Any fan of baseball will know the name Ted Williams, even though many fans of the sport today wouldn’t have been alive to see him on the diamond. He was a legend on the field, and had nicknames for days.
We are unlikely to see the likes of Williams again, although there are many players that get bettors excited, and that fans feel joy to see on the field, there is never going to be another Ted Williams again.
Baseball fans eye-up Fanduel’s World’s Series odds these days, but back then the betting scene was minimal, however, if it was as big then as it is now, we imagine thousands of dollars would have been spent betting on Ted Williams’ games.
His full name was Theodore Samuel Williams, but he also had the nicknames Teddy Ballgame, and the Splendid Splinter. He was an outfielder with the Red Sox from ‘39 until ‘60, with a lifetime batting average of .344.
He was always good at baseball, the man was simply a god when he had a bat in his hand. He was unique, batting with his left hand, and throwing with his right, a very desirable combination. Which made him very attractive to teams, and got into the major league as easily as he did the minor league.
The Fear Of Racism
Ted Williams was a superstar in the 1940s and 1950s, however, at first his heritage was a problem, because racism was even more prevalent at that time than it is today.
When Williams came up with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 he concealed his Mexican heritage for decades. He shunned his heritage and kept his ancestry a secret, out of the fear of racism.
There is even a documentary that explores his life and his turbulent relationships with his family and the press on such matters. It is titled “American Masters”.
Ted’s mother was a Mexican-American woman who was a devotee of the Salvation Army, often doing work in Mexico, across the border from where Ted grew up in southern California. Which frequently meant that Ted and his brother were left with their alcoholic father, a pickle salesman, as well as a photographer.
It was a strange start to his life, and despite his shunning of his heritage out of fear, Williams grew to be a very successful sportsman, both as a brilliant hitter and a Hall of Fame sport fisherman
Despite the complications of his history and the turbulence around his bloodline, Williams was an amazing baseball player. He captivated the nation with his show-stopping swings and his sky-high homers throughout his career, including his home run that won the 1941 All-Star Game in Detroit.
He was hiding his rage, be it at his family, or at the ignorance of a nation, we cannot be certain, but they do say that sport is a great way to exercise mental health. Perhaps “The Kid’s” epic sports skills came from that inner conflict.
Whether the troubles of this man were part of what fueled his play we will never know, but if they did, it was part of his magic, his charm, and what made him so well-loved.
An Outstanding Player
Aside from his desire to hide his Mexican heritage for fear of being ostracized, Williams was an incredible player. He was always battling the media, and he did have issues outside of the game. For instance, in 1942 he requested a draft deferment as he was his mothers’ only support. He was derided for this, and it was called an ‘unpatriotic choice’ in the press.
In November 1942, he entered active duty in the U.S. Navy, thus causing him to miss the baseball seasons of ‘43, ‘44, and ‘45. However, the navy didn’t change him, and when he returned to the field in ‘46, he had lost none of his skill, managing to hit a solid .342 in ‘46, and ‘47, which won him a Triple Crown.
Of course, the world was still turbulent, and he returned to the military, serving as a pilot in the Korean War in ‘52, and ‘53. Williams possibly missed more of his prime to wartime service than any other player in baseball history.
Despite all the ups and downs of his career, Ted Williams hit a total of 521 home runs. One has to imagine what he might have achieved had he not lost five years to military service. Still, Williams rates as among the greatest Boston Red Sox players of all-time.
Williams retired as a player in 1960, but returned to manage the Senators in 1969, and kept his heart in the game for long after that.