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Monday, July 23, 2018

PBS American Masters: Ted Williams

Showing tonight, at 9 PM local time for me. YMMV; check your local listings. (EDIT: link to online version here, h/t to Jim Furtado. Link says the video expires 8/20/18.  -vi)

In honor of the centennial of Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, American Masters presents a new biography of the Boston Red Sox player who may have been the greatest hitter who ever lived.

Season 32 Episode 4, for those who are keeping track.

villageidiom Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:39 AM | 89 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: american masters, boston, boston red sox, documentary, pbs, red sox, ted williams, television

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 23, 2018 at 11:23 AM (#5714074)
9:00 tonight on Maryland Public TV (Channel 22), and 10:00 Wednesday night on WETA-26 in Washington. WETA is so cluttered up with repeats of Antiques Roadshow and British TV series that it barely has room for anything else.
   2. DL from MN Posted: July 23, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5714094)
Will also probably end up streaming on the PBS app soon.
   3. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: July 23, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5714140)
Finding a current player to stand in as Ted proved to be a challenge, mostly because of all the weight training modern players do.
   4. Morty Causa Posted: July 23, 2018 at 01:18 PM (#5714186)
Reading the first couple of paragraphs, someone needed to tell the kid that The Kid used light bats
   5. McCoy Posted: July 23, 2018 at 01:39 PM (#5714198)
Could be a matter of perspective. Ted's bat is generally between a half inch to about an 1.5 inches longer and up to 3 to 4 oz lighter than modern bats. A guy might think that feels like a log but yeah, if the guy picked out a JoeD bat or Mel Ott bat he's going the wrong way.
   6. Morty Causa Posted: July 23, 2018 at 06:23 PM (#5714432)
Hope to catch the presentation. Williams is one of those people who, great as they are in what they chose to do, give you the impression they could have excelled in other fields of endeavor. Intelligence, presence, an ability to focus laser-like on accomplishing a goal. Mark Twain or Churchill or James Stewart also come to mind. You don't get that sense with just anybody.
   7. puck Posted: July 23, 2018 at 09:02 PM (#5714523)
give you the impression they could have excelled in other fields of endeavor.


He was a fighter pilot in two wars, and is in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame. So it seems he did excel in other fields.
   8. Morty Causa Posted: July 23, 2018 at 09:59 PM (#5714592)
That's true.

Nice even-handed professional presentation, the PBS special was. Didn't downplay his anti-heroic heroism. That all-time all-star get-together with all the players surrounding him in homage and in true affection is always touching. It's like they saw through him and saw themselves in him.
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:00 PM (#5714594)
Just finished watching it, and I'm glad I did. My only complaint is that it should've been twice as long.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:04 PM (#5714598)
International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame
That's not really a thing, right?
   11. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:07 PM (#5714601)
if you haven't read this, you should. 33 years old but still brilliant. Second best 20th century sports piece, next to this one. Both in Esquire
   12. Morty Causa Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:07 PM (#5714602)
#9

We found something we agree on totally.
   13. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:12 PM (#5714608)
That was a great source (the HOF fisherman). I knew Ted was a serious fisherman, but those nuggets were damn funny, never heard those stories before.
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 23, 2018 at 10:42 PM (#5714631)
if you haven't read this, you should. 33 years old but still brilliant. Second best 20th century sports piece, next to this one. Both in Esquire

FYI that first article was later expanded into a book.
   15. Rennie's Tenet Posted: July 24, 2018 at 07:14 AM (#5714683)
Mark Twain or Churchill or James Stewart also come to mind


I think Twain was fortunate to find a career where his erratic judgment often made for a saleable story, and that he could do without getting out of bed.
   16. CheersUnusualPlays Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:16 AM (#5714760)
That article on Ted was like reading that article on Ichiro and his dad. Compelling and uncomfortable, but fascinating
   17. puck Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5714772)
Finding a current player to stand in as Ted proved to be a challenge, mostly because of all the weight training modern players do.


So, people with an eye for such things--how close was the stand-in to the real Ted?
   18. puck Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:31 AM (#5714773)
Sometimes the format this one used, where they have all these different people commenting, can be sort of annoying. But they really lined up a lot of folks and that was a joy as well. Boy Leigh Montville has aged. I didn't know Roger Angell's face. I like that Joey Votto was there.
   19. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:33 AM (#5714776)
That all-time all-star get-together with all the players surrounding him in homage and in true affection is always touching. It's like they saw through him and saw themselves in him.


Just watched that on YouTube.

All of a sudden, it's damned dusty in here.
   20. Perry Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:34 AM (#5714778)
I didn't know Roger Angell's face.


Which means you never saw the Ken Burns Baseball series? You should probably rectify that.
   21. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 11:32 AM (#5714832)
His daughter deserves an award or something. She's forceful and intelligent while trying to maintain her emotional balance. She has apparently sought to work throughout her life a difficult mental trick, that of understanding the hurt her father felt and the hurt and the hurt he as a consequence inflicted. Her pain is still palpable.

