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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Tracer: The Ted Williams-Pedro Ramos Story

From The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam:

When [Ted] was generous there was no one more generous, and when he was petulant there was no one more petulant, and sometimes he was both within a few seconds. Once in the mid-1950s, Pedro Ramos, then a young pitcher with Washington, struck Ted out, which was a very big moment for Ramos. He rolled the ball into the dugout to save, and later, after the game, the Cuban right-hander ventured into the Boston dugout with the ball and asked Ted to sign it. Mel Parnell was watching and had expected an immediate explosion, Ted being asked to sign a ball he had struck out on, and he was not disappointed. Soon there was a rising bellow of blasphemy from Williams, and then he had looked over and seen Ramos, a kid of 20 or 21, terribly close to tears now. Suddenly Ted had softened and said, “Oh, all right, give me the ####### ball,” and had signed it. Then about two weeks later he had come up against Ramos again and hit a tremendous home run, and as he rounded first he had slowed down just a bit and yelled to Ramos, “I’ll sign that son of a ##### too if you can ever find it.”

The key thing in common is Mel Parnell who seems to be the guy telling this story. So we have an anecdote that has become fact simply because it has been retold numerous times. So is it true?

The first thing we can do is take a look at the game logs. Did Ramos strike out Ted in his first start against Boston? The answer is no he did not. How about his second start? Again the answer is no and in fact not only did Ted not get struck out by Pedro but he hit a homer off of Pedro. So maybe Pedro came in and struck Ted out as a reliever. The answer is no again. Pedro never struck out Ted that season.

More after the jump

Now how about Ted struggling against Pedro? That would be a no. For the season Ted faced Pedro 10 times and had this line against him: .500/.600/.1000. So maybe he started off slow against him? Again no. Ted ground out in his first PA but then got a hit in each of his next 3 PA.

So when does Pedro strike out Ted? Well, not in 1956 either. Ted faces Pedro 14 times, gives up 2 homers and a batting line of .417/.500/1.000 but again Pedro cannot strike him out. Nor does Pedro strike Ted out in 1957 when they face each other 20 times and Ted hits another homer and has a .353/.450/.588 line. Nor does Pedro Ramos strike Ted out in 1958 when they face each other 19 times and again Ted hits a homer and has a .444/.737/.889 batting line against him. Nor does he strike Ted out in 1959 in 12 PA.

So does Pedro ever strike Ted out? The answer is yes. In Ted’s final year of his career Pedro finally strikes Ted out. So does Ted then hit a homer off of him? The answer is yes. Ted and Pedro only face each other in two games that year. The first one is on August 16th and in their final matchup of the game Peddro strikes Ted out after giving up two walks to him earlier in the game. The match up again for the final time that season and for the final time in Ted’s career on September 17th when in their final matchup Ted takes Pedro deep.

I think we can all agree that it could very well be possible that Pedro found striking out Ted to be a big deal. Afterall Ted simply owned Pedro ever since Pedro came into the league. So it is possible that Pedro would want a keepsake of that momemtous achievement and if he did ask Ted for an autograph it is certainly possible that Ted made a sarcastic comment to Pedro after hitting the homer. Ted was well known for doing stuff like that. But we run into a problem and that is Mel Parnell retired from the bigs after the 1956 season. Mel was coach/manager in 1958 and 1959 down south and he did end up becoming a Sox broadcaster in the 1960’s so perhaps Mel was in the clubhouse when the autograph seeking went down and then heard about Ted’s quip or perhaps he heard about both. Well, the only problem is that Mel didn’t become the Red Sox broadcaster until 1965.

So while it is possible that in 1960 Mel was hanging around the Red Sox I find this story to be highly dubious. If it did happen in 1960 you would think people would remember it happening in 1960. Afterall it was Ted’s final year and 1960 is a spin of the odometer. It is clear and easy demarcation. Perhaps it happened differently. Perhaps after the groundout in their first matchup Pedro went up to Ted for an autograph or perhaps Pedro just wanted an autograph or maybe it was another pitcher but the story as commonly told is false.

