Ted Williams

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Ted Williams : biography

30 August 1918 – 05 July 2002

On the subject of pitchers, in Ted’s autobiography written with John Underwood, Ted opines regarding Bob Lemon (a sinker-ball specialist) pitching for Cleveland Indians around 1951: "I have to rate Lemon as one of the very best pitchers I ever faced. His ball was always moving, hard, sinking, fast-breaking. You could never really uhmmmph with Lemon."

Williams was much more successful in fishing. An avid and expert fly fisherman and deep-sea fisherman, he spent many summers after baseball fishing the Miramichi River, in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada. Williams was named to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2000. Williams, Jim Brown, and Cal Hubbard are the only athletes to be inducted into the Halls of Fame of more than one professional sport. Shortly after Williams’ death, conservative pundit Steve Sailer wrote:

Williams reached an extensive deal with Sears, lending his name and talent toward marketing, developing, and endorsing a line of in-house sports equipment – specifically fishing, hunting, and baseball equipment. Williams continued his involvement in the Jimmy Fund, later losing a brother to leukemia, and spending much of his spare time, effort, and money in support of the cancer organization.

In his later years, Williams became a fixture at autograph shows and card shows after his son (by his third wife), John Henry Williams, took control of his career, becoming his de facto manager. The younger Williams provided structure to his father’s business affairs, exposed forgeries that were flooding the memorabilia market, and rationed his father’s public appearances and memorabilia signings to maximize their earnings.

On November 18, 1991, Ted Williams was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush.

One of Ted Williams’ final, and most memorable, public appearances was at the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston. Able to walk only a short distance, Williams was brought to the pitcher’s mound in a golf cart. He proudly waved his cap to the crowd — a gesture he had never done as a player. Fans responded with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. At the pitcher’s mound he was surrounded by players from both teams, including fellow Red Sox player Nomar Garciaparra. Later in the year, he was among the members of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team introduced to the crowd at Turner Field in Atlanta prior to Game two of the World Series.

The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts, carrying 1.6 miles of the final 2.3 miles of Interstate 90 under Boston Harbor, opened in December 1995, and Ted Williams Parkway (California State Route 56) in San Diego County, California, opened in 1992, were named in his honor while he was still alive.

Relationship with Boston media and fans

Ted Williams was on uncomfortable terms with the Boston newspapers for nearly twenty years, as he felt they liked to discuss his personal life as much as his baseball performance. He maintained a career-long feud with SPORT magazine due to a 1948 feature article in which the SPORT reporter included a quote from Williams’ mother. Insecure about his upbringing, and stubborn because of immense confidence in his own talent, Williams made up his mind that the "knights of the Press Box" were against him. Some seemingly were. After having hit for the league’s Triple Crown in 1947, Williams narrowly lost the MVP award in a vote where one midwestern newspaper writer left Williams entirely off his ten-player ballot.

He treated most of the press accordingly, as he described in his memoir, My Turn at Bat. Williams also had an uneasy relationship with the Boston fans, though he could be very cordial one-on-one. He felt at times a good deal of gratitude for their passion and their knowledge of the game. On the other hand, Williams was temperamental, high-strung, and at times tactless. In his biography, Ronald Reis relates how Williams committed two fielding miscues in a doubleheader in 1950 and was roundly booed by Boston fans. He bowed three times to various sections of Fenway Park and made an obscene gesture. When he came to bat he spit in the direction of fans near the dugout. The incident caused an avalanche of negative media reaction, and inspired sportswriter Austen Lake’s famous comment that when Williams name was announced the sound was like "autumn wind moaning through an apple orchard."