park NL
    162 684 540 122 183 36 5 36 125 2 140 50 3 1 .339 .476 .625 1.101

    Neutral park AL
    162 716 558 141 201 40 6 40 144 2 154 50 3 1 .360 .500 .666 1.166


    Neutral park AL
    162 719 560 143 203 40 5 40 146 2 155 50 3 1 .362 .501 .666 1.167

    Neutral park NL
    162 731 566 150 209 42 5 41 153 2 160 50 3 1 .370 .510 .682 1.192

    162 756 580 165 223 44 6 44 168 2 171 50 3 1 .385 .526 .709 1.235

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