Ted Williams’ On-Base Performances in Consecutive Games

This article was written by Herm Krabbenhoft

This article was published in 2003 Baseball Research Journal

On-Base Performance is very important — it is the absolute prerequisite for the most critical aspect of playing winning baseball — scoring runs. In order for a team to score a run, at least one of its players must get on base.

The conventional metric for On Base Performance is On Base Average (OBA), oftentimes called On Base Percentage (OBP) — which is the total number of times a player gets on base safely divided by his total plate appearances. “Officially;’ there are three ways in which a batter can get on base safely: (1) by getting a base hit; (2) by drawing a walk; (3) by being hit by a pitch.

Not included in the “official” means of getting on base safely are plays involving catcher’s interference, dropped third strikes, a fielder’s choice, or fielding errors.

From a historical perspective, On Base Average (or On Base Percentage) came into being in the middle 1950s, thanks to two men: Allan Roth (a baseball statistician with the Brooklyn Dodgers) and Branch Rickey (the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates). In an August 2, 1954, article in Life magazine, Rickey stated, “The ability to get on base, or on-base average, is vital.”

He deduced his position from a statistical analysis carried out by Roth which revealed a strong correlation between on-base average and runs scored — “OBA went hand in glove with runs scored.” Rickey concluded his article with the following statement: “Baseball people — and that includes myself — are slow to change and accept new ideas. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to.”

It took 30 years for Rickey’s stance to reach the mainstream — it was not until 1984 that The Sporting News Baseball Guide (as well as Street & Smith’s Baseball Yearbook) and the annual editions of Neft and Cohen’s Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball) began including OBA in their statistical tabulations. 

Indeed, getting on base safely is now recognized as an essential, if not the preeminent, batting skill.

Switching gears, for a moment, it is pointed out that performance streaks are an interesting, if not also important, part of the diamond game. For example, tremendous excitement was generated by Cal Ripken in his quest for the record for most consecutive games played, career, which now stands at 2,632.

Other interesting examples of major league records for consecutive performance streaks include (1) most consecutive victories for a pitcher, season-19 by Tim Keefe and Rube Marquard (in 1888 and 1912, respectively); (2) most consecutive errorless games at shortstop, season — 100 by Rey Ordonez (in 1999); (3) most consecutive seasons leading one’s league in home runs — seven by Ralph Kiner (National League, 1946-1952).

With that introduction, let’s ask the following question: “Who holds the major league record for most consecutive games reaching base safely, season?”

Resorting to the various baseball record books and encyclopedias to find the answer is fruitless — none of them provides the answer for this important record. Of course, the major league record for most consecutive games getting on base via a base hit, season, is widely known-56 by Joe DiMaggio (in 1941). And the ML record for most consecutive games getting a base on balls, season, is also recorded-22 by Roy Cullenbine (in 1947). But there’s no mention of most consecutive games reaching base safely, season.

The results of my research, directed toward providing the answer to the above question, is presented here.

The starting point for my research endeavor was Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-consecutive-games hitting streak. His consecutive games on base safely (CGOBS) streak had to be at least 56 games. My initial query was, “What did The Yankee Clipper do in the game(s) immediately before he began his 56-game hitting streak and immediately after his 56th game?” Checking out the official 1941 day-by-day records for DiMaggio revealed some very interesting findings.

Looking at the front end of his 56-game hitting streak, DiMaggio began it on May 15. In the game on May 14, while Joltin’ Joe went 0-for-3, he did get on base via a walk; therefore, he had reached base safely. However, in the May 13 contest, Joe went 0-for-4 with no walks and he was not hit by a pitch. So, now DiMaggio had a CGOBS streak of at least 57 games.

Turning then to the back end of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, it was found that while he went 0-for-3 in the game on July 17 (the game his hitting streak ended), he did get on base with a walk. Moreover, Joe then embarked on 16-game hitting streak from July 18 through August 2. Finally, in the game on August 3, he went hitless in four at-bats and had no walks, and was not hit by a pitch.

Therefore, from May 14 through August 2, Joe DiMaggio achieved a CGOBS streak of 74 games — a truly phenomenal total! 

But is this the major league record for most consecutive games on base safely, season?

