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Ted Williams (True) Rookie Cards

While still in high school Ted Williams signed his first MLB contract with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. Wasn’t long after high school he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox. Ted Williams has one true rookie card.

Boston Red Sox Legends

I’m settling in on a Sunday afternoon getting ready to watch Game 5 of the 2018 World Series. Boston Red Sox leads the Los Angeles Dodgers 3 games to 1 and more than likely will go on to win their 9th World Series Championship.

So it got me thinking about Boston legends like Jimmy Collins, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, and Carl Yastrzemski.

More modern-day legends like Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, and Pedro Martinez. But of the 11 Boston Red Sox Hall of Famers, none is more intriguing to me than Teddy Ballgame.

The Personality of Ted Williams

To understand the legend of Ted’s career one must start with the man. He was a bit rough around the edges, brash and bold. Also viewed as strong, opinionated, and told it like he saw it.

Ted Williams was a man’s man and was also known as The Kid, The Splendid Splinter, and my favorite John Wayne of Baseball.

In 1939, his rookie season, he hit 31 home runs with 145 RBI, the city of Boston fell in love with him. If a Rookie of the Year Award existed at that time hands down he would’ve won it.

Ted Williams and the Media

However, since Ted was reckless and cocky and he knew he was good. Under the microscope of the sportswriters, things were written that offended Ted, it affected his play and his batting average started to drop.

It got to the point home crowds were booing him and being the young, cocky Ted Williams – he retaliated. He took on an “I’ll show you attitude” and was fueled by anger.

Ted shunned the writers and fans and let his bat do the talking. He continued his onslaught of power and batting average. By the end of the 1941 season, he hit for an outstanding .406 batting average.

Amazingly, he came in second for MVP honors in 1941 due to the beloved sports writer’s favorite Joe DiMaggio, who had a 48 game hit streak.

When Teddy Returned From the Military

Ted came back in 1942 and won a Triple Crown, leading all of baseball in runs, home runs, RBI’s, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage but still was voted second in MVP voting by the sportswriters.

Proving once again the alienation between him and the writers and the writers against him. The MVP was given to another Yankee, Joe Gordon.

Between 1943-45 Ted Williams served in the military during World War II and was a successful pilot. Ted later describes the military as good for him.

It gave him structure and discipline. When he came back in 1946 he picked up right where he left off and had another amazing season and this time earned an overdue MVP Award. Ted followed that up by winning a second Triple Crown in 1947!

Career Stats & Accomplishments

Ted Williams played Major League Baseball for 19 years all of them with the Boston Red Sox. He also did not play for three years 1943-1945 for military service.

The career numbers of Teddy Ballgame are WAR 121.9 | Hits 2,654 | Home Runs 521 | RBI 1,839 | On Base Percentage .482 | Batting Average .344

  • 19x All-Star
  • 2x MVP
  • 5x Player of the Year
  • 2x Triple Crown
  • 6x Batting Title Champion

1939 Play Ball, #92 (RC)

These are a tad smaller than the average modern card measuring 2-1/2″ x 3-1/8″ and were produced by Gum, Inc. which were the first bubble gum company to include cards with their gum starting in 1936.

The design of the card reminds me of Teddy Baseball. It has a “take it or leave it” attitude to it with a plain black and white photo sitting on white borders, nothing else is printed on the card front. But I really do like the full-action pose of Ted – great photo!

The card back gives us: name, player bio, and commentary. Towards the bottom we get copyrights and below that a notation, “This is one of a series of 250 pictures of leading baseball players. Save to get them all.”

The truth is the numbers are a little skewed. Cards 1-162 are known to exist and card 126 was never printed. It’s assumed that Play Ball didn’t purposely set out to mislead anyone but shortages of paper and gum base were the reasons to cut production short.

I don’t recommend purchasing raw copies from unreliable sources, you would be taking a big risk due to counterfeit copies.

Now Ted Williams has 4 other images featured of him in 1939, a couple of Exhibit Salutations printed between 1939-1946, and a couple of different copies of Goudey Premiums released in 1939 as well. But these I consider “Rookie-Year Cards” because they were larger images typically used for various other reasons aside from actual trading cards.

1940 Play Ball, #27 (PRT)

The 1940 Play Ball offering also measures 2-1/2″ x 3-1/8″ and the set size was increased to 240 actual cards, no shortages this time around.

Slight changes to the card front with the player’s name inside of a banner that many times featured their nicknames making it popular amongst collectors for that reason. Notice the details, of the baseball equipment, surrounding the banner. I love it!

The card back design mimics the 1939 Play Ball almost identically. A player bio and a well-thought-out commentary are also given. Towards the bottom of the card back you’ll find what this card is all about,  an advertisement for selling bubble gum. I love it!

This may be a slightly more affordable alternative to Ted Williams rookie card.

1948 Leaf, #76 (PRT)

Now between 1940-1948 Ted Williams had 12 other images of him printed on paper but these were issued as food and beverage, magazine cards, or post cards of some sort with limited distribution.

However the 1940 Play Ball and this 1948 Leaf featured above is considered mainstream products that were distributed Nationally, this is why I give these two a PRT identifier.

It was an odd decade due to the war, there was a lot of disruption in card manufacturing. However these two cards represent pre-war and post-war issues. In other words, the last mainstream set going into the war, and the first mainstream set coming out of the war.

Historically, by the early to mid-1940s the United States finds itself engulfed in World War II. The baseball seasons were canceled due to the war, many of its players were enlisted in the military, and the first Woman’s Baseball League was formed.

The focus of factories and manufacturing were goods related to the war, not bubble gum and picture cards of ballplayers. The war ended in September 1945, the United States realigns itself politically and moved towards economic recovery and expansion.

A Dawn of a New Era

By 1948, America is booming and the first mainstream set was printed by Leaf Gum Co., it was a dawn of a new era.

Strong evidence shows us the Leaf set was released sometime in the fall of 1948 and through the early months of 1949, on some of the cards the Copyright year indicates this.

Babe Ruth is featured in this set as well, and he wasn’t a player nor a coach. The Bambino passed away in August of 1948, this is another indicator of why collectors assume these were released after his death.

This set is iconic in that it was Leaf’s premiere release and it was the premiere set printed in color. The set size was advertised as 168 cards but in actuality only 98 of them were produced and they skipped over some numbers to get to 168.

The card front features a black and white photo with color highlights. A bright red solid color background gives this lots of eye appeal, and a solid blue banner houses Teddy’s name. What an absolute stunning baseball card!

The back of the card is a bit bland, the use of gray cardboard stock with black ink offers a player bio, commentary, and of course advertisements for Leaf Bubble Gum and what appears to be a card binder for 5 wrappers and a quarter.



Ted Williams Stats | (accessed October 28, 2018).

Owens, Tom. Ellingboe, Steven. Taylor, Ted. Lemke, Robert. Great Book of Baseball Cards. Lincolnwood, IL. Publications International, Ltd. 1989.