Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 25, 2004
BASEBALL: The Day I Met Ted Williams

There are baseball heroes, and then there are just plain heroes. And then there are guys who were both. More on that subject later. For now, it seems an appropriate moment to tell a story I've been meaning to get to for some time: the day I met Ted Williams.

Now, for a variety of reasons, I've been fortunate to meet a number of famous ballplayers and political figures, and even managed to get my picture taken with some of them. But there's nothing quite like meeting the Splendid Splinter in person.

This was back in the fall of 1992, my senior year of college, and I was an officer in the College Republicans at Holy Cross. We were in Boston for a Bush/Quayle '92 event, filled with the sort of enthusiasm that no one over the age of 21 could possibly have had for the Bush/Quayle ticket, in Massachusetts, in the fall of that year. The Mets had a better year in 1992.

I was with Shawn Regan, a friend and the head of the CR group at the time, and one of us (Regan, I think) had thought to bring a camera. Early on, I believe, we managed to snag a picture with Bill Weld, then the governor of the state (politicians, wisely, are pretty generous with having their pictures taken with young volunteers, even if we weren't really all that useful to the campaign). But Williams was the evening's big attraction; he was speaking to a fairly modest-sized conference room full of people (us included), raising money and enthusiasm for the first President Bush's re-election. This being 1992, of course, the politics of military service were about the opposite of what they are today, and Williams' brief talk focused heavily on George H.W. Bush's distinguished service as a World War II fighter pilot in the Pacific, an experience Williams himself famously shared, and on the contrasting service record (or, rather, the absence thereof) of Bill Clinton. Teddy Ballgame, to put it mildly, did not think much of Clinton.

Williams was then still in great health and vigor - as he would remain until his stroke two years later - and that night he was in full John Wayne mode, wearing a bolo tie and pressing on through his speech with more force than eloquence. Of course, it was tribute enough to hear a speech from a man who so visibly did not enjoy giving them.

The chronology escapes me now, but I believe it was before Williams' speech that we ran into him (almost literally) as he was coming out of the men's room, with a fairly small group around him. Regan, who had a bit more presence of mind than I did at this juncture, managed to get out, "Mr. Williams, do you mind if we get a picture with you?" So, each of us got to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great hitter himself. As we posed for the photo, Williams said something along the lines of "two fine fellows," to which I believe I responded something like "urk". I mean, how can you not be in awe of Ted Williams? And I still have a copy of the picture to this day (not the original photo, which was in my office at the World Trade Center, but a copy of my parents' copy; it'll do).

Williams.JPG

(I've gotten a better pair of glasses since then . . . so I'm only about 95% as dorky-looking. On the other hand, that was back when I was lifting weights 5-6 days a week. But hey, that's me with Ted Williams! Who cares what I look like?)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:24 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I saw Sid Fernandez once at the mall. So there.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at April 25, 2004 10:28 PM

I also met Ted Williams once...it was at Cooperstown in 1997 for the Hall of Fame induction. My father had media credentials and obtained an extra set for me, so I served as his assistant for the day. We had been talking with former players before they entered the building (Koufax, Morgan, etc). Every 20 minutes or so a bus would pull up and people would gather around. My dad noticed a beat up brown cadillac (or at least cadillac-like) car pull around to the side beside the stage. No one was there, but we decided to wander over. It was Ted. The driver opened the dorr for him, but we didn't approach. My dad, the reporter we were with, and I all froze. Ted sort of beckoned us over and we all said hi. The reporter asked him how his trip was and reflection on the inductees (Lasorda, Niekro). Williams spoke for about 15-20 minutes. He talked about Lasorda, fishing, etc. The guy who drove him tried to interrupt (which we were all too willing to allow; you don't inconvenience Ted Williams). Ted looked at the guy and said "I'm in the middle of a damn story" and continued.

Posted by: Andrew at April 25, 2004 11:17 PM

Nice picture, except for the Bush/Quayle sign.

Posted by: Ralph at April 25, 2004 11:23 PM

Okay, I never met Teddy Ballgame (the most famous person I ever had a conversation with was Gary Hart), but he and I share a birthday-August 30. Teddy in 1918, myself in 1959.

That picture of Ted, full of age but still vigorous, is poignant.

Posted by: John Salmon at April 25, 2004 11:44 PM

Fantastic.... I met Ozzie Smith when I was ten years old, and thought that he was a class act. He was cordial, polite, and generous with his time.

I saw Randy Johnson at the local mall, when the D'Backs were in LA a couple of years ago. Though I didn't meet him, I noticed his height from several hundred yards away.

Dave Winfield was at the local batting cage, tutoring his son in the art of hitting. It was pretty encouraging to see him play an active parental role.

All in all, my experiences with professional ballplayers have been good. That's great, I think, especially as the sport tries to increase its popularity.

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at April 26, 2004 01:11 AM

Robert, I met Ozzie about ten years ago and had a similar experience.

That's a great story about Ted Williams. I would have loved the opportunity to meet him.

Posted by: Drew at April 26, 2004 01:50 AM

Wow! A Ted Williams fan and a member of the GOP! I think I've found my twin brother!

Posted by: Joe at April 26, 2004 03:39 AM

Wow! A Ted Williams fan and a member of the GOP! I think I've found my twin brother!

Posted by: Joe at April 26, 2004 03:46 AM

I saw Randy Johnson at the local mall, when the D'Backs were in LA a couple of years ago.

I met Randy Johnson this spring at a restaurant in Tucson where my brother was working as a waiter. Apparently Johnson left a $5 tip on a $100+ meal... I don't want to pass judgement on him based on one experience, but geez. Maybe he was just having a bad day?

Oh, and great story Crank!

Posted by: Richard at April 26, 2004 02:01 PM

No salt-rubbing, as I voted for Clinton twice, but I have to say I found the line about the Mets having a better year in 1992 weirdly funny. Good story here!

Posted by: Joseph Finn at April 27, 2004 01:18 AM

Damn, Ted Williams sure is young-looking. Nice bolo Crank!

Posted by: Rowdy at April 27, 2004 01:08 PM

I had the good fortune to be taught how to field ground balls by Tony Fernandez at a rural summer camp in Canada (his cousin was one of our instructors), how to bunt by Ozzie Smith (at a baseball camp in Florida), and I had my belly poked by Arnold Palmer at a golf tournament in Palm Springs about 20 years ago when I was a kid.

Tony told me I had soft hands but had to move my feet quicker, Ozzie wasn't impressed with my bunting, and Arnold had just hit a wicked tee shot and was heading to the fairway when he spotted me, came over and said something like "hey kid".

I also went to high school with Brendan Fraser and played the piano for a musical in high school with Thea Andrews (on Cold Pizza in the mornings). And yeah, my anecdotes are getting lower and lower tier, so I'll stop...

Posted by: mezzie at April 27, 2004 01:37 PM

Reading these articles brought back one of the greatest memories of my life,I was cooking at a restaurant in Yarmouth Maine ,when the waitress came into the kitchen and told me a guy named "