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Retro to the late great Ted Williams
| Friday, 07.05.2019, 01:57 AM |   (35356 views)

Ted Williams By Ed Donovan

TED WILLIAMS

By

Ed Donovan

 

With the All Star game on TV this week I am paying tribute to the All Satr Game of 1999 with the tribute to Ted Williams that day.

 

            He was called Teddy Ballgame, The Splendid Splinter and to thousands of us loyal New England fans he was Ted Williams the greatest hitter that ever lived.

            He was born Theodore Samuel Williams on August 30, 1918 in San Diego, California. As a young boy Ted always had a bat in his hands practicing hitting and developing his swing. His mother was a Salvation Army missionary and Ted often accompanied her on her missions to brothels and bars. He loved her passion for her work and he developed the same passion for his love of baseball. This drive led his high school, Hoover High, to the state championship. Scouts took of this slender 6’4, 190 lb player and he was signed by the Boston Red Sox and sent to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. As legend has it, Williams hit a home run so far over right field that it landed in an empty boxcar in a train headed for Los Angeles.

            Ted headed to Boston, Massachusetts where in his rookie year of 1939, he hit .327 with 31 homers and 145 RBI’s. During the off-season his parents divorced and he stayed in Minneapolis with his future wife Doris Soule in order to avoid the pain of the divorce. The Boston Sports writers got on his case as a result of his slow start at the plate in 1940. This started a feud between Ted and the media that lasted for years. His relationship with the baseball writers probably cost him the MVP in 1947 when he lost by one vote. In 1941 he lost the MVP to Joe DiMaggio who had a 56 game hitting streak. On the final day of the 1941 season Ted had a .39955 batting average. It would have been rounded out to .400 if he chose not to take another at-bat. But Williams never one to back down from any challenge, played in both games of the double header. He went 6 for 8 finishing at .406.

            In 19 years with the Boston Red Sox Williams belted 521 homers, batted .344 and had 1,839 RBIs. He also won two Triple Crowns in 1942 and 1947. His .483 on base percentage is baseballs best, with Babe Ruth second at .474. In slugging percentage, William’s .634 trails only Babe Ruth .690. Williams .406 average in 1941 is one of sport’s magic numbers. No player has topped .400 since. His career total walks (2,019) are only second to Babe Ruth’s. He made 18 All Star appearances and was named the major league Player of the Decade for the 1950’s. In 1959 he only batted .254 and he felt he let the fans down so he asked for a cut in salary. Can you imagine any player today doing that? In his last at bat on September 28, 1960, at the age of 42, he ended his career by hitting a home run and finishing with a .316 batting average. We can only imagine what he would have accomplished if he had not lost two years to injuries and five of his prime years to World War 2 and the Korean War.

            In Korea he flew 39 missions and lost part of his hearing. His wing commander was Senator John Glenn.  On one occasion in combat Ted’s plane was shot and caught on fire. Rather than abandon his plane he chose to crash land barely escaping death. He chose not to bail out because he was so tall he knew he would probably damage his knees and would never be able to play baseball again He made it out of his plane in time when a superior officer came running over to he, “Ted says

"Can you imagine that asshole asked me for my autograph.?”.

 

Ted Williams managed to eluded death another lucky break for Ted and baseball. When he returned to Boston all the Red Sox fans gave him a hero’s welcome. Ted couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about as he was only doing what other men had been doing serving their country.

            His home, spanning over five decades, was in the Sunshine state of Florida.  Ted began a love affair with tarpon fishing in Islamorada Key, 70 miles south of Miami, where he kept his boat. He loved to have sports writers on his boat where he could rattle them with his brand of humor. “I had a fishing date with Hemingway in Cuba,” he told a friend. “But I never got to keep it Castro broke it up.” Ted is the only man to be ever inducted into the fishing’s and baseball’s halls of fame.

            He eventually moved to Crystal River, Florida and this was his home until his death on July 5, 2002. In February of 1994 he opened the Ted Williams Hall Of Fame in Hernando.

            The other side of Ted the public never got to know was his dedication and devotion to the Jimmy Fund, a charity to help children with cancer. He gave his time and efforts to any of these causes as long as the media was not allowed to publicize it. He wanted no credit for it. Ted would lend his name to several charities and visit children in the hospitals both in Boston and on the road when he was traveling with his team. When he learned that Bob Shaughnessy, a Boston Sports writer, had a nine year-old daughter with leukemia he called her on the phone and told her she was going to be O.K. He visited her in the hospital and followed her progress through the years.

He always tried to help players on the visiting team who were struggling at the plate. These would be the same players who would be playing against him that day.

            I remember one day when he was instructing fly-casting at a sport show in Boston. I was a uniformed Boston police officer assigned to protect him that day. He had been working the show all-day and giving out free autographs. When it was time to leave that night I had to escort him to a taxi waiting outside. Taking him through the onslaught of fans an exhausted Ted still found time to give a few autographs to some of the fans.

 

When I got Ted into the back seat of the taxi I asked him for an autograph for my son Michael, it was his tenth birthday that day. He said, “Sure what’s the boy’s name?” I told him Michael and he wrote on the program, To Michael, Happy Birthday, from Ted Williams. The ball players of today could learn a lot from him. I can’t imagine him ever using steroids it would be against everything he believed in. He wasn’t one to say the players were better in his day; in fact he stated the athletes of today are far superior to the athletes of his day.

            President George Bush, who called him “an iconoclast and rebel-John Wayne in a Red Sox uniform” honored Ted Williams at the White House in 1991 on the 50th anniversary of his .406 season. His favorite three songs were The Star Spangled Banner, The Marine’s Hymn and Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

            I saw Ted in 1991 at Fenway Park when they honored him with the Ted William’s Day. We were standing about two rows on the first base side when I caught a glimpse of Ted taking out a baseball hat from his side pocket and placing it behind him. I told my partner get ready he’s going to tip his hat to the crowd and

just as he did she caught him as he waved his cap to the fans.. Thais was the day he tipped his hat to all the fans of New England. 



 

 One of the biggest thrills of my life was watching the All-Star game in 1999 in Fenway Park when they introduced Ted Williams to the stadium as Ted Williams, the greatest hitter that ever lived. He came out on a cart and all the ballplayers on the field gathered around him to witness the great man himself. He was in bad health at age 80 and mostly everyone there knew it was probably the last time they would ever see Ted Williams alive.

 

I was in my home in Orlando, but my heart was in Boston with Ted and all the fans. This grown man had no trouble shedding tears of joy on that occasion and later tears of sadness when I heard the news of the passing of Ted Williams, father, son, husband, baseball player, fisherman, humanitarian, war hero and the greatest hitter that ever lived.

 

Ed Donovan is a SAG-AFTRA member since 1982. He is a Writer, Biographer, Producer, Director, Screenwriter and the Editor of the Award-winning online magazine, In Focus- Magazine. The magazine is linked World Wide with writers and readers throughout the World. For more on Ed Donovan go to IMDB,  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1105025/?ref_=rvi_nm

 

 



 

 

           

           







Ed Donovan


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