But Williams insisted on playing, not getting a hit in his first at bat and leaving the game. He managed to play the entire doubleheader and was rewarded by going 6-8 to finish the season at .406. Jose Reyes bunts for a single in his first at bat of the last game of the season only to take himself out to assure himself a batting title. At .337? With Williams it was not a case of it being about the numbers.
He was a man who knew how good he was. He worked tirelessly at the art of hitting a baseball. It showed in his approach which was almost mechanical, but resulted in one of the smoothest, sweetest swings the game has ever seen. For Williams, he could have cared less about being the last MLB hitter to hit .400. I'm sure it meant something to him, but if he went 3-8 (.375) in the doubleheader, he would not have batted .400 for the season. He was mentally strong enough to handle that, and would have been fine if he hit .398 for the season. Factor in that he was only 22, where many young players are and always have been about the numbers. Reyes acted like more of a kid at 28 than Williams did at 22. Add in the fact that he would be flying World War II fighter planes a little more than a year later made it known how tough he was.
Williams managed to hit .406 (185-436), 37, 120 that season with 147 walks and just 27 strikeouts. He scored 135 runs, finishing with a .553 OBP, .735 SLG for a 1.287 OPS! What was even crazier was that Williams did not win the AL MVP in 1942; it went to Joe DiMaggio, who of course had his 56 game hitting streak the same season.
Williams, in my opinion belongs in the short conversation of the best player to ever play in this game. The only others who belong in the same conversation is Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. As great as Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were, none could be considered the best ever like Williams, Ruth and Cobb can. Williams finished his career with a .344 average and an MLB record .482 OPS. He also had over 2000 walks while striking out just 709 times in his entire career. Cobb had more hits and Ruth had more HRs, but there is little comparison when it comes to the best pure hitter in MLB history, Ted Williams.