Perhaps Joe D’s 74 CGOBS streak is the record; perhaps not — there could be other players who have exceeded that number. Thus, DiMaggio’s 74 CGOBS streak served as the benchmark for my research.

In considering players who might have assembled a CGOBS streak longer than DiMaggio’s 74, Ted Williams appeared to be a particularly good candidate. That’s because The Splendid Splinter accomplished an extraordinary on-base performance record, as indicated by the following:

• He had the highest single-season On Base Average in ML history-.553 (in 1941)-until Barry Bonds surpassed it with a .582 mark in 2002.[1][2][3]

• Ted fashioned the highest career OBA in ML his tory (.482).

• The Thumper holds the mark for most seasons leading the league in OBA (12).

The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book lists Williams with the major league record for most consecutive plate appearances on base safely-16 (in 1957).

So did Williams ever surpass DiMaggio’s benchmark 74 CGOBS streak?

To find out, I carefully examined the official day-by-day records for Ted Williams for each season in his major league career. The pertinent results:


Williams began his ML career with a CGOBS streak of 15 games (April 20 through May 14, first game). Later on in the season (May 26 through June 11), he compiled a CGOBS streak of 17 games, which would be his longest of the season.


Ted improved his CGOBS streak performance somewhat in his sophomore season, putting together a 29-game skein of reaching base safely (April 28 to June 4). That streak came to an end in a 14-inning contest at Fenway Park at the hands of St. Louis Browns pitchers Jack Kramer and Bob Harris, who combined to inflict an 0-for-7 on Ted. Williams made the final out of the game with the tying run on base. That o-for-7 would be the worst single-game 0-for in Ted’s career.


Williams blossomed in 1941, achieving two major CGOBS streaks. Curiously, Ted embarked on his first long streak on the same date (May 15) that Joe D began his 56-game hitting streak. However, Ted’s string was snapped on June 29 in Philadelphia after 44 games; Athletics hurler Jack Knott handcuffed Williams in four plate appearances.

Ted’s second long streak started on July 12 (only a few days before DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak would end). This streak reached 69 games and was still alive after the last game of the season on September 28.4 Of course, that begs the question-“How would Teddy Ballgame begin the 1942 season?” He was only five CGOBS behind Joltin’ Joe’s benchmark of 74 CGOBS.


Well, Ted Williams did indeed manage to get on base safely in each of his first five games of the 1942 season. But that was it. Nonetheless, those five games gave Teddy Ballgame a two-season CGOBS streak of 74 games. Over the course of two seasons, he had “equaled” DiMaggio’s phenomenal single-season mark of 74. (Arguably, Ted’s two-season 74 CGOBS streak could be asterisked to distinguish it from Joe’s single-season achievement.) Incidentally, the pitcher who prevented Williams from “eclipsing” the Yankee Clipper was Marv Breuer, Joe D’s teammate. The right-hander shut Williams down in four plate appearances at Yankee Stadium on April 19. Later in the season, Ted accomplished two rather long CGOBS streaks. He had a 35-game streak that ended on July 14 as Johnny Niggeling of the St. Louis Browns imposed an 0-for-4 on him. However, Ted started another streak the very next day; it lasted for 33 games (until August 19). So, Williams reached base safely in 68 out of 69 games. After the 1942 season, because of World War II, Williams was in military service for the next three years.


After his three-year stint in the military, Teddy Ballgame came back and began the 1946 season with a 41 CGOBS streak. That string was terminated on June 3 in Boston by White Sox pitchers Thornton Lee (a southpaw) and Earl Caldwell (a righty). Undaunted, Ted started another long streak in the very next game. This streak lasted 34 games. So if it hadn’t been for Lee and Caldwell, Williams would have passed Joltin’ Joe’s single-season mark of 74 CGOBS.


While he had seven double-digit CGOBS streaks, Ted’s longest CGOBS streak was a not-spectacular 25 gamer.


Ted began the new campaign with a 65 consecutive games on-base safely streak. That streak-which encompassed all of April, May, and June, came to an end on July 5 at Fenway Park. Interestingly, the pitchers responsible for curtailing Ted’s bid to overtake DiMaggio were Joe’s teammates-Vic Raschi and Karl Drews. Then, in the very next game, Ted embarked on a 17-game CGOBS streak. He reached base safely in 82 out of 83 games. Had it not been for Raschi and Drews, Williams would have shattered Joe D’s mark of 74.