Note that there was an article liked here at BTF about a year or two ago, I think, that details the pain he caused to his children.
   22. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 11:37 AM (#5714840)
The PBS presentation kind of implies that Williams hid his Mexican heritage unto his death. I remember his discussing that in My Turn At Bat and that's 1969.
   23. villageidiom Posted: July 24, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5714951)
I like that Joey Votto was there.
Supposedly they scheduled Votto for 20 minutes and he went for over an hour.

His daughter deserves an award or something. She's forceful and intelligent while trying to maintain her emotional balance. She has apparently sought to work throughout her life a difficult mental trick, that of understanding the hurt her father felt and the hurt and the hurt he as a consequence inflicted. Her pain is still palpable.
She was excellent in this. I'm sure she's had to tell the stories many times, so I'm guessing she has found the right path through the minefield, so to speak.
   24. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: July 24, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5714961)
On Votto:

He was great, referencing Michelangelo and Chess! He should go straight to a broadacast booth.

On the Daughter:

Agreed, instead of explaining her father, she almost seemed to channel his rage. A few scenes where it looked like she had been crying.

Stuff I should have known that I didn't:

Williams initially did not want to enter the service either time; his HoF speech on Negro Leaguers; Angell looks younger than Montville.
   25. CheersUnusualPlays Posted: July 24, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5714988)
That piece on DiMaggio was good also. Kinder than the book "Hero", that's for sure
   26. Rally Posted: July 24, 2018 at 03:10 PM (#5715090)
his HoF speech on Negro Leaguers


I did know about that. One thing that always surprised me is that it came in 1966, 4 years after Jackie Robinson got into the hall. Jackie's speech was pretty standard, grateful for the honor, thanking his wife, his mom, Branch Rickey, etc. I don't mean to criticize him, he did more than his fair share to make baseball and the world a better place, I just find it a bit surprising.

And part of it was the timing, in 1962 Satchel wasn't finished as a big league player.
   27. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2018 at 03:28 PM (#5715119)
Stuff I should have known that I didn't:

Williams initially did not want to enter the service either time;


Ben Bradlee Jr.'s doorstopper bio, The Kid, gets into that reluctance and initial resistance in much detail. It's also the best one stop biography of Williams I know of.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

That piece on DiMaggio was good also. Kinder than the book "Hero", that's for sure

I tried to make it through that Richard Ben Cramer book, but got his point about 100 pages in and decided to leave the final 450-odd pages to my next lifetime. It's a perfect example of the way that the CW on Dimaggio and Williams has turned so completely since their playing careers overlapped, but at least it's nice to know that Williams is getting his somewhat belated due as a person as well as a hitting machine.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2018 at 03:42 PM (#5715133)
The PBS presentation kind of implies that Williams hid his Mexican heritage unto his death. I remember his discussing that in My Turn At Bat and that's 1969.

In My Turn at Bat Williams did mention that his mother was French-Mexican in the beginning of the book, and he wrote that if he'd had his mother's maiden name (Venzer) he would've likely run into problems with the sort of prejudice against Mexicans that was rife in Southern California. But other than those two brief notes, I don't think he had anything more to say about it in subsequent chapters. It just was never intended to be that kind of a book.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 24, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5715139)
Supposedly they scheduled Votto for 20 minutes and he went for over an hour.
Even more time wasted not driving in runs. What a bum.
   30. McCoy Posted: July 24, 2018 at 03:58 PM (#5715151)
but at least it's nice to know that Williams is getting his somewhat belated due as a person as well as a hitting machine.

Well, by almost all accounts he was a miserable human being. If you accepted him on his terms you could last with him but if you expected budge in any direction toward you a rift would develop. Even the books that try to paint him in a good light still can't hide his warts.
   31. villageidiom Posted: July 24, 2018 at 05:44 PM (#5715245)
I've updated the header to include the online version of the episode, which has been posted by PBS.

Jim had set up a separate thread for it, with the link; I'll assume he didn't see this thread before posting. I've closed out the other thread, with a link to this one.
   32. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 05:45 PM (#5715248)
So many people were able to overlook his faults and find something there to genuinely like or love about him. Need I mention Dom DiMaggio, Doerr, and Pesky, the "Teammates". I think that something was expressed in things like that boyish elation he displayed running the bases after he hit that home run in the 1941 All-Star game. It's the total uncontainable joy of a boy loving to play the game and excel at it. It's the kid in him that I'm sure came out in other aspects of his life, too. A genuine magnetism that attracted people.

   33. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 06:06 PM (#5715258)
Like many made to feel lacking in their childhood, Williams didn't take personal criticism well. As I remember My Turn At Bat, Williams felt he was not being treated fairly by the press. He felt he was entitled to that initial deferment for 1942 and took affront at being accused of being a dodger of military service. His reaction was to dig in his heels. He noted the tons of players who played in 1942. He felt that he was being treated differently. Again, those Boston writers.