McCoy Posted: January 02, 2011 at 03:14 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, game recaps, hall of fame, history, red sox, twins

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. McCoy Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:16 PM (#3721791)
Another tracer to get things started:

ELDEN AUKER
Former teammate, 91

Getting last laugh

''Ted's rookie year, there was a game in St. Louis I'll never forget. Bobo Newsom was pitching for them, and Newsom could be a real showboat, you know, the kinda guy who liked to show you up. For instance, if you struck out, he'd be out there laughing at you like I say, just to show you up.

''Well, the first time Ted faces Newsom, he strikes out, and as he's coming back to the bench, about halfway, our guys tell him, `Hey, Ted, Newsom's laughing at you.' Williams looks at the guys on our bench and says, `What, he's laughing at me?'

''Ted's next time up, Newsom's still out there, and Ted hits a homer. As he's circling the bases, he looks over Newsom's way and says, `Now laugh that off, you so-and-so ...'


Did Ted strike out the first time he saw Bobo? The answer is yes he did. The first time he faced Bobo in 1939 he struck out. So did he end up hitting two homers in that game? No he did not. He ended up striking out 3 times in that game. He did hit a 2 run double in the 8th though. So did Ted ever hit 2 homers in a game against Bobo? The answer is no he did not. He did hit 1 homer against him in 1939 but that was his only homer against Bobo in his entire career. Perhaps he struck out in that game and the story was slightly exaggerated. Unfortunately no, Ted did not strike out in that game. He went 2 for 5 with a homer and a double. So did Ted ever take a pitcher deep twice in 1939? He did in fact do that once to a pitcher named Bump Hadley. Was it the first time they matched up and did Ted strike out the first time up? The answer is no and no. The first time they faced off against each other was May 29th and Ted went 1 for 2 with 2 BB in the game and no strikeouts. Ted would hit two homers against him on September 3rd and Bump struck no one out.
   2. JRVJ (formerly Delta Socrates) Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3721802)
Didn't Neyer do a book about stories such as this? I have it somewhere, though I should really donate it to somebody as I doubt I'll re-read it (in fact, I usually leave books such as that at B & B or small hotels where somebody might pick it up and read it).
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:49 PM (#3721807)
TOMMY LASORDA
Hall of Famer, 74


''There was this one time in Kansas City, in 1956, and we had a lefty going for us, Alex Kellner. Ted ran the count to 3-2 on him and then took a breaking ball for strike three. I guess that never happened before. One of our coaches, George Susce, gets up and yells, `That's it, he's through ... Williams is through.' Well, in the seventh, Williams is up again, and the count goes to 3-2, and this time two guys are on base.

''Now, in the old Kansas City park, the way it was laid out, you had a fence, a hill behind the fence, then another fence, and then a house across the street. Well, in comes the 3-2 pitch and Ted drives the ball over the wall and hits the house. He hit the house! I turned to George and said, `Jesus Christ, George, for a guy who's finished, he just hit the ball 500 feet!'


well--Ten Dogs got the year right, and the pitcher right--but that's about it

in that game, Teddy went:
solo HR (1st inning)
BB
single
(then in the 9th) K
   4. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:53 PM (#3721809)
I think that the problem we've got here is that it was Mickey Mantle that Ramos dissed, not Ted Williams. The strikeout occurred in a game I was at on July 10, 1955, and I could see Ramos fondling the baseball with near-orgiastic pleasure when he walked off the mound in the seventh inning. (Mantle's strikeout was the third out.) I never saw the autograph request, but it was the first time that Ramos had ever struck Mantle out.

And then in this famous game immortalized by Billy Crystal, the Mick nearly drove the ball clear out of Yankee Stadium, with the ball hitting just a few feet off the top of the facade above the third deck. Of course since this game was played in New York, I couldn't have been there in person, but even over our old black & white Philco TV everyone could see Mantle clearly pointing a finger at Ramos as he rounded the bases, and my lip-reading mother instinctively put her hands over my ears "just to be sure."
   5. base ball chick Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:54 PM (#3721810)
players remember games wrong all the time, add games, mix up years, pitchers, etc

like who has got one of those autistic-like memories which remembers every detail/every word?
   6. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 02, 2011 at 05:58 PM (#3721813)
I think that the problem we've got here is that it was Mickey Mantle that Ramos dissed,

Ramos and the Mick always had a needling, but friendly relationship. Pete always used to challenge Mantle to a footrace, because Ramos firmly believed he (Ramos) was the fastest runner in MLB
   7. Shock Posted: January 02, 2011 at 06:25 PM (#3721820)

like who has got one of those autistic-like memories which remembers every detail/every word?


