Schechter: Ted Williams in 1942: Triple Crown winner, MVP loser

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on November 24, 2017:

There have been many controversial MVP Award winners over the years, but one defies justification from this distance of 75 years: New York Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon won the award in 1942 even though Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox won the Triple Crown. How did it happen?

As the 1942 season began, Ted Williams must have wondered what it would take for him to be recognized as the Most Valuable Player in the American League. How could he top his 1941 performance? His .406 average is still the best in the Major Leagues since 1924; he led the league in home runs (37) and runs scored (135); and he dwarfed the other contenders in on-base percentage (.553) and slugging percentage (.735). Despite drawing 71 more walks than Joe DiMaggio, he trailed DiMaggio’s league-leading RBI total by only five, 125 to 120.

Yet DiMaggio won the 1941 MVP Award handily, getting 15 first-place votes to Williams’s eight and earning a 291–254 margin in points. DiMaggio’s marquee thriller, that 56-game hitting streak, propelled him to the award. It wasn’t that simple, of course. On May 15, the day it began, the Yankees had a humdrum 14–14 record. The day he hit in game No. 56, they raised their record to 55–27 and sat in first place by six games. Even though Williams had a higher batting average than DiMaggio during those two months, DiMaggio was at his best when the Yankees did much of their legwork toward winning the pennant.

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Originally published: November 27, 2017. Last Updated: November 27, 2017.