Ted Williams

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Ted Williams : biography

30 August 1918 – 05 July 2002

Hall of Fame induction speech

In his induction speech in 1966, Williams included a statement calling for the recognition of the great Negro Leagues players: "I’ve been a very lucky guy to have worn a baseball uniform, and I hope some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given a chance." (Montville, p. 262)

Williams was referring to two of the most famous names in the Negro Leagues, who were not given the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Gibson died early in 1947 and thus never played in the majors; and Paige’s brief major league stint came long past his prime as a player. This powerful and unprecedented statement from the Hall of Fame podium was "a first crack in the door that ultimately would open and include Paige and Gibson and other Negro League stars in the shrine." Paige was the first inducted in 1971. Gibson and others followed, starting in 1972 and continuing off and on into the 21st Century.

In 1954, Williams was also inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the honoring San Diego’s finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.

Baseball career

Throughout his career, Williams stated his goal was to have people point to him and remark, "There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived."Williams & Underwood, p. 7

Williams played back-up behind Vince DiMaggio and Ivey Shiver on the (then) Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. While in the Pacific Coast League in 1936, Williams met future teammates and friends Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr, who were on the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals.Montville, p. 32 When Shiver announced he was quitting to become a football coach at the University of Georgia, the job, by default, was open for Williams.Montville, p. 33-34 Williams posted a .271 batting average on 107 at bats in 42 games for the Padres in 1936. Unknown to Williams, he had caught the eye of the Boston Red Sox’s general manager, Eddie Collins, while Collins was scouting Bobby Doerr and the shortstop George Myatt in August 1936.Nowlin, p. 98 Collins later explained, "It wasn’t hard to find Ted Williams. He stood out like a brown cow in a field of white cows." In the 1937 season, after graduating Hoover High in the winter, Williams finally broke into the line-up on June 22, when he hit an inside-the-park home run to help the Padres win 3-2. The Padres ended up winning the PCL title, while Williams ended up hitting .291 with 23 home runs. Meanwhile, Collins kept in touch with Padres general manager Bill Lane, calling him two times throughout the season. In December 1937, during the winter meetings, the deal was made between Lane and Collins, sending Williams to the Boston Red Sox and giving Lane $35,000 and two major leaguers, Dom D’Allessandro and Al Niemiec, and two other minor leaguers.Nowlin, p. 100Williams & Underwood, p. 43

In 1938, the nineteen-year-old Williams was ten days late to spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida, because of a flood in California blocking the railroads. Williams had to borrow $200 from a bank to make the trip from San Diego to Sarasota.Williams & Underwood, p. 45 Also during spring training Williams was nicknamed "The Kid" by Red Sox equipment manager Johnny Orlando, who after Williams arrived to Sarasota for the first time, said, "The Kid’ has arrived". Orlando still called Williams "The Kid" twenty years later, while the nickname stuck with Williams the rest of his life.Reis, p. 14 Williams remained in major league spring training for about a week. Williams was then sent to the Double-A-league Minneapolis Millers.Montville, p. 46 While in the training camp of the Millers camp for the springtime, Williams met Rogers Hornsby, who had hit over .400 three times, including a .424 average in 1924,Montville, p. 45 who was a coach for the Millers for the spring. Hornsby told Williams useful advice, including to "get a good pitch to hit". Talking with the game’s greats would become a pattern for Williams, who talked with Hugh Duffy who hit .438 in 1894, Bill Terry who hit .401 in 1930, and Ty Cobb against whom he would argue that a batter should hit up on the ball, opposed to Cobb’s view that a batter should hit down on the ball.Montville, p. 47