Ted Williams ended his 1941 season, the one in which he was the last American or National League batter (as of 2020) ever to hit over .400, with a career total of 91 home runs. As May 1942 approached its end, he already had a dozen more. The Red Sox, though, were in fourth place when they arrived in Philadelphia for this Friday night game. The Athletics were in eighth place, but only five games behind the Red Sox with 110 games left on the schedule.
Russ Christopher was the starting pitcher for Connie Mack’s Athletics. It was the right-hander’s first year in the majors. He came into the game with a record of 2-1 and a 3.86 ERA. He’d given up only one home run to date — to Ted Williams back on May 10, a two-run homer in the ninth inning of a game that Christopher and the Athletics won.
This night each one of the first eight pitches Christopher threw in the top of the first inning was out of the strike zone.1 On those eight pitches, he walked center fielder Dom DiMaggio and shortstop Johnny Pesky. Then he struck out right fielder Pete Fox.
Ted Williams was batting cleanup. He put the Red Sox ahead with a three-run homer that “landed on a roof behind the wall about 100 feet from the right-field foul line.”2
Williams’s home run was the only base hit Christopher gave up through the first five innings, but it made all the difference in the game.
The Red Sox starter was Tex Hughson. Like Christopher, he was 2-1 in 1942. He had a 2.61 ERA. It was Hughson’s second season in the major leagues. He’d been 5-3 in 1941. He allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the first but got three groundouts.
In the second inning, it was three up, three down for both pitchers. The same was true in the third, but Christopher had struck the hardest-hit ball, a 390-foot drive caught by Williams backed up against the left-field seats.4
Cronin walked in the top of the fourth but was erased on a double play. Hughson set down the side in order in the bottom of the inning.
In the fifth inning, no one reached base for either side. Through the first five innings, Hughson had allowed only the two singles in the first inning. And Christopher had allowed just one hit — Williams’s three-run homer in the first.
The Red Sox reignited their offense and added to their lead in the top of the sixth. DiMaggio flied out, but Pesky — on his way to leading the American League in hits as a 23-year-old rookie — doubled to left field. Fox grounded to third baseman Buddy Blair, who made a throwing error. Pesky was on third base, and Fox made it to second.
Williams was intentionally walked to load the bases. Cronin hit an infield single to shortstop Jack Wallaesa, and Pesky scored. Doerr singled to center, and Fox scored. It was 5-0, Red Sox. Jim Tabor grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Hughson retired the three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the seventh, the Red Sox scored three more runs, all after two outs. Catcher Bill Conroy and Hughson both flied out. Then Christopher hit DiMaggio in the back with a pitch. Pesky doubled to right-center field and DiMaggio scored.
Fox singled to third base, and Pesky scored all the way from second. Williams singled to right field and Fox reached third. Cronin scored Fox with a single to right. Boston’s lead was 8-0.
Dick Fowler relieved Christopher and got Doerr to line out to center field for the final out.
After having retired 16 batters in succession, Hughson gave up a single and walk in the seventh, but no one scored.
The Red Sox continued their offensive surge in the eighth. Conroy hit a one-out single back to Fowler. Hughson singled to center. DiMaggio’s groundout resulted in a force out at second and runners on first and third. Pesky collected his third hit of the game, a single to right, driving in Conroy.5 Fox walked, loading the bases.
Ted Williams boosted the score to 13-0 with a grand slam, “another prodigious homer onto a roof behind the right field.”6 It was his second homer of the game and 14th of the season. Cronin grounded out to end Boston’s half of the inning.
Hughson retired the Athletics in order in the bottom of the eighth.
Doerr led off the top of the ninth with a home run into the left-field stands to make the score 14-0. Fowler kept the ball in the infield and set down the next three batters.
The Athletics broke up Hughson’s shutout in the bottom of the ninth. First baseman Dick Siebert doubled off the right-field wall with one out. With two outs, right fielder Elmer Valo singled, just over Doerr’s glove, and drove Siebert home. Catcher Hal Wagner singled, sending Valo to second. Buddy Blair singled to center, scoring Valo. But Hughson closed out the win when Wallaesa grounded out unassisted to Cronin at first base.
The final score was 14-2. Ted Williams’s seven runs batted in were half his team’s total. Even though his three-run homer off Christopher had been way back in the top of the first inning, it proved to be the game-winning hit.
Williams now had 52 RBIs for the season, and May had not ended yet.
The game was seen by 16,822. Despite all the scoring, it lasted less than two hours (1:55).
Hughson ended up leading the major leagues in wins, with a final record in 1942 of 22-6 (2.59).
The Athletics finished the season in last place (55-99), 48 games out of first place. The Red Sox finished second (83-59), nine games behind the New York Yankees.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Arthur Sampson, “Sox Make Merry in Philadelphia, 14-2,” Boston Herald, May 30, 1942: 9.
2 Melville Webb, “Hughson Pitches a Swell Ball Game,” Boston Globe, May 30, 1942: 8.
3 Foxx had hurt his ribs in a freak batting-practice incident. Cronin had played one game at first base for the Senators in 1927 and two games for the Red Sox in 1935. He played five this year, and then 49 games at first base in 1944.
5 Pesky was on his way to 205 base hits in his rookie season, leading both leagues. He then lost the next three seasons to World War II, returned to record two more 200-hit seasons in 1946 (208) and 1947 (207). For more on his extraordinary start, see Bill Nowlin, Mr. Red Sox: The Johnny Pesky Story (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rounder Books, 2004).