“Wait till next year!” is frequently exclaimed in Boston. And for Ted Williams, 1949 was “next year,” at least in terms of his CGOBS performance. Starting on July 1 and lasting until September 28, Teddy Ballgame amassed an 84 consecutive games on-base safely streak. He surpassed DiMaggio’s mark by 10 games, thereby establishing a new single-season CGOBS streak benchmark. The pitcher who snapped Ted’s streak was Ray Scarborough of the Washington Senators. Scarborough struck out Williams twice and got him to fly out to short center in his three plate appearances. Interestingly, Ted was in the on-deck circle when Johnny Pesky was retired for the third out in the top of the ninth.[5] Interestingly, Ted was in the on-deck circle when Pesky was retired for the third out in the top of the ninth.


The 1950 campaign was a difficult one for Ted Williams. In the first half of the season, he put together CGOBS streaks of 28 and 36 games. Had it not been for an 0-for-5 performance on May 28, the two streaks would have been continuous-64 games. Then, in the All-Star game, Ted fractured his elbow and was out of the lineup until September.


In what might be considered an off-year for Teddy Ballgame, the longest CGOBS streak that he could assemble was a 48-gamer (May 30 through July 16). Then, for the next two seasons (1952 and 1953), Ted spent nearly all of his time in the Marines fighting in the Korean War.


For several reasons, Ted wasn’t a full-time, full-season player during the last seven years of his career. Consequently, he never neared the 84 CGOBS streak he achieved in 1949, His longest CGOBS streaks in each of his final seven ML seasons were: 36 in 1954, 25 in 1955, 22 in 1956, 26 in 1957, 18 in 1958, 18 in 1959, and 15 in 1960.

In summary, Figure 1 presents the longest CGOBS streak that Ted Williams achieved in each of his “full” major league seasons from 1939 through 1960. The 84 CGOBS streak in 1949 turned out to be the very best for Teddy Ballgame.

And that leads to the next question: how does The Splendid Splinter’s 84 CGOBS streak stack up to the CGOBS performances of other players-especially those with a knack for getting on base frequently? 

Ideally, to properly answer this question, one has to examine the consecutive games on-base safely performances of every player who’s played in the major leagues since 1876. That, unfortunately, is not realistically possible.[6] However, for this project, I focused on four groups of players from the NL and AL:

(1) The top three to five players in On Base Average for each season from 1891 through 1977.[7]

(2) The top 25 players in (hits plus walks) per game for each season from 1946 through 1974.

(3) All players with consecutive games hitting safely streaks of at least 20 games. I scrupulously examined the official day-by-day records for each of these players and determined their longest consecutive games on-base safely streaks. Altogether, I examined the day-by records of nearly 2,000 player seasons from 1891 through 1977.[7]

(4) For the seasons from 1969 and 1974 through 2002 (plus the 1967-1968 American League), thanks to the fantastic efforts and cooperation of Retrosheet-especially Dave Smith-I have the absolute longest consecutive games on-base safely streaks for every major league player (who appeared in at least 30 games in a given season). Altogether, another 12,000 additional player seasons were searched.

So, how does Teddy Ballgame’s 84 CGOBS streak stack up? Table 1 provides the answer, listing all the players I have found who assembled a CGOBS streak of at least 50 games (including one player who achieved the feat during the 2003 season).[8][9] It presents the 40 times a CGOBS streak of at least 50 games in a single season has been achieved.


The list is composed of 19 players from the American League-including Ted Williams, who appears three times and has the longest CGOBS streak. Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb are the only other AL players who reached the 50 CGOBS streak plateau more than once. The National League is represented by 17 players-including Duke Snider and Barry Bonds, who each achieved a CGOBS streak of 58 games-the longest one found in the senior circuit.10 The only NL player to achieve a CGOBS streak of at least 50 games more than once was Bill Joyce.

As can be seen, Ted Williams’ 84 consecutive games on-base safely streak does indeed stack up as the longest streak out of the very best on-base player seasons examined so far.

Is it the major league record? Very probably!

What is its significance? The following discussion may provide the answer.

