Ted Williams

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File:Tedwilliams and tomyawkey.jpg
Ted Williams & Tom Yawkey

Theodore Samuel Williams (August 30, 1918July 5, 2002), nicknamed "The Splendid Splinter", "Teddy Ballgame", "The Thumper" and "The Kid", was an American left fielder in Major League Baseball who played 19 seasons, twice interrupted by military service as a Marine Corps pilot, with the Boston Red Sox. It has been argued that he was the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. Williams was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, led the league in batting six times, and won the Triple Crown twice. He had a career batting average of .344, with 521 home runs, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. An avid sport fisherman, he hosted a television show about fishing, and was inducted into the Fishing Hall of Fame.

Early life

Template:MLB HoF Williams was born in San Diego, California as Theodore Samuel Williams, after Teddy Roosevelt. His father, a photographer and great admirer of the late president, and his mother, a Salvation Army worker of Mexican descent, were generally absentee parents and poor providers whom he later came to resent.1 Early in his career, he stated that he wished to be remembered as the "greatest hitter who ever lived", an honor that he indeed achieved in many eyes by the end of his career. He also loved to fish. He said it just relaxed him.

Williams played high school baseball at Herbert Hoover High School. After graduation, he turned professional and had minor league stints for his hometown San Diego Padres and the Minneapolis Millers.

In the major leagues

Williams moved up to the major league Red Sox in 1939. In 1941, Williams entered the last day of the season with a batting average of .3996. This would have been rounded up to .400, making Williams the first man to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930. His manager left the decision whether to play up to him. Williams opted to play in both games of the day's doubleheader and risk losing his record. He got 6 hits in 8 at bats, raising his season average to .406; no one has hit .400 since.

At the time, this achievement was overshadowed by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in the same season. Their rivalry was accentuated by the press; Williams always felt himself the better hitter, but acknowledged that DiMaggio was the better all-around player. Also in 1941, Williams set a major-league record for on-base percentage in a season at .551. That record would last until 2002, when Barry Bonds upped this mark to .582. A lesser-known accomplishment is Williams' feat of reaching base for the most consecutive games, 84. In addition to this record, Williams also holds the third-longest and fourth-longest such streaks. In 1957, Williams reached base in 16 consecutive plate appearances, also a major league record.

One of Williams' other memorable accomplishments was his game-winning home run off of Rip Sewell's notorious eephus pitch during the 1946 All-Star Game. Archival footage shows a delighted Williams hopping around the bases, clapping; he later said this was his greatest thrill in baseball.

Among the few black marks on Williams' playing record was his performance in his lone postseason appearance, the 1946 World Series. Williams managed just 5 singles in 25 at-bats, with just 1 RBI, as the Red Sox lost to the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 8th inning of the seventh game. Much of this was due to his stubborn insistence into hitting into the Cardinals' defensive shift, which frequently involved five or six of the Cardinals' fielders positioned to the right of second base. This shift was a version of the Boudreau Shift, popularized by Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau in an attempt to reduce Williams' effectiveness. Additionally, it has been conjectured that Williams was adversely affected by an injured elbow suffered during an pre-World Series exhibition game played while the Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers were involved in a best-of-three series to determine the National League champion.

An obsessive student of batting, Williams hit for both power and average. In 1970 he wrote a book on the subject, The Science of Hitting; revised (1986), which is still read by many baseball players. He lacked foot speed, as attested by his career total of 24 stolen bases, one inside-the-park home run, and one occasion of hitting for the cycle. He felt that with more speed he could have raised his average considerably. Despite his lack of range in the field, he was considered a sure fielder with a good throwing arm, although he occasionally stated that his one regret was that he did not work harder on his fielding.

Summary of career

Williams served as a US Marine pilot during both World War II and the Korean War, serving in the same unit as John Glenn in the latter. These absences in the prime of his career significantly reduced his career totals, and considering his scientific approach to hitting, those totals would have been even more impressive had he not missed those four seasons.