That's the point. Arguments based on observation and "you had to be there" and the like are total bullshit, because our memories suck.
   8. The District Attorney Posted: January 02, 2011 at 06:31 PM (#3721823)
Bill James established over a decade before this book was written that Halberstam didn't fact-check his baseball work...
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 02, 2011 at 06:57 PM (#3721841)
I think that the problem we've got here is that it was Mickey Mantle that Ramos dissed,

Ramos and the Mick always had a needling, but friendly relationship. Pete always used to challenge Mantle to a footrace, because Ramos firmly believed he (Ramos) was the fastest runner in MLB


IIRC there was actually one time in Spring Training where they were all set to go for a hundred bucks, but Stengel yanked Mantle away from the starting line. He might have figured that the Yanks had a bit more to lose than a foot race or a Franklin.
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 02, 2011 at 07:19 PM (#3721859)
there's an article about Ramos and his career as a sprinter on p65 of the March, 1960 issue of Baseball Digest
   11. The Most Interesting Man In The World Posted: January 02, 2011 at 07:28 PM (#3721867)
Bill James established over a decade before this book was written that Halberstam didn't fact-check his baseball work...

Yep, in his review of "Summer Of '49", in one of his baseball annuals - James was angry that Halberstam didn't seem to take the subject seriously enough to validate the facts.

David Halberstam died in a car accident a few blocks from where my then-fiancee taught elementary school.
   12. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 02, 2011 at 07:34 PM (#3721869)
A "few" blocks? Not very precise...
   13. Swedish Chef Posted: January 02, 2011 at 07:35 PM (#3721870)
Bill James established over a decade before this book was written that Halberstam didn't fact-check his baseball work...


To honor the tradition he then decided not to factcheck NBJHBA.
   14. Shock Posted: January 02, 2011 at 07:38 PM (#3721872)

David Halberstam died in a car accident a few blocks from where my then-fiancee taught elementary school.


This is enough to convince Terence Moore that you had something to do with it.
   15. Morty Causa Posted: January 02, 2011 at 10:01 PM (#3721982)
McCoy:

You know if this ever occurred: Late in his career, the Red Sox are playing the Yankees and Williams is at bat against Ryne Duren. Mantle is leading the bench jockeying, all jocular and in good fun, I'm sure, about how Williams is too old to pull Duren. Duren's first pitch is a wild pitch over Williams head. Mantle almost falls off the bench he's laughing so hard. Williams, as is his wont when at the plate, shows no emotion whatsoever. The next pitch is a strike and Williams pulls it hard--it goes through the Yankee dugout like heat-seeking missile. Towels and gloves fly every which way as players are upended by the caroming ball through the dugout. Mantle retains his irrepressible good humor, though, and leading his fellow teammates out of the dugout waves a white towel in surrender at Williams. I sure hope it's true. Great story that says something about two stars of mythic proportions.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: January 02, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#3721985)
You know if this ever occurred

I don't think retrosheet has gotten to the point of tracking batted foul ball types yet. :-)
   17. Morty Causa Posted: January 02, 2011 at 10:22 PM (#3721992)
Not even for TW? I bet the Murray Chass's of that time would remember. I shouldn't have been so indefinite as to give the impression it was retrosheet matter (the groupie fan in me getting the best of me)--I should have cast it instead as a "speaking of legendary happenings, did you (McCoy), or anyone know of this incident?"
   18. Don Lock Posted: January 02, 2011 at 11:44 PM (#3722036)
Bill James established over a decade before this book was written that Halberstam didn't fact-check his baseball work...

How could Bill James establish that ten years before Halberstam even wrote the book?

