Friday, August 13, 2010

Two Ted Williams Stories

The comedian Billy Crystal relates that he once met retired Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams in the 1990’s when Williams was a very old man. He said to Williams, “I have a home movie of Robin Roberts striking you out in a game in Yankee stadium back in 1951. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ted Williams replied “Curve ball low and away.”

A former co-worker of mine once told me that one day in the 1950’s, his father and a bunch of his friends from school were playing sandlot baseball in Boston when a white Cadillac Escalade pulled up and a very tall man (about 6’ 3”), slender but very powerfully built, stepped out and asked the boys for directions to a particular address in the neighborhood. After getting directions, the tall stranger got back in his Cadillac and drove off. Most of the kids didn’t give the matter much thought; however one of their class mates was absolutely awestruck. He said to his playmates, “Don’t you know who that was?” After they replied that they didn’t know, he said emphatically “That was Ted Williams!” This led to considerable discussion as to what exactly Ted Williams would have been doing in that neighborhood, on that particular sandlot, on that particular day. It was not until quite some time later that my friend’s father learned the truth about that incident. Ted Williams had at times a very prickly personality and feuded with Boston sports writers for his entire 22 year career. However, anyone familiar with Boston’s most famous charity, the Jimmy Fund, knew that Williams was active with that organization from his rookie year until long past his retirement, and was ultimately immortalized with a statue honoring this commitment. With absolutely no fanfare, Williams was on his way to visit a young boy who had suffered horrendous burns; Ted was going over to the kid’s house to play catch.

Moral of the story: if you have any regard for your long term reputation, never miss a chance to be nice to sick and handicapped kids. People will remember that half a century later, even long after you’re dead and gone.

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