His two MVP Awards and two Triple Crowns came in four different years. Along with Rogers Hornsby, he is one of only two players to win the Triple Crown twice. Amazingly, he did not win the MVP award in either of his Triple Crown seasons. Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Chuck Klein are the only players since the establishment of the MVP award to win the Triple Crown and not be named MVP for that season. His hitting was so feared that opponents frequently employed the radical, defensive "Williams Shift" against him, leaving only one fielder on the third base half of the field. Rather than bunting the ball into the open space, the proud Williams batted as usual against the contrived defense.

He retired from the game in 1960 and hit a home run in his final at-bat, on September 28, 1960, in front of only 10,454 fans at Fenway Park. This home run - a solo shot hit off Baltimore pitcher Jack Fisher in the 8th inning that reduced the Orioles lead to 4-3 - was immortalized in The New Yorker essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", by John Updike. Williams, who had been on bad terms with the Boston newspapers for nearly twenty years and had a frosty and distant relationship with the Boston fans, characteristically refused either to tip his cap as he circled the bases or to respond to the prolonged cheers of "We want Ted" from the crowd. Williams also refused to tip his cap as he was replaced in left field by Carroll Hardy to start the 9th inning, although he continued to receive warm cheers. Williams' aloof attitude led Updike to wryly observe that "Gods do not answer letters." Williams' final home run did not take place during the final game of the 1960 season, but rather the Red Sox' final home game of the season. The Red Sox played three more games on the road in New York; however, Williams did not appear in any of them.

At the time of his retirement, Williams ranked third all-time in home runs (behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx), seventh in RBIs (after Ruth, Cap Anson, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Foxx, and Mel Ott; Stan Musial would pass Williams in 1962, two years after Williams' retirement), and seventh in batting average (behind Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lefty O'Doul, Ed Delahanty and Tris Speaker). Williams was also second to Ruth in career slugging percentage, where he remains today, and first in on-base percentage. Although Barry Bonds broke Williams' single-season on-base record in 2002, Williams remains first in career on-base percentage. He was also second to Ruth in career walks, but has since dropped to fourth place behind Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson. Williams remains the career leader in walks per plate appearance.

Retirement

After retirement from active play, Williams served as manager of the Washington Senators, continuing with the team when they relocated and became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. Williams best season as a manager was 1969 when he led the expansion Senators to an 86-76 record, which would mark their only winning season in Washington. Williams would go on to win the Manager of the Year award after the 1969 season. However, like many great players who later manage, he became impatient with ordinary athletes' abilities and attitudes, and his managerial career was short and largely unsuccessful. Before and after leaving Texas (which would be his only manager job) he occasionally appeared at Red Sox spring training as a guest hitting instructor.

He was much more successful in fishing than in managing. An avid and expert fly fisherman and deep-sea fisherman, he spent many summer vacations 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, leading many people to opine that Williams was a rare individual who, in his day, might have been the very best in the world in three completely different disciplines: baseball hitter, fighter jet pilot, and fly fisherman. For example, shortly after Williams' death, conservative pundit Steve Sailer called him "possibly the most technically proficient American of the 20th Century, as his mastery of three highly different callings demonstrates." [1]

Williams reached an extensive deal with Sears where Williams agreed to lend his name and talent toward marketing, developing and endorsing a line of in-house fishing and baseball equipment. He was also heavily and extensively involved in the Jimmy Fund, having lost a brother to leukemia, and spent much of his spare time, effort and money in support of the organization.

In his later years, Williams became a frequent fixture at autograph shows and card shows after his son, John Henry Williams took control of his career, becoming his de facto manager. The younger Williams provided structure to his father's business affairs, and rationed his father's public appearances and memorabilia signings carefully, to better maximize his father's earnings potential. Although many felt that Ted was being used by his son, there is no real evidence that the younger Williams was doing anything illicit or unsavory with his father's earnings.

One of Ted Williams' final, and most memorable, public appearances was at the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston. No longer able to walk anything longer than very short distances, Williams was brought out to the pitcher's mound in a golf cart. From the moment he emerged, Williams proudly and prominently waved his cap to the crowd - a gesture he had never done as a player. Fans in attendance responded with a sustained standing ovation that lasted for several minutes. Upon reaching the pitcher's mound he was surrounded by players on both teams for several minutes, and carried on coversations with many players, including Tony Gwynn, a hitter often compared favorably to Williams. Ultimately the ceremony had to be cut short, as Williams' appearance would have delayed the start of the game by several minutes.

