Recently, I was talking to my friend Jacob Weisberg. He put forth the hypothesis and asked the question what if Ted Williams, Boston’s greatest slugger and the “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio exchanged teams? Joe would be the Red Sox Center Fielder and Ted would play Left Field for the Pin Stripes.
Truly, food for thought!
Imagine what the last man to hit over four hundred, (406), a statistic that has lasted for ¾ of a century and the man who hit in 56 consecutive games, a record that has withstood the test of time for just under ¾ of a century, could have done playing in parks that would have been more hitter friendly.
Despite the fact that both played all their home games on fields that made it most difficult for them to hit Home Runs, they defied the odds.
Williams, a natural left-hander who pulled to right field played all his home games at Fenway Park where the distance down the line was 380’ and with an odd wall configuration. DiMaggio, a right-handed batter, played in Yankee Stadium and faced a center field that was 490’ away. This was where he hit most of his balls.
If Williams played in Yankee Stadium at that time, he would have had a right field that was only 295’ away. The shortest distance in the Majors. Williams was a pull hitter with most of them going to right and the right of center. He was so predictable that Lou Boudreau, manager of the Cleveland Indians during that time shifted his entire team defensively to the right side of the field. This made Left Field a wide-open target.
Williams was so conditioned that he either couldn’t hit to Left, or his pride wouldn’t allow him to try. Still he maintained a lifetime e batting average of 345. Ted played a total of 19 years. Four of these years, prime playing years, I might add were spent as a Marine Fighter Pilot during World War II and in Korea.
Joe DiMaggio’s career spanned 15 years and he lost three years of prime playing time serving in the army. Still, he ended his Hall of Fame career with a 325 BA.
Soon, every team in the league was employing the Williams’ shift. By the way at that time the competition was stiffer than today. The players who made the Majors, just a handful, were the best of the best. There was no dilution with extra players added in order to fill out the rosters as is done today.
Growing up… every New York Yankee fan thought that “Jolting” Joe D was the best ever in comparison to Ted “The Kid aka The Splendid Splinter”. We Boston fans, thought the reverse.
For my generation, the dispute still rages wherever baseball Fans of both teams gather. The arguments are heated with never any solution.
Thus, based on Jacob’s premise and question, if the exchange were made even though it was in a non-steroid era, do you think we possibly would have seen two legitimate 70+ homerun hitters?
What do you think? I’d like to know your thoughts!