In a recent article on Ted Williams,[11] in reference to Joe DiMaggio winning the 1941 American League Most Valuable Player Award, Williams is quoted as stating the following:

“I didn’t feel robbed or cheated that year. I believe there isn’t a record in the books that will be tougher to break than Joe’s 56-game hitting streak. It may be the greatest batting achievement of all.”

In terms of approachability, however, Ted’s 84 CGOBS streak seems to be more difficult than Joe’s 56-game hitting streak. Since DiMaggio achieved that streak in 1941, the closest any major league player has come to it was the 44-game hitting streak by Pete Rose in 1978. Forty-four is 78.6% of the way to 56. Since Williams achieved his 84-game streak in 1949, the closest any major league player has come to it (in a single season) were the 58 CGOBS streaks by Duke Snider in 1954 and Barry Bonds in 2003. Fifty-eight is 69.0% of the way to 84. Furthermore, the closest that any ML player has come to Teddy Ballgame’s 84 CGOBS streak over two seasons was the 62 CGOBS streak by Mark McGwire at the end of the 1995 season and the beginning of the 1996 campaign.[9] Sixty-two is 73.8% of the way to 84.

So, with the above approachability considerations in mind, and paraphrasing Ted Williams, it can be argued that Teddy Ballgame’s 84 consecutive games on-base safely streak “may be the greatest batting achievement of all.” [12][13] When will it be included in the record books?

HERM KRABBENHOFT is a retired organic chemist. He is the only person to ever have his research published in Baseball Digest, Baseball Weekly, The Sporting News, and Baseball America as well as Die Macromolecular Chemie, and also be granted a United States patent, #5,021,521 (Branched Thermoplastics) in a single season (1991).



It is with great pleasure that I thank the following individuals for their contributions to my research efforts. Dave Smith wrote the computer program to extract the longest CGOBS streaks from the Retrosheet database for all players from the AL in 1967 and 1968 and in the ML in 1969 and 1974-2002. Pete Palmer provided guidance on the official day-by-day records and (with collaboration from John Schwartz and Alex Haas) the pre-1920 HBP information. Bill Deane provided insightful comments and suggestions and the information on the Denny Lyons 1887 streak. Tom Ruane, utilizing the Retrosheet database, provided the CGOBS streaks ≥45 games for the 1980-1998 period. Brian Rash alerted me to Barry Bonds’ approach to the NL CGOBS streak record in 2003. While each of these individuals is an outstanding baseball researcher, their greatest contributions are being baseball research enablers. Finally, I also wish to express my gratitude to the Hall of Fame library staff of Rachael Kepner, Russell Wolinsky, Claudette Burke, and Tim Wiles for their cooperation and help in my examination of the official day-by-day records.


References and Notes

  1. The .553 OBA value shown here is two points higher than the .551 value originally shown in the various baseball record books and encyclopedias. That’s because I discovered an error in the official 1941 day-by-day records for Ted Williams: in the first game of a doubleheader on September 24, the official day-by-day records show that Williams was hitless in three at-bats and had no walks, and was not hit by a pitch. However, in checking the game accounts and box scores in various newspapers I determined unequivocally that Williams was walked twice in that game. Thus, he actually walked a total of 147 times (not 145) in 1941, and his corrected OBA is therefore .553.[2] It is gratifying to note that The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book (2003 edition) does include the walk-related corrections: (1) On page 22, for “Highest on-base percentage, season (100 or more games).” Ted Williams is listed as the AL record holder with .553 in 1941. (2) On page 160, for the yearly leaders in “Bases On Balls, American League,” Ted Williams is listed for 1941 with 147. (3) On page 178, for players with “1000 Bases On Balls,” Ted Williams is listed with 2,021. Also, in The Book of Baseball Records (2003 ed.) by Seymour Siwoff of the Elias Sports Bureau, on page 386, for the “annual batting leaders in walks,” Ted Williams is listed with 147. Similarly, the 2003 edition of The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball lists Ted Williams as the AL leader in walks for the 1941 season with the corrected total of 147. Likewise, for the 1941 Boston Red Sox “roster;’ Ted Williams is listed with 147 walks (in boldface). In the section giving players’ lifetime statistics, Ted Williams is listed with the corrected total of 2,021 career walks
  2. For a complete account of the two additional walks, see: (1) “Good Eye Gave Ted Williams More Walks;’ H. Krabbenhoft, unpublished report (November 2002); (2) “An Error Discovered in Ted Williams’s 1941 Walk Total,” L. Spatz, SABR Baseball Records Committee newsletter, page 1 (June 2002); (3) “Baseball Records,” The SABR Bulletin, page 4 [Volume 32 (July/August 2002). See also the following pertinent accounts: (4) “Ted’s 1941 On-Base Percentage Mark Increases;’ B. Nowlin, On Deck, page 3 (Summer 2002); (5) “Two More Walks for Williams;’ R. Neyer, ESPN.com article (May 29, 2002).
  3. Williams’ .553 OBA in 1941 remains the record in the AL.
  4. However, according to Ted’s official day-by-day records, this CGOBS streak had been terminated after 64 games. In the first game of that September 24th doubleheader, the official records state that Williams went hitless in three at-bats and had no walks, and was not hit by a pitch. But, as indicated earlier,1′2 Ted did indeed walk twice in that game, thereby extending his CGOBS streak to 65 games. He continued his streak for the last four games of the season, giving him a “living” 69 CGOBS streak.
  5. The streak-ending game is famous-infamous-for another reason. According to Dave Halberstam in Summer of”49, the game

