Ted Williams is considered by many to be the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. In the 1941 season, Ted finished with a batting average of .406 and is still the last person to hit over .400 in a season; his career batting average is .344.
There is an old video of a 1995 Discussion Table show on ESPN Classic that Ted did with Tony Gwynn, one of the game’s greatest hitters and the last player to retire with a career batting average of .300 or better.
During this interview, Ted was excitedly rambling on about the science behind hitting and all the variables at play, while Tony was nodding along with a perplexed expression, almost like he was wondering what the hell this old-timer was talking about.
Ted’s mind for hitting seemed to be on another level, which is probably why he’s one of the only players to play professional baseball in four different decades—1930s, 1940s, 1950s & 1960s.
He played from 1939 to 1960. He also has at least one baseball card released in every single decade he played in.
Therefore, I have prepared a collection of what I think are the four best Ted Williams cards, where each card is from a different decade.
1939 Playball Ted Williams #92
One card that must be on the list, considering it’s the only card of his from that decade, is his 1939 Playball rookie card.
The Playball issue of 1939 is a landmark issue for baseball cards, as it represented a new entrant from Gum, Incorporated that coincided with the 100th year anniversary for major league baseball.
The card is in black and white which, in my opinion, detracts a little from its visual appeal but it’s still a beautiful card and one of his best when compared to all his other cards.
PSA has 845 reported graded 1939 Ted Williams Play Ball cards, so not impossible to find, but only about 100 with a PSA 8 grade or better.
A mint version is likely worth in the 6 figures as PSA estimates a 9 graded card to be worth $200,000.
Note that if you're looking for a more affordable option, you can typically find one for between $3000 and $4000 in Poor to Good condition.
1941 Playball Ted Williams #14
Ted Williams has only a handful of cards featured in the 1940s with the most notable being the 1940 and 1941 Playball cards and the 1948 Leaf.
I think Ted’s best card of this decade is the 1941 Playball.
For starters, the 1941 Playball set is one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the hobby. The cards from this set look like mini paintings and the subtle, yet vivid, colors are breathtaking.
This set was also the final major issue released prior to the second world war. The next set wouldn't be released until three years following the conclusion of WWII (where Ted served) with one being the 1948 Leaf issue.
This card also came out during the infamous season that Ted hit .406.
It’s a wonderful portrait card of a young Ted Williams.
PSA has graded over 1100 1941 Ted Williams Play Ball cards, so not impossible to find, but much harder to find in higher grade as only 69 have been graded at PSA 8 or above.
A PSA 9 copy recently sold for over $200K at auction, and would expect any future sales to likely eclipse that number.
For a more affordable option, you can typically find one for less than $1000 in Good condition.
1954 Topps Ted Williams #1
The 1950s was a decade that was graced with a flock of beautiful Ted Williams cards, making my selection for this decade very difficult.
His two Bowman cards from 1950-51 are both gorgeous and the 1954 Wilson Franks is a one of a kind, but in the end, I have to go with the 1954 Topps #1 card, the one with the orange background.
Note that Ted has two cards in the 1954 Topps set (the other #250 one has a yellow background)
The #1 orange background Ted card is unique in that not only is it stunning, as most 1950s Topps cards are, but it pays homage to Ted’s service in the Korean War on the back of the card.
This man served in two wars (WWII and Korea) and gave prime years of his career to do so. He was a hero on and off the field.
Both Ted's #1 and #250 cards are in plentiful supply--PSA has graded over 4000 of each card.
The good thing is that given the high availability, the card is still fairly affordable. Even a mid to higher grade copy can often be found for less than $1000.
1960 Fleer Ted Williams #72
The final card on the list is the 1960 Fleer Ted Williams #72. The 1960 Fleer set is a collection of all-time baseball greats and Williams is the only card in the set featuring an active player at the time. Ted retired after the 1960 season.
The 1960 Fleer addition makes this an eclectic little list of Ted Williams cards, I think, and I like collections that are eclectic, or diversified. Also, this is a nice one with a picture of Ted in mid-swing during his final year with the Boston Red Sox, the only team he ever played for.
In addition, the 1960 Fleer set wasn't as widely distributed in comparison to other Topps issues from the era, making this a relatively scarcer set. Now scarce is loosely used here, as PSA still has graded roughly 1500 copies.
And ultimately, its Ted's most affordable playing day card. An ungraded copy can usually be found for less than $100.
There you have it, the best four Ted Williams cards by decade as chosen by me. Of course, not everyone will agree, so if you think one of Ted's cards deserves to take the place of one of my choices, let me know if the comments below.
I'm always up for a healthy baseball card debate!