Ted Williams’ first home run in a Red Sox uniform never cleared a fence. It was hit to center field in an exhibition game at the fenceless College of Holy Cross, sailing so far over the center fielder’s head that it came to rest on an adjacent football field. The sacks were full of Sox at the time, so Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx and Jim Tabor all scored ahead of Williams, who swung a hot bat despite the early spring chill.
Boston’s real games began six days later in the Bronx. Williams, a 20-year-old rookie, was penciled into the six-spot in the batting order, making his major-league debut against Red Ruffing. The fresh-faced San Diego kid managed a double in four at-bats, his first career hit, and the first of 152 hits he would collect against Hall-of-Fame hurlers.
After opening with a single game in New York, the Red Sox came home for a three-game series against the Philadelphia Athletics. Williams whacked a single in his Fenway Park debut and followed that with two more hits the next day, including his second big-league double. It was a good start for Williams, but merely a hint of what was to come.
Five Philadelphia pitchers took the mound at Fenway in the series finale, serving up four hits to Williams, who opened the day with a two-run blast off Bud Thomas in the first inning. It was Williams’ first big-league home run – hit an estimated 420 feet to right-center – and it happened on this day – April 23 – in 1939
“He hit a sort of change of pace,” Thomas said later. “He pulled it hard. It was just a fair ball way down the right field line.”
– Jayson Hron