Ted Williams was born in 1918 of parents whose ancestry was quite diverse.  His mother was a Mexican American with Spanish, Russian and Native American roots as well.  His father’s ancestors came from the British Isles.  He learned how to play baseball at the age of 8.

He began his major league career in 1939.  In 1941, Ted Williams was hitting over .400 going into the final month of the season.  That was a feat that has rarely been achieved in the modern era of baseball.  Due to a late season slump, his average had dropped.  Going into the final 2 games (a double-header), his average was .39955.  According to baseball rules, his official batting average for the season would be .400.  Instead of going for the sure thing, Williams decided to play.  He wouldn’t accept the honor of hitting .400 by a statistical rounding calculation.  He had six hits in eight batting attempts and finished the season with an average of .406.  Only eight other players have hit over .400 since 1900 and no player has accomplished that since Ted Williams in 1941.

Hitting over .400 was not the only indication of Ted Williams’ integrity.  Following this historic season, Williams was drafted into the military and went on active duty in 1943.  He became a Naval Aviator.  Instead of opting for assignments which were primarily promotional, Williams opted to become a pilot.  In fact, the Navy forced him to take a short leave to accept the 1942 Triple Crown (an award that few have ever received).  During training, Williams was a star pilot by mastering maneuvers faster than any of his fellow aviators.

Once World War II was over, Williams returned to his baseball career.  His hitting prowess continued.  At the onset of the Korean War, Williams was again called to active duty.  Very few other baseball players were called to duty.  He had remained in the reserves after World War II.  He was involved in the war effort and flew 39 combat missions for two years.

Williams ended his baseball career as one of only 29 players to ever play in four decades.  His last year in baseball he led the American League in batting.  It was fitting that he hit a home run in his last at bat.

If Ted Williams had sacrificed his integrity by taking the easy way out from military service, he would probably have surpassed Babe Ruth’s home run record as well as the record for career RBI’s.

Integrity is the measure of who we are.  At some time in everyone’s life, we have to decide whether we do the right thing or the convenient thing.  How many of us would have sat out the final two games of the season knowing that the record books would show that we hit .400?  How many of us would have given up 5 years of a career for public service when those 5 years would probably make us the best of all time in our career?

Integrity begins at a young age by refusing to go with the crowd and violate our own values.  Imagine who we can look to today in leadership positions in our society as role models of integrity.

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“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

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