As for Korea, I think he objected generally to being called as an inactive reservist ahead of the active reservists, and as a gung-ho patriot of the conservative sort, he faulted the way it was fought. He went public a few times, once in remarks in a bar that included a tirade against Truman. This was duly reported and he got static and then apologized. He (who was a big fan of Douglas MacArthur) got a personal response from Truman himself, he says, telling him not to worry about it, as he, too, had said in his time a few things he later regretted.

He even notes in his as told to book, published in '69, that had he a kid able to serve in Vietnam, he be screaming bloody murder probably.
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2018 at 06:56 PM (#5715277)
So many people were able to overlook his faults and find something there to genuinely like or love about him. Need I mention Dom DiMaggio, Doerr, and Pesky, the "Teammates". I think that something was expressed in things like that boyish elation he displayed running the bases after he hit that home run in the 1941 All-Star game. It's the total uncontainable joy of a boy loving to play the game and excel at it. It's the kid in him that I'm sure came out in other aspects of his life, too. A genuine magnetism that attracted people.

I'm not sure how long I'd be able to put up with Williams if he ever started on some political rant, but overall I think I'd appreciate him much more now than I did when he was "just" a very good hitter. I first saw him a few weeks after he came back from Korea, in this game where he hit a mammoth home run against the Nats, but when you're but 9 years old and he hadn't been in the sports pages since before you became attracted to baseball, the day didn't seem nearly as significant as it obviously was. There've been times when I've wished I'd been born about 5 years earlier, just so I could've seen Williams and Dimaggio when they were both in their primes.
   35. AndrewJ Posted: July 24, 2018 at 07:43 PM (#5715306)
I tried to make it through that Richard Ben Cramer book, but got his point about 100 pages in and decided to leave the final 450-odd pages to my next lifetime. It's a perfect example of the way that the CW on Dimaggio and Williams has turned so completely since their playing careers overlapped

My father's 82, and he insists that when he was growing up, Ted was the most hated player in baseball, while the most loved ballplayer of the era was... Enos Slaughter.

That's what I call a complete turnaround of conventional wisdom.

The PBS presentation kind of implies that Williams hid his Mexican heritage unto his death. I remember his discussing that in My Turn At Bat and that's 1969.

A year or two ago on SABR-L, a genealogist discovered that May Venzor's mother was Jewish. Under the strictest Jewish matrilineal definition, this made May Jewish, which made Ted Jewish. If Ted was aware of his heritage I would wonder, given the anti-Semitism of the 1930s-40s, if this in any way fueled his desire to keep his private life private.

   36. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:09 PM (#5715402)
Possibly, especially since in his view, the press simply used his private life as weapons to bash him. They didn't really care why he didn't like to go back home, why he didn't enjoy being around his family. They just made him out to be someone who didn't visit his mother, and to a lesser extent didn't care for his brother and father, all so he could selfishly fulfill his desires to fish in the off-season.
   37. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2018 at 10:57 PM (#5715425)
My father's 82, and he insists that when he was growing up, Ted was the most hated player in baseball, while the most loved ballplayer of the era was... Enos Slaughter.

That's what I call a complete turnaround of conventional wisdom.


Your father must have commuted between the sports department of the Boston Daily Record and the tobacco fields of Roxboro, North Carolina. (smile)

A year or two ago on SABR-L, a genealogist discovered that May Venzor's mother was Jewish. Under the strictest Jewish matrilineal definition, this made May Jewish, which made Ted Jewish. If Ted was aware of his heritage I would wonder, given the anti-Semitism of the 1930s-40s, if this in any way fueled his desire to keep his private life private.

Could be, but what evidence is there that Ted knew of this, or would've had any reason to ask about his grandmother's religion? Did he even know her? Williams seemed to regard religion as little more than a quaint superstition for which he had zero interest.

   38. Morty Causa Posted: July 24, 2018 at 11:27 PM (#5715431)
Now it's all becoming clear to me why Williams in My Turn At Bat says that Hank Greenberg knew where his nickels came from. But, he did say it admiringly. And he did include Joe D in that comment.
   39. SandyRiver Posted: July 25, 2018 at 09:14 AM (#5715492)
My oldest memory of Williams dates to late September 1957. The Yanks were trying to clinch and ted was at YS in the midst of his 16 consecutive times on base. I recall thinking, "Can they EVER get this guy out?"
   40. winnipegwhip Posted: July 25, 2018 at 09:46 AM (#5715510)
My father's 82, and he insists that when he was growing up, Ted was the most hated player in baseball,


My friend and I have discussed that Barry Bonds in his latter playing years was basically Ted Williams....the hitting perfectionist who was the best when standing in the batter's box. Both were despised by the media and the feeling was mutual.

With Bonds however, the dislike will never be dissolved the way it was for Ted Williams.
   41. puck Posted: July 25, 2018 at 10:13 AM (#5715521)
My father's 82, and he insists that when he was growing up, Ted was the most hated player in baseball


Is this an accurate reflection of the time? That's one thing about the Williams narrative I wonder about. Over time things can get simplified. Williams hated as player, revered as old guy/frozen head. The documentary mentioned several times how Williams reacted even to minor slights, such as "scattered boos" from the crowd during a slump early in is career. Was it similar for the media coverage?
   42. jmurph Posted: July 25, 2018 at 10:21 AM (#5715525)
Watched this last night- it was solid, but felt a bit rushed/truncated. Such is the nature of TV, but it felt like it should have gone 90 minutes or so.

