This Day In History: September 28

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On September 28, 1960, at Boston’s Fenway Park, Red Sox star Ted Williams hits a home run in the last at-bat of his 21-year career.

Ted Williams once said it was his goal in life to “walk down the street [and have] folks say ‘there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.’” He succeeded. Williams led the American League in batting average six times, home runs four times and runs batted in four times. He was one of only two men ever to win baseball’s Triple Crown twice, leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average in 1942 and again in 1947. Perhaps most impressively, however, he hit .406 in 1941 (also on September 28)–he was the last man ever to hit .400. He accomplished more than that, missing three seasons to fly combat missions in the Navy during World War II and parts of two more as a Marine during the Korean War, again to fly, this time with John Glenn as his wingman. Williams would later mold himself into a world-class fly fisherman, widely respected and accomplished with the reel.

In spite of his brilliance at the plate, Williams had a tempestuous relationship with Red Sox fans and the media; to his frustration, his every move, both on and off the field, was reported in the newspapers. After being booed by the Fenway faithful early in his career, he swore never to tip his cap to the Boston fans again. In spite of the many spectacular home runs and clutch hits in his career, he never did.

After he hit .254 with a bad back in 1959, Red Sox management urged Williams to retire. Too proud to hang it up after a less-than-stellar season, he returned in 1960 at 42 years old and hit .316 for the year with 29 home runs. In the eighth inning of his final game at Fenway, played in front of a nearly empty house, Williams pulled a 1-1 pitch from Baltimore Oriole Jack Fisher over the Boston bullpen. After rounding the bases, he once again stubbornly refused to take off his hat to acknowledge his cheering fans.

John Updike memorialized Williams’ career by telling the story of his last at-bat in the short story “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” published October 22, 1960 in The New Yorker.