    is known as the “Scarborough Game:’ Scarborough defeated the Red Sox as the Nats rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 2-1 victory which severely impaired Boston’s pennant drive. Halberstam had this to say about Scatburuugh and Williams: “Scarborough was poison to Ted Williams. Scarborough could decoy Williams better than any other pitcher in the league. It was not just a matter of his pitch selection, it was his motion as well. He would show fastball, and then at the last second, go to his curve. Years later, Williams paid Sr.arborough the ultimate accolade by slating that he probably chased more balls out of the strike zone with Ray Scarborough than with any other pitcher in the American League.
  6. Apparently, no day-by-day records (official or unofficial) have ever been compiled for the 1876-1890 NL seasons.
  7. For the 1891-1919 period, Pete Palmer provided day-by-day HBP data, which are not in the official records. Pete also helped by going through his own day-by-day records to determine the longest CGOBS streaks for 24 players-something I couldn’t do since day-by-day records weren’t available at the Hall of Fame Library.
  8. Table 1 also includes (through the courtesy of Bill Deane) Denny Lyons, who in 1887 achieved a CGOBS streak of 52 games with Philadelphia of the American Association; see Bill’s SABR-L posting (May 22, 2001).
  9. It should also be noted that Tom Ruane, utilizing the Retrosheet database, previously reported the CGOBS streaks achieved by Boggs, Phillips, Brett, Whitaker, and Coleman in a SABR-L posting (June 11, 1999).
  10. For discussions on Barry Bonds equaling Duke Snider’s NL CGOBS streak mark, see: (1) Krabbenhoft, Herman. “Will Bonds Break NL CGOBS Streak Record?” in SABR-L posts on September 20-22, 2003; (2) Krabbenhoft, Herman. “Longest NL CGOBS streak-Snider & Bonds” in SABR-L post on September 23, 2003; (3) J. Roberts, “Bonds On,” The Giants Journal, <members.aol.com/TGJDIR2/bondson.htm>, October 1, 2003.
  11. “A Splendid Life: From Hitting Machine to War Hero, Ted Williams Left His Mark,” B. Koenig, USA Today Baseball Weekly,

    July 11, 2002, v. 12, p. 3.
  12. Some of the material discussed in this report was presented at the SABR32 Convention-“Teddy Ballgame’s On-Base Performances in Consecutive Games: Does Ted Williams Hold That Important Record Too?,” H. Krabbenhoft, page 39. See also the following articles derived from the research presented here: (1) “Nobody Could Walk in His Footsteps;’ B. Nowlin, Boston Globe, page C-7 (July 8, 2002); (2) “The Greatest Streak Ever,” B. Nowlin, Diehard, page 20 (August 2002); “Sheffield’s Streak Short of Ted’s,” D. Jenkins, Chattanooga Times Free Press, page C-5 (August 4, 2002).
  13. On hitting streaks, see: (1) C. Blahous, “The DiMaggio Streak: How Big a Deal Was It?” The Baseball Research Journal [1994, pages 41-43]; (2) M. Freiman, “56-Game Hitting Streaks Revisited.” The Baseball Research Journal [2002, pp. 11-15].