Echoing others, Votto was great. I've probably never seen/heard the guy talk before, but his enthusiasm was a lot of fun.
   43. McCoy Posted: July 25, 2018 at 10:21 AM (#5715526)
The sporting news and out of town coverage was generally fawning or of the coverage an opposing town would have. Most of the globe coverage was positive as well. The problem was two things. One, Ted would do stupid things that were impossible to ignore or to not comment on negatively and two, like modern Bayless and various other guys it would be impossible to type out on a smartphone you had columnists who would go the contrarian route.
   44. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 25, 2018 at 11:53 AM (#5715598)
My father's 82, and he insists that when he was growing up, Ted was the most hated player in baseball

Is this an accurate reflection of the time? That's one thing about the Williams narrative I wonder about.

It's not the slightest bit accurate. Williams wasn't the only player who griped about the draft, and when he entered the service the griping was long forgotten. The one time the "hatred" went beyond a few Boston sportswriters was during the spitting incidents of 1956, and the reaction to that also passed quickly.

Other than those passing moments, I can't even imagine where that "most hated" idea came from, unless it was from those missing MVP votes that involved a tiny handful of writers, or from the fans in Fenway down the third base line who'd get on Williams' case if he flubbed a fielding play. It's as phony a narrative as the idea that Roger Maris was booed at Yankee Stadium during his pursuit of Babe Ruth's record.
   45. Morty Causa Posted: July 25, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5715627)
I agree with that. Williams had his detractors, but he was generally admired and liked, even loved. Bill James, who I usually am in sych with, in the first Historical Abstract, tries to make the case that Williams was the second coming of Ty Cobb, but that's just crazy. A few sportswriters found that his chain could be pulled and never let up. Fans went along with it, as some do when they know they can get your goat, and Williams never adjusted, so it was a textbook feedback loop of the nurturing of ill feelings among a very few. But, these were minorities. Yet, I forget if it was Doerr or Dom DiMaggio who had the guts to once tell him (to paraphrase), Fenway Park can be filled to capacity and everyone can be cheering you except two people who are booing and you'll only hear the two boos. And he never really got over that. It was infantile (literally). His autobiography could have been subtitled: "Arrested Development".
   46. Morty Causa Posted: July 25, 2018 at 12:24 PM (#5715630)
Watched this last night- it was solid, but felt a bit rushed/truncated. Such is the nature of TV, but it felt like it should have gone 90 minutes or so.

Yeah, Jolly Old expressed the opinion earlier it was too short and I fully agree with you both. It's a precis. It does make you want to know more.
   47. Morty Causa Posted: July 25, 2018 at 12:27 PM (#5715633)
My oldest memory of Williams dates to late September 1957. The Yanks were trying to clinch and ted was at YS in the midst of his 16 consecutive times on base. I recall thinking, "Can they EVER get this guy out?"

Williams recounts that a player who had been traded to Boston from New York told him that Stengel had a standing rule for pitchers that if Williams beats you in the late innings when you could have walked him it was an automatic fine.
   48. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 25, 2018 at 01:40 PM (#5715704)
All-Star voting does not always mean that fans like a player, but it does show that they recognize and respect his talent. There was fan voting for the All-Star Game starters from 1947 to 1957. It looks like Williams was selected by the fans as a starter every year except 1952, when he played six games for the Red Sox in April and then left for military service in Korea. (He was replaced as a starter due to injury during those years at least once.)

The one that interests me, and I'd love to get confirmation on this, is 1953. Ted threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game, less than a week after being discharged from the Marines. He wasn't in shape to play baseball, and did not appear in the game, returning to the Red Sox in August. The wiki article states "Ted Williams threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game just four days after being released from military service. Selected for the American League roster in the poll he did not play in the game." (Bold mine)

If I'm reading that correctly, this means that Williams was selected by the fans for the All-Star Game even though he had not played a game in 1953, and was flying jets in Korea during that time. Can that possibly be right?
   49. SandyRiver Posted: July 25, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5715726)
Yet, I forget if it was Doerr or Dom DiMaggio who had the guts to once tell him (to paraphrase), Fenway Park can be filled to capacity and everyone can be cheering you except two people who are booing and you'll only hear the two boos.

Jim Brosnan called that phenomenon "rabbit ears", only he described it as an umpire who, in front of 40,000 noisy fans, could hear his name being whispered in the more distant dugout. Teddy Ballgame appears to have had a classic case.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 25, 2018 at 02:25 PM (#5715737)
The one that interests me, and I'd love to get confirmation on this, is 1953. Ted threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game, less than a week after being discharged from the Marines. He wasn't in shape to play baseball, and did not appear in the game, returning to the Red Sox in August. The wiki article states "Ted Williams threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game just four days after being released from military service. Selected for the American League roster in the poll he did not play in the game." (Bold mine)

If I'm reading that correctly, this means that Williams was selected by the fans for the All-Star Game even though he had not played a game in 1953, and was flying jets in Korea during that time. Can that possibly be right?