Sorry, couldn't resist...
   19. Morty Causa Posted: January 03, 2011 at 01:23 AM (#3722072)
Oops, lack of skillful proofing--should be "Chasses", I guess.

Another one involving Williams that wouldn't be traceable through retrosheet either, I suppose but is simply too choice not to recount, was when he was intentionally beaned--while in the on-deck circle. Williams would lock in on the pitcher in a game, hardly ever taking his eyes off of him. Apparently this completely unnerved one hot-headed fireballer (Tommy Byrne or Tommy Bridges, I think), and while on the mound, he yelled at Williams in the on-deck circle to stop staring at him, and then suddenly turned and threw at him. That has to be a first, if it's true.
   20. Rough Carrigan Posted: January 03, 2011 at 01:37 AM (#3722077)
I don't know if Byrne did that or not but in one of Honig's books, I think, he quotes Vic Raschi to the effect that he, Raschi, liked to try to stare down hitters. But he said Williams did the same thing to pitchers and that Williams would be locked in starting in the on deck circle and sooner or later the pitcher had to deliver the ball so he sort of gave up on trying to stare down Ted.
   21. Cblau Posted: January 03, 2011 at 02:05 AM (#3722095)
#18- He was able to do it because Halberstam wrote his first baseball book over a decade before he wrote this one.
   22. Dale Sams Posted: January 03, 2011 at 02:09 AM (#3722097)
Didn't Neyer do a book about stories such as this? I have it somewhere, though I should really donate it to somebody as I doubt I'll re-read it (in fact, I usually leave books such as that at B & B or small hotels where somebody might pick it up and read it).


He did, but this story actually appears in his book of line-ups.
   23. McCoy Posted: January 03, 2011 at 02:59 AM (#3722131)
Another one involving Williams that wouldn't be traceable through retrosheet either, I suppose but is simply too choice not to recount, was when he was intentionally beaned--while in the on-deck circle. Williams would lock in on the pitcher in a game, hardly ever taking his eyes off of him. Apparently this completely unnerved one hot-headed fireballer (Tommy Byrne or Tommy Bridges, I think), and while on the mound, he yelled at Williams in the on-deck circle to stop staring at him, and then suddenly turned and threw at him. That has to be a first, if it's true.

I've heard the story before. A pitcher is warming up and everybody knows Ted is going to get intentionally walked but he stays real close to the batter's box to time the pitcher. He then calls up Mickey Vernon to come on over and Ted starts to give him pointers on the pitcher. The pitcher lets loose a pitch that goes whizzing by them. The pitcher is Tommy Byrne.

He did, but this story actually appears in his book of line-ups.

I don't recall ever seeing it in there. Google books brings up nothing on it in the book. But Rob's tracer book does mention Morty's legend. Ted, Mickey, and Tommy Reading that one I discover that Rob did in fact do the Ramos story already.
   24. Morty Causa Posted: January 03, 2011 at 03:21 AM (#3722143)
Thanks. Just goes to show you--I was relying on my memory of what I had read in My Turn At Bat. I wish my copy had an index.
   25. Cyril Morong Posted: January 07, 2011 at 09:16 PM (#3726088)
The Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball has almost the same story about Ted Williams and Dizzy Trout. Page 1145, the entry on Trout. It does not say which year.
   26. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: January 07, 2011 at 09:22 PM (#3726092)

You know if this ever occurred: Late in his career, the Red Sox are playing the Yankees and Williams is at bat against Ryne Duren. Mantle is leading the bench jockeying, all jocular and in good fun, I'm sure, about how Williams is too old to pull Duren. Duren's first pitch is a wild pitch over Williams head. Mantle almost falls off the bench he's laughing so hard. Williams, as is his wont when at the plate, shows no emotion whatsoever. The next pitch is a strike and Williams pulls it hard--it goes through the Yankee dugout like heat-seeking missile. Towels and gloves fly every which way as players are upended by the caroming ball through the dugout. Mantle retains his irrepressible good humor, though, and leading his fellow teammates out of the dugout waves a white towel in surrender at Williams. I sure hope it's true. Great story that says something about two stars of mythic proportions.


Now everyone in your little anecdote is dead. I hope to god you're happy.

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