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Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and 1941

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  September 24, 2011 04:37 PM

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Have to presume most Red Sox fans are tuning in to the meaningful 157th of the 2011 season on Fox this afternoon. But should the oblivious stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver -- or another disappointing performance by Jon Lester, which seems to be developing as I write this -- send you lunging for the remote, you can get a satisfying Red Sox-Yankees fix elsewhere.

1941+Ted+Williams+Play+Ball.jpgAt 5 p.m., the MLB Network will debut "1941: Summer of Legends,'' a compelling look back at two of baseball's most enduring legends and accomplishments: Ted Williams's pursuit of .400 and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Set against the backdrop of "the final summer of peace before the second World War,'' it includes spectacular archived footage of both icons, as well as interviews with Bobby Doerr, Phil Rizzuto, Leigh Montville (who wrote a terrific book about Williams), and Tony Gwynn (who hit .394 during the 1994 season and became close with Williams in his later years.)

You're probably aware of this, but DiMaggio won the MVP that year while Williams finished second, by a vote total of 291-254. Williams hit .406 -- you're probably aware of that, too, I suspect -- with 37 homers, a .553 on-base percentage, a .735 slugging percentage, and a ridiculous rWAR of 11.3. All of those numbers were superior to DiMaggio's -- and those of everyone else in the league.

Williams also led the league in runs (135), walks (147, to just 27 strikeouts -- that's a week for Adam Dunn), and adjusted OPS (234, seventh-best all-time, behind three Babe Ruth seasons and three Swollen Barry Bonds seasons). It was the greatest season for the greatest hitter who ever lived. But the Sox finished second in the AL, 17 games back of the Yankees, so you can see how they settled the "does the MVP have to come from a contender?'' debate back then.

Anyway, check it out. Nostalgia about Williams beats the hell out of watching Carl Crawford play left field at the moment.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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