The footnote to that quote in the wiki article links to the Sporting News's current web page, not to anything from 1953. And both the 1954 Baseball Guide and the contemporary articles in the New York Times say that Williams was an honorary member of the All-Star team, who threw out the first ball and then sat on the AL bench during the game. Neither of them say that he was voted onto the roster by fans.
   51. Morty Causa Posted: July 25, 2018 at 02:52 PM (#5715773)
How often has an active player (loosely speaking) been chosen to chuck the first pitch of the All-Star game? Williams seems to have been seriously considering retiring or at least not playing at all in '53, but he kept getting calls from people like Branch Rickey and the Commissioner, as well as the Red Sox people, of course, urging him to get back in asap.
   52. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 25, 2018 at 02:59 PM (#5715782)
The footnote to that quote in the wiki article links to the Sporting News's current web page, not to anything from 1953. And both the 1954 Baseball Guide and the contemporary articles in the New York Times say that Williams was an honorary member of the All-Star team, who threw out the first ball and then sat on the AL bench during the game. Neither of them say that he was voted onto the roster by fans.


Thanks for that. I thought it would be a bit strange for him to be voted in by the fans under those circumstances.
   53. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 25, 2018 at 03:42 PM (#5715831)
As far as wiki goes, "Trust but verify" is never a bad idea. I've had to make corrections to wiki entries before, and if I weren't so lazy I could probably make a correction every day.
   54. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 25, 2018 at 04:03 PM (#5715854)
How often has an active player (loosely speaking) been chosen to chuck the first pitch of the All-Star game?


Mike Schmidt was voted the starting third baseman for the NL All-Stars in 1989, despite the fact that he retired earlier that year. He didn't play but he came out before the game in uniform, although he didn't throw out the first pitch.
   55. Jose Canusee Posted: July 28, 2018 at 10:08 PM (#5717562)
My friend and I have discussed that Barry Bonds in his latter playing years was basically Ted Williams....

With Bonds however, the dislike will never be dissolved the way it was for Ted Williams.


I suppose you can say any Williams-DiMaggio comparisons could have their names cut out and Bonds-Griffey put in without being out of place...the power-hitting left fielder with the keen eye and high walk totals who is a batting scientist and the all-around centerfielder who is more popular with the public and whose career gets cut short by nagging injuries. But I expect that if they survive to be 80 that Bonds will be accepted and Griffey will still be honored but not considered to be in Bonds' class.
Would have been interested to see whether Musial was discussed as being in the same class as Williams/DiMaggio when all of them were playing.
As far as the hiding of the Mexican background, I wonder if it went both ways-I can't think of current extended Mexican families where if the parents are not in that they would be welcome at their cousins' unless there was some feeling that "I don't want my kids growing up with those Williams boys with their sketchy dad."
   56. Morty Causa Posted: July 28, 2018 at 10:22 PM (#5717565)
Not to dump unnecessarily on Williams's mother, but she was a fanatic and sacrificed all to her religion, including her sons. Williams talks in his autobiography how he was too embarrassed at the filthy dilapidation of his home to invite friends over. And of course his father was worse than useless when it came to creating and being part of a home.
   57. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 29, 2018 at 01:59 AM (#5717589)
Would have been interested to see whether Musial was discussed as being in the same class as Williams/DiMaggio when all of them were playing.

They were indeed compared, in the late 40's when all 3 were in their primes. I'd have to search through my run of TSN to find the exact article, but the clear consensus among writers and other players was that Dimaggio was the class of the trio, with Musial a close second. Williams was considered the best hitter, but not in the class of the other two as an overall player----which was the question that was asked. It wasn't a question of who had the highest WAR or OPS+.

Obviously nowadays with everything quantified, Williams' clear edge as a hitter is seen to override his defensive deficiencies, but that's a different discussion.
   58. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 29, 2018 at 03:00 AM (#5717591)
In the "Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract", James makes a point about how players are remembered by looking at the Sporting News All-Star Team outfielders for that era, 1947 to 1951. It's absolutely true that those names are the ones you'd think of, and they are the ones mentioned. But if you look at the selections over that five year period, it goes like this:

Ted Williams - 4
Stan Musial - 4
Ralph Kiner - 4
Joe DiMaggio - 2
Larry Doby - 1

Today, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who considers Kiner as anywhere near the other three, but to quote James, "Musial, Williams, DiMaggio, and Kiner - those were the great outfielders of that period."