In his last years Williams suffered from poor health, specifically cardiac problems. He had a pacemaker installed in November 2000 and underwent open-heart surgery in January 2001. After suffering a series of strokes and congestive heart failures, he died of cardiac arrest in Crystal River, Florida, on July 5, 2002.

Post-death controversy

A public dispute over the disposition of Williams' body was waged after his death. Announcing there would be no funeral, John Henry Williams, Ted's son by his third wife, secretly had Ted's body flown to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, and placed in cryonic suspension. Fearing John was planning to sell their father's DNA for possible cloning, Barbara Joyce Ferrell, Ted's daughter by his first wife, sued, saying his will stated that he wanted to be cremated (it should be noted that any such intention would not require cryonic suspension). John's lawyer then produced an informal family pact signed by Ted, John, and Ted's daughter, Claudia, in which they agreed "to be put into biostasis after we die." The dispute was resolved on December 20, 2002 when Ferrell withdrew her objections after a judge agreed that a $645,000 trust would be distributed equally among the siblings.

In his book, Ted Williams: The Biography of An American Hero, author Leigh Montville makes the case that the "pact" in question was merely a "practice" Ted Williams autograph on a plain piece of paper, around which the "agreement" had later been hand-printed, presumably by John Henry and Claudia. Whether the document was truly genuine or not, the legal issues were ultimately settled, and after John Henry developed leukemia and died in 2004, his body was also taken to Alcor, in full accordance with the disputed "pact".

A 2003 Sports Illustrated investigation revealed that Williams' head and body were being stored in separate containers at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. The head has been shaved and drilled with holes. Additionally, it was accidentally cracked more than 10 times as a result of fluctuating temperatures in the storage unit.

In a radio interview during the time of the controversy, Williams' old friend John Glenn made the practical and plain-spoken point that it was merely a body under discussion, not the man. As Glenn put it, "That carcass has nothing to do with the Ted Williams I knew."

The Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston was named in his honor while he was still alive.


Career Statistics

GABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLG
2,2927,7061,7982,654525715211,83924172,019709.344.482.634

Notes

  • 1 Williams' early life and extensive documentation on his Latino ancestry is contained in the book "The Kid: Ted Williams in San Diego" written by eight members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

See also











Ted's mother, May Williams, mostly described in books and reports as a person of Mexican decent and a hawker for the Salvation Army, doesn't tell the story. Her birthname was Micalia Venzor (1893 - 1971)born of Russian Sephardic Jewish (Spanish) decent on her mother's side, and French Basque decent on her father's side (Matia Venzor 1862 - 1921) her mother, Ted's grandmother, born Nitalia Hernandez (1868-1947) and Great-grandmother, Micalia Armendaraz Hernandez ( 1831-1935) were the blood of Spanish nobility, from Navarre, Pamplona, Spain, via Chihuahua, Mexico, and El Paso, TX, with roots in the order of the Grenedeers, an acient Spainsh order. May and her mother and father moved to San Diego,CA in 1909 to escape the brewing troubles of the coming Mexican Revolution as they were related by blood and in business with the revolutionary Mexican General, Pascual Orozco, who's mother was born Amada y Vaz'quez (1852-1948) of a Basque (Spanish) Mother (Aitana Armendaraz 1821 - 1906) and father, Don Fransisco Vaz'quez-Diaz de Molenar' (1849 - 1915) of the Spanish Hapsburg family. Ted was of Spanish decent on his mothers side, not Mexican.

External links

Books by Ted Williams

  • Williams, Ted and John Underwood Fishing the Big Three : Tarpon, Bonefish, Atlantic Salmon New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982.
  • Williams, Ted and John Underwood My Turn at Bat: My Story of My Life New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969.
  • Williams, Ted and John Underwood The Science of Hitting New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970.
  • Williams, Ted and David Pietrusza Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures (also published as Teddy Ballgame) Kingston (NY): Total Sports, 2001.
  • Williams, Ted and Jim Prime Ted Williams' Hit List : The Best of the Best Ranks the Best of the Rest Indianapolis: Masters Press, 1996.

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