Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teddy Ballgame's last hurrah

Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of Ted William's last ballgame.

The picture above is a good representation of that fluid, graceful, gourgeous swing of his—long, measured, but still incredibly quick, and with impeccable form. Williams had it all, as a hitter, great talent, and dedication to his craft. No one was more prepared, or worked harder at hitting. I've read that Williams would psyche himself up for games by taking batting practice in an empty Fenway. "I'm Ted-fuckin'-Williams," he would scream, between screaming line drives. "I'm the greatest fuckin' hitter in the whole fuckin' world!" When he came up with the Red Sox as a gangly 20 year-old, he explained that he didn't expect a lot from his career—just enough that when he walked down the street after he'd retired, people would point at him and say, "There goes the best hitter who ever lived." Well, he didn't quite make that—losing 5 prime seasons of his career to war didn't help, but no one is Babe Ruth, anyway—but he was good enough to make the case, certainly a better overall hitter than 2 contemporaries he was often compared to, Joe DiMaggio, early in his career, and Mickey Mantle, later. A shame he didn't give the rest of his game the attention those guys did; but then it was surely easier being a great player for those Yankee teams, always playing for something more than simple individual glory. A hard thing to throw your body into those dog days of August, when your club is floundering from contention. And Boston certainly was never an easy town for anyone...

John Updike was at the game, and wrote a famous essay about it, and about Teddy, too. Give it a read, it is really superb...

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