Williams was born in San Diego, California Teddy Samuel Williams in honor of Teddy Roosevelt (he later changed his name to Theodore) and is hailed as one of the finest hitters to have ever played the game. His two MVP Awards and two Triple Crowns came in different years. He is one of only two players (the other being Rogers Hornsby) to have won the Triple Crown twice.
In 1941, he came to the last game of the season with a batting average of .3996, which would be rounded up to .400 and thus make Williams the first man to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930. Given the option by his manager, Williams opted to play and risk losing his record. He got 4 hits in 6 at bats, raising his season average to .406. No one has hit .400 since. This achievement was overshadowed at the time by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Their rivalry was accentuated by the press, but he and DiMaggio apparently agreed that Williams was the better hitter and DiMaggio the better all-round player. Also in 1941, Williams set a major-league record for on-base percentage in a season at .551; that record would last until 2002 when Barry Bonds had an even more mind-boggling .582 OBP.
Williams, an obsessive student of batting, hit for both power and average. In 1970 he wrote a book on the subject, The Science of Hitting (ISBN 06-71-62-1033; Revised (1986)), which is read by virtually every baseball player.
He lacked foot speed, as attested by his career 24 steals, one inside-the-park home run, and one occasion of hitting the cycle. He felt that with more speed he could have raised his average considerably. He was an ordinary fielder.
Williams served in the military as a US Marine pilot during both World War II and the Korean War (serving in the same unit as John Glenn during the latter). These absences in the prime of career significantly reduced his totals.
He retired from the game in 1960 after hitting a home run in his final at-bat, immortalized in The New Yorker essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" by John Updike. He served as manager for the Washington Senators and Texas Rangers during the 1960s and early 1970s. An avid, and very good, fly fisherman, after retiring from baseball he spent time each summer fishing the Miramichi River, in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada.
A very public dispute over the disposition of Williams' body between family members was waged after his death. His son, John Henry Williams, had the body vitrified and stored at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a provider of cryonics services in Scottsdale, Arizona. His daughter, Barbara Joyce Williams Ferrell, wanted her father's body cremated citing Williams' 1996 will. Various friends and acquaintances chimed in to support Ferrell, but the courts upheld Alcor's careful documentation of Williams final wishes. Ferrell also alleged that her brother previously expressed an intention to sell genetic material taken from their father for the purposes of cloning the "Splendid Splinter". It should be noted that any such intention would not require cryonic suspension. The dispute was resolved on December 20, 2002 when Ferrell withdrew her objections after a judge agreed that a $645,000 trust would be distributed equally among the Williams' siblings.
The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts was named in his honor while he was still alive.