(And yes, I'm aware that the cutoffs make the years covered the last five seasons of DiMaggio's career).
   59. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: July 29, 2018 at 04:24 AM (#5717597)
Today, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who considers Kiner as anywhere near the other three, but to quote James, "Musial, Williams, DiMaggio, and Kiner - those were the great outfielders of that period."
Between 1947 and 1951, Williams hit 158 homers, Musial hit 154 homers... and Kiner hit 234, with an OPS behind only the other two guys. A short career, but for a seven year stretch, a true Inner Circle player.
   60. Morty Causa Posted: July 29, 2018 at 10:06 AM (#5717618)
Williams points out in My Turn at Bat that there were some writers always wanting that he be traded. It was, however, he said, always for Bob Feller and some cash, or Stan Musial and some minor league players, or my favorite, Joe DiMaggio and that little left-fielder--what's his name, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra? If he were such an inferior player, Williams wanted to know, why couldn't they come up with anyone to trade him straight up for? The point being, some of those grudging assessments of Williams were obviously colored by the writer's reaction to his personality.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 29, 2018 at 12:30 PM (#5717645)
Williams points out in My Turn at Bat that there were some writers always wanting that he be traded. It was, however, he said, always for Bob Feller and some cash, or Stan Musial and some minor league players, or my favorite, Joe DiMaggio and that little left-fielder--what's his name, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra? If he were such an inferior player, Williams wanted to know, why couldn't they come up with anyone to trade him straight up for? The point being, some of those grudging assessments of Williams were obviously colored by the writer's reaction to his personality.

That probably accounts for some of those assessments, but they were also offered by players as well as writers.

And then there's this: Those hypothetical proposals came after the war. Dimaggio was 4 years older than Williams and was already showing small signs of decline. Feller's arm went South midway in the 1947 season, and he was never the same after that. It wasn't just a comparison of their respective raw talents that would've led the Red Sox to demand more in a swap involving Williams and either of those two players.

But as for Musial, if he'd been traded straight up for Williams after the war, the Red Sox would've gotten the better of the deal.

WAR, 1946 to the end of their careers:

Williams 88.1
Musial 104.1
   62. eric Posted: July 29, 2018 at 05:59 PM (#5717736)
It was infantile (literally). His autobiography could have been subtitled: "Arrested Development".


I watched the PBS show. Like others, it left me wanting more, which I guess is the ideal result in show business.

However, I was left with a bit lower of an impression of Williams, one which has me agreeing with the quoted part above. The show mentioned Ted throwing a ball into the stands at a fan, and of course the spitting incident, and refusing to tip his cap, and always arguing with fans, and ignoring the press and so forth. Aren't those the things for which players like (going to refrain from a played out joke here) Albert Belle are reviled?

His own daughter was on the show talking about how he would get angry at the slightest provocations. By his own admission he was a terrible father and husband. Some of the articles linked above talk about how even his closest friends would always have to be on eggshells around him.

Ted Williams was certainly a great hitter. But otherwise, he seemed like he was a self-absorbed ass, and certainly not anyone who deserves any sort of plaudits for anything other than what he did in the batter's box--or perhaps a fishing boat.
   63. SoSH U at work Posted: July 29, 2018 at 06:48 PM (#5717756)
But otherwise, he seemed like he was a self-absorbed ass, and certainly not anyone who deserves any sort of plaudits for anything other than what he did in the batter's box--or perhaps a fishing boat.


And his Hall speech.
   64. Howie Menckel Posted: July 29, 2018 at 08:43 PM (#5717780)
yes, I quoted that speech just about a week ago.
1966 wasn't 1916 - but it wasn't 2016, either.

Ted had the stones to lobby for the full-fledged inclusion of Negro League stars at a time when who else was of that mindset? he accelerated a process, and that goes on his ledger as surely as those ugly warts.

people are complicated.
   65. McCoy Posted: July 29, 2018 at 08:58 PM (#5717787)
And the Jimmy fund
   66. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 29, 2018 at 09:07 PM (#5717792)
certainly not anyone who deserves any sort of plaudits for anything other than what he did in the batter's box--or perhaps a fishing boat.


Flying combat missions in jet fighters for his country.
   67. Morty Causa Posted: July 29, 2018 at 11:33 PM (#5717818)
There's the Mudcat Grant incident at a New Orleans (I think) hotel involving luggage. And he did call out the Boston organization in a press conference wrt integration.

It's funny, but I find that often the way people are in their private life versus their public and professional life are at odds. Some display probity in the one and are deficient in the other.
   68. Morty Causa Posted: July 29, 2018 at 11:54 PM (#5717822)
Williams can be seen as heralding a radical, even cataclysmic, change in the mental approach to hitting. Ruth was a precursor but he was seen more as sui generis. Williams articulated a philosophy, one that at the time had its critics, such as Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio. Many saw his selectiveness in hitting as a defect, and this went from players and coaches down to writers. They were wrong. Their basis for evaluating Williams was thus wrong. That does not have to be excused, much less validated.

When a writer doesn't give you a tenth-place vote for MVP in a triple crown season, something's up. That's just wrong and stupid. And that was indicative of a general attitude among, yes, a small minority. But, still, the reasons given are invidious and should not have, and should not have had, a bearing on his value. They were wrong and they undervalued him. In their hearts, they knew better. The criticism was really a tangent about something else other than value on the field. Evaluation back then was much more impressionistic than it is now. That makes some of the criticism understandable. That doesn't excuse it when it is obviously wrong and is used in a dishonest way, a way expressed in invidious narrow-minded. one-sided terms.

