Williams had retired from baseball five years earlier, but he remained, along with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, as one of the greatest heroes to have ever played the game. He was called “The Kid” “The Greatest Hitter to Have Ever Played the Game” and “God’s Gift to Baseball,” and his stats tell us why:
- Two-time American League MVP.
- Led the league in batting six times.
- Won the Triple Crown twice.
- Career batting average of .344.
- Highest career batting average of anyone with 500 or more home runs.
- 521 home runs.
- Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
- Last player in Major League Baseball to bat over .400 in a single season (.406 in 1941 – a feat likely never to be done again.)
I never became much more than a “sandlot” baseball player, preferring the little league gridiron and the hardwood to the ball diamond, but I have been a student of the game and the “boys of summer” who made it America’s pastime during her glory days. I love heroic stories that provide inspiration and guidance to us in our daily lives. It was how Williams accomplished the extraordinary feat of batting .406 that most inspires me to this day in how I approach my job as Attorney General.
At the end of the 1941 season, with one more double-header to play the next day, Williams' batting average stood at .39955. League rules would round it up to .400 and Red Sox Manager Joe Cronin offered to let him sit out the games to guarantee Williams the “Holy Grail for hitters.” That evening Williams walked the streets of Philadelphia with Red Sox trainer Johnny Orlando, and talked about hitting, the A's pitchers he might face the next day, and whether he should play the game or take the sure .400. Williams finally said, "The record's no good unless it's made in all the games." And so he played, batting 6 for 8 and bringing his average up to the now insurmountable .406.
“406” has become for me a code. Whenever I’m tempted to stop short of my best work; to settle with mediocrity; to be satisfied with doing “okay;” I see the numbers “406” in my mind’s eye, and remember my mitt and “God’s Gift to Baseball,” and look for ways to do even better, to reach higher and innovate wider to protect Utah’s children and families (i.e. Amber “mobile” Alerts, Endangered Persons Advisory, Child Abduction Response Team, Identity Theft Data Base, Netsmartz internet safety training in every school, WebWiseKids teen internet safety training pilot in five school districts, Child Protection Registry, and CrimeReports.com.)
There is an additional great lesson in the story of how Ted Williams achieved such precision in hitting. The answer was detailed by the great one himself in his book The Science of Hitting - but that is a blog post for another day.