Let's face it, Yankees and Red Sox fans have a lot to debate and disagree about, including Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio. Of course, everyone can agree that he was among the greatest MLB players of all time. But Yankees and Red Sox fans love to debate which player was better: DiMaggio or Williams.
Compare Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio
Naturally, Yankees fans will prefer DiMaggio while Red Sox fans will always choose Williams. Since these two fanbases will never agree, we wanted to provide a neutral perspective on the Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio debate. We've taken a comprehensive look at the careers of both players, and this is how we decided who is the better player.
For many, the debate between Williams and DiMaggio begins — and sometimes ends — with the 1941 season. DiMaggio won the MVP award that year on the back of his 56-game hitting streak, a record that seemed likely to last forever.
However, Williams won the batting title that year with a .406 average, much higher than DiMaggio's .357. Williams also led the league in home runs, slugging, and on-base percentage that season, hitting just 27 home runs, besting DiMaggio in almost every respect outside of an extended hitting streak.
Based on his historical hitting streak, DiMaggio is considered one of the best hitters in MLB history. However, his .325 career average cannot compare to Williams, who hit .344 during his career. In fact, Williams only had one season during his 19-year career in which he failed to hit at least .300.
By comparison, DiMaggio failed to reach .300 twice in 13 seasons. To take things a step further, DiMaggio had three seasons with an average better than .350 while Williams had five seasons where he hit over .350, not including the two seasons in which he hit .400 or better in less than 40 games.
When it comes to power, Williams also has the advantage with a career slugging percentage of .634 compared to DiMaggio's .579. In fact, Williams has the second-highest career OPS in MLB history.
It goes without saying that Williams hit a lot more home runs, hitting 521 in his career while DiMaggio hit just 361 home runs. To be fair, they each averaged about 27 home runs during their careers. However, if you subtract the two incomplete seasons Williams had during the Korean War when he was called up for military service, he averaged just under 30 homers per season.
For the record, both Williams and DiMaggio should be commended for their service to their country. Both missed the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons during World War II. Williams later missed most of the 1952 and 1953 seasons when he was called to active duty while DiMaggio retired at that point.
Including those two incomplete seasons, Williams played 19 years in the major leagues. He retired at the age of 42 and would have played more than 20 full seasons had it not been for World War II. Meanwhile, DiMaggio retired after 13 seasons in the major leagues and would not have made it to two full decades, even without World War II.
Defense is the one area where DiMaggio clearly outperforms Williams. Unfortunately for DiMaggio, the Gold Glove Award did not exist during his era. If that were the case, he would certainly have won many of them.
Baseball historians consider him one of the best defensive center fielders in MLB history. Although he did not steal many bases during his career, DiMaggio had the speed to cover acres of space in center field, and impressive range. Conversely, Williams has never been considered a solid defensive player. He played mostly left field, which suggests he was not a strong defensive player. He pales in comparison to DiMaggio in this part of the game.
The official resumes of both Williams and DiMaggio are very impressive. DiMaggio may have won nine World Series with the Yankees, but Williams has a much more impressive trophy rack otherwise. Surprisingly, DiMaggio won only two batting titles while also leading the American League in homers twice and RBIs twice. He also won three MVP awards and was runner-up for the MVP award on two other occasions.
However, Williams won six batting titles and led the American League in homers four times and RBIs four times. He also won the Triple Crown twice and MVP twice. Somehow, he failed to win MVP in either of the two seasons in which he won the Triple Crown. However, there were four seasons in which Williams was an MVP runner-up. Including two seasons of the Triple Crown.
While Williams and DiMaggio deserve to be mentioned among the biggest legends in baseball history, there is no doubt that Williams was the better player. The fact that DiMaggio was so much better defensively is the only reason outside of DiMaggio's untouchable hitting streak that makes the debate even close.
That streak aside, Williams was a superior hitter when it came to hitting for a high rate and hitting for power. That DiMaggio has won more top players is offset by the fact that he has never won the Triple Crown, which Williams did twice.
Williams also had a longer career that was interrupted twice by military service. On both occasions, he returned to the same quality as before the hiatus. Naturally, few can live up to DiMaggio's defense and no one will be able to surpass his hitting streak. But looking at their careers as a whole, there is no doubt that Williams was the better and more influential player.