As for Musial's WAR from 1946: of course, why that is should be readily apparent. Consider 1952-53 to start with and then check out how many more PAs/ABs Musial had than Williams to come up with that lead. This, anyway, is almost irrelevant to my original point, but take notice that Musial has five more career WAR, and it only took him 3000 more PAs/ABs to get those six. And, still, he doesn't best Williams oWAR, Rbat, or WAA, despite not missing five of his prime and peak years, as Williams did. There aren't many athletes who miss something like five years out of the heart of their career and a good case nevertheless can be made for him to be in the starting lineup for the all-time all-star team. It couldn't be made for Musial, had he lost five of what would have been his best years.

EDIT: typos
   69. eric Posted: July 30, 2018 at 12:53 AM (#5717829)
And his Hall speech.


True, his opinions on integration and inclusion were laudable.

Flying combat missions in jet fighters for his country.


Very reluctantly after complaining and trying everything he could to avoid it. The only reason he was even still in the reserves was (at least according to the show) for the easy paycheck. That isn't to discount that he did in fact fly those missions, but given his options were likely either jail time or go off to war, it certainly doesn't place him above any of the millions of other soldiers conscripted into service. Then he whined and threatened to retire when he returned (or was that before?).

My conclusion was perhaps a bit hasty or hyperbolic, but just a bit. He really seemed like a childish, self-centered, miserable person. Ultimately, I give great respect to the fact that he did serve as a fighter pilot in Korea, even if it was against his choice. I am amazed by his accomplishment on the ball field, and I am appreciative of the part he played in getting the old Negro Leaguers the recognition they deserved. But I have a hard time calling him a great man. He just seemed like an awfully selfish person who had an amazing skill (hand-eye coordination) and a laudable opinion (the inclusion of negro league players in MLB and the HOF).

BTW, I do very much appreciate the historical context and perspective some of the posters are providing in this thread. Despite my opinion of the man, I do like learning more about baseball history and the larger cultural environments of those days gone by.
   70. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 30, 2018 at 08:05 AM (#5717858)
But as for Musial, if he'd been traded straight up for Williams after the war, the Red Sox would've gotten the better of the deal.

WAR, 1946 to the end of their careers:

Williams 88.1
Musial 104.1


As for Musial's WAR from 1946: of course, why that is should be readily apparent. Consider 1952-53 to start with and then check out how many more PAs/ABs Musial had than Williams to come up with that lead. This, anyway, is almost irrelevant to my original point, but take notice that Musial has five more career WAR, and it only took him 3000 more PAs/ABs to get those six. And, still, he doesn't best Williams oWAR, Rbat, or WAA, despite not missing five of his prime and peak years, as Williams did. There aren't many athletes who miss something like five years out of the heart of their career and a good case nevertheless can be made for him to be in the starting lineup for the all-time all-star team. It couldn't be made for Musial, had he lost five of what would have been his best years.


I'd thought it would've been clear by the way I framed my comment, but I suppose I should've written "with hindsight, the Red Sox would've gotten the better of the deal" to make it even more obvious that I was only talking about what Williams and Musial contributed to their respective teams from 1946 on. It had nothing to do with other judgment about their talent or overall career value.
   71. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2018 at 08:40 AM (#5717866)
No he wasn't in the reserves for an easy paycheck. At the end of WWII many enlisted men were given a choice. Either go to the Pacific for another 6 to 12 months (I forget the exact amount) or go home now and be in the inactive reserves for something like 8 years. Williams like so many others had been serving for years and opted to go home.

His getting called up was supposedly because the Marines were short on pilots but the real reason was probably a lot more political than that. By 1952 the Korean war had devolved into a stalemate. Ted was a popular American hero and the Navy wanted a PR win. They reached past the active reserves to pluck Ted from inactive reserves. The Navy probably intended Ted to play ball on a touring Navy team as PR. But Ted being a stubborn SOB and mad for being dragged back to war refused to play ball. Literally and was sent off to combat.
   72. Rally Posted: July 30, 2018 at 09:07 AM (#5717872)
Obviously nowadays with everything quantified, Williams' clear edge as a hitter is seen to override his defensive deficiencies, but that's a different discussion.


Defensive stats for those years are based on limited data and heavily regressed. I wonder how much better would Joe's defense have to have been to make up for Williams' edge in hitting?

Picking the best 6 consecutive years for Ted I look at 1941-49, an average of 148 games, a 208 OPS+, and 9.9 WAR. On defense he was +1 on average with a -7 position adjustment. For Joe it's 1937-42, 140 games, 160 OPS+, 7.4 WAR. He was a +6 center fielder with a -1 position adjustment.

So overall Joe is seen as 11 runs better on defense per season. He'd have to be 36 runs better to match Ted as an all around player. It's not an impossible difference. If Ted was something like late career Bobby Abreu on defense and Joe was Lorenzo Cain that would come pretty close to making up the difference - I can get there without invoking the extremes of Adam Dunn vs. Andruw Jones.

I don't think it is likely. Young Ted was probably not the defensive disaster that old Ted was (and no amount of regression is going to change things if you start out as average, which is where my numbers have Ted). While Joe was a good defensive outfielder, he probably was not in the Mays class as a difference maker. Some did say that he was only the third best defensive CF in his own family.
   73. Morty Causa Posted: July 30, 2018 at 09:17 AM (#5717876)
Williams was prime fodder because we were in an undeclared air war with the Soviet Union in Korea, and the military was desperate for pilots. Hey, he even spent a lot of his tour sick as a dog with walking pneumonia. But he still had to fly. He'd fly a mission and then enter a hospital and get juiced with antibiotics and jump back into a jet and fly again. He was sick and lost a good of weight. The sickness and the flying also gave him a hearing problem that worsened over time.

His face graced the Marine's recruitment poster for some years.

Oh, and as the show makes clear, Williams quietly and without fanfare gave money to former players down on their luck.
   74. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: July 30, 2018 at 09:19 AM (#5717877)
Some did say that he was only the third best defensive CF in his own family.


Also:

Joe was the best hitter, Dom was the best fielder, and Vince was the best singer. :-)
   75. Bote Man Posted: July 30, 2018 at 10:20 AM (#5717904)
Fleer baseball card showing the "Williams Shift" employed against Teddy Ballgame for the first time on 14 July, 1946. The card was produced in 1959 amongst a set dedicated to the man. So we must blame Ted Williams for this scourge of extreme shifts that has ruined baseball in the last couple of years.
   76. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2018 at 10:31 AM (#5717908)
The white sox in 1941 shifted against Ted as well and the browns in 1942
   77. Morty Causa Posted: July 30, 2018 at 10:35 AM (#5717912)
I didn't know there was a card, or that Fleer had dedicated a series to him in '59. Cool.
   78. Bote Man Posted: July 30, 2018 at 10:40 AM (#5717915)
The white sox in 1941 shifted against Ted as well and the browns in 1942

You gotta see that card, though. There was ONE fielder on the left side, the left fielder. EVERYBODY else was on the right side. It was screaming for a bunt toward 3B or just a dying quail over there. I'm sure an accomplished hitter like Ted Williams could've done something had he put his mind to it. Or, like the thread last week, maybe he couldn't??
   79. Morty Causa Posted: July 30, 2018 at 10:47 AM (#5717918)
To refer to his autobiography again, he says it was tough adjusting. He also says that teams had been doing modified shifts on him before. Boudreau's shift was just very extreme and so caught the public eye.
   80. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5717927)
You gotta see that card, though

I have seen the card. I saw it 11 years ago. Here is an actual photo of the shift


Ted clinched the pennant for the Red Sox that year against the Indians by hitting his only inside the park home run. It was against the shift and he hit the ball to left field.
   81. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:18 AM (#5717933)
Blank link, McCoy. Try this one.
   82. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:22 AM (#5717936)
Odd, it works for me.

Here is the thread. Unfortunately time and updates have caused some of the linked articles to vanish from the page.
   83. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:26 AM (#5717940)
Yeah, even on that thread, if you click on the image link it says "Invalid File Specified". But the link in #81 should work, and it's a photo of Williams beating the shift, probably that inside-the-park home run.
   84. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5717943)
Williams quietly and without fanfare gave money to former players down on their luck.


History's greatest monster, totally.
   85. SoSH U at work Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5717946)
I'm sure an accomplished hitter like Ted Williams could've done something had he put his mind to it. Or, like the thread last week, maybe he couldn't??


If the shift was truly harming him, then he should have considered it (though, in fact, he did do just that on occasion). However, Ted Williams had an OPS over 1.000 against every team he played over the course of his career, and in virtually every situation, so I'm not sure he had the same motivation as Joey Gallo to make that kind of adjustment.
   86. McCoy Posted: July 30, 2018 at 11:48 AM (#5717959)
No, the iphr had seery in left closer to the line. Case was in left for the July game.
   87. Morty Causa Posted: August 01, 2018 at 01:57 PM (#5719156)
As the PBS précis presentation shows, Williams's life seems to be begging to be made into a movie or serial. A charismatic, flawed hero with a flair for the dramatic, with current technology in film, it could be done realistically. Who would play him? Both in body type and in persona projected, a younger Daniel Day-Lewis maybe. Or a younger, undead James Stewart--if you think he couldn't do anger and bitterness, see the first 15 minutes of Carbine Williams or some of his '50s Anthony Mann westerns. A young Clint Eastwood might have been good. I'm really not up on the current stars and actors. It's something someone connected with movies and TV should mull over. He's fodder for a classic fallen hero representation.
   88. DL from MN Posted: August 01, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5719179)
Whoever plays Ted Williams should play John Wayne shortly after that.

Ted Williams was a good guy who lacked social skills due to a lack of parenting. The documentary makes this pretty clear.
   89. Morty Causa Posted: August 01, 2018 at 02:38 PM (#5719182)
A validation of Philip Larkin's poem on the subject:

They fucxk you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucxked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

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