This article was written by Mike Huber
Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams had promised in late May of 1946 to “really start hitting when the weather warms up,”1 He delivered in a June 9 doubleheader, blasting a home run in each game, including the longest one he ever hit at Fenway Park. The Red Sox swept the Detroit Tigers 7-1 and 11-6 as a capacity crowd of 33,2952 watched.
Williams was not alone in the slugfest. According to the Boston Globe, “A rare and brisk northwest breeze made Yawkey Yard a home-run heaven for southpaw clouters and a couple of right-handers.”3
Mickey Harris and Boston beat Dizzy Trout and the Tigers in the opener. Harris tossed a complete game, scattering nine hits, walking three, and striking out one, as he earned his ninth win of the season. Williams and George Metkovich each hit homers in that victory. In Game Two, undefeated Boston pitcher Dave Ferriss (9-0, 2.63 ERA) was matched against Detroit right-hander Fred Hutchinson.
The Red Sox “wasted no time flexing their muscles.4 After Metkovich reached on a drag-bunt single to lead off the bottom of the first, Johnny Pesky grounded out. Then, Williams put on his personal power display. He parked a Hutchinson offering well into the right-field bleachers for his 12th home run of the season. The Globe and the Detroit Free Press wrote that the ball traveled about 450 feet. After the game, though, the Red Sox measured the distance and announced that the ball went 502 feet. It sailed from home plate to a seat 33 rows past the fence, “next to the aisle dividing the first and second sections behind the home bullpen.”5 The “gargantuan smash”6 struck a fan in the head and then bounced another 12 rows higher in the stands.
Dom DiMaggio opened the bottom of the second with a triple. Rip Russell singled him home. Two outs later, Metkovich walked and Pesky singled. When Tigers right fielder Pat Mullin fumbled Pesky’s hit, Metkovich followed Russell across the plate, scoring from first and giving Boston a 5-0 advantage.
Detroit notched a run in the third on two singles, with Doc Cramer getting the RBI. In the fourth, Hank Greenberg hit his 12th homer of the season to make the score 5-2. In the bottom half, Hutchinson was chased from the game after giving up a single to Ferriss and back-to-back doubles to Metkovich and Pesky. With no outs, Tigers manager Steve O’Neill called to the bullpen for Al Benton. The veteran right-hander retired Williams and Bobby Doerr, but Rudy York hit the third double of the inning, driving in Pesky.
Singles by Mullin, Jimmy Bloodworth, and pinch-hitter Anse Moore plated another run for the Tigers in the seventh. The following inning, Dick Wakefield sent a Ferriss pitch over the wall for a solo home run, his third homer of the season. The score was now 8-4. The Red Sox, though, quickly struck again. With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Williams drew his 58th walk of the season. York then shot a “400-foot triple into center”7 and DiMaggio followed with a “blast into the Tiger bullpen.”8
Following a Mullin single to start the final frame, Bloodworth doubled, and the Tigers manufactured two “consolation counters”9 on successive groundouts. When Eddie Lake grounded to short, the final out was recorded and Boston had won, 11-6.
Boston put together 14 hits in the victory (to go along with their 11 hits in Game One). Ferriss became the first pitcher in either league to notch his 10th victory of the season (against no losses, no less). It was his third win of the season against Detroit.10 The 24-year-old finished his second season in the majors with a 25-6 record. It was also his second straight 20+ win season. Metkovich led the Boston attack with three hits and three runs scored. He extended his hitting streak to six games and raised his average to .274.
Williams came to the ballpark with a .341 batting average. His 2-for-4 and 1-for-3 performances in the doubleheader lifted him to .345. He hit two home runs, scored three times, and picked up three walks. At the end of the day, his batting average ranked second to the Washington Senators’ Mickey Vernon (.391). His 43 RBIs were second to teammate Doerr’s 47 and just above teammate York’s 40. Williams and Greenberg both had 12 home runs, just one behind New York Yankees outfielder Charlie Keller. Williams went on to lead the American League in 1946 with 142 runs, 156 walks, and a .667 slugging percentage, garnering his first Most Valuable Player Award.11
With the doubleheader sweep, “the Red Sox created a 14½-game gap between themselves and the Detroit Tigers by twice humbling the world champions.”12 In 18 home games against “western teams”13 (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis) to this point in the season, first-place Boston was 17-0-1. The Red Sox went on to capture the American League pennant; Detroit placed second, 12 games back.
What about the ball that Williams hit? Today, a red seat marks the spot where Williams’s home run struck Joseph A. Boucher in the head, puncturing his straw hat. After the game, Boucher asked reporters, “How far away must one sit to be safe in this park?”14 When asked why he did not defend himself, he replied, “I couldn’t see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck.”15 It was his first time sitting with 7,897 of his closest friends in Fenway Park’s bleachers.16 (He could not get a ticket for the grandstand.) After being struck in the very center of his hat’s crown, Mr. Boucher went to the first-aid room, and it was there that he was “treated by Dr. Ralph McCarthy and two pretty nurses”17 before returning to his seat to watch the rest of the game. He did not recover the baseball. It was, however, suggested that he donate his hat to the Baseball Hall of Fame with the following inscription:
“Hat worn by J.A. Boucher of Albany, June 9, 1946, when Ted Williams of Red Sox bounced his longest Boston home run off owner’s head. Note aperture.”18
In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org. The author thanks Lisa Tuite of the Boston Globe for providing source articles and a photo.
2 The attendance figure is cited in Gerry Moore, “Fists Fly as Sox Sweep On,” Boston Globe, June 10, 1946: 1, although both retrosheet.org and baseball-reference.com list an attendance figure of 32,800.
3 Gerry Moore, “Red Sox Streak Soars to 10, Lead Over Yankees to Eight,” Boston Globe, June 10, 1946: 6. Hereafter referred to as “Streak.”
4 James Zerilli, “Red Sox Slaughter Tigers, 7-1 and 11-6,” Detroit Free Press, June 10, 1946: 14.
5 Harold Kaese, “Ted’s Longest Homer Pierces Straw Hat on Head 450 Feet Away,” Boston Globe, June 10, 1946: 1.
10 Ferris finished the 1946 season with a 6-1 record and 3.88 earned run average against the Detroit Tigers (in eight starts).
11 Six weeks after this game, Williams hit for the cycle. See sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-21-1946-ted-williams-hits-cycle-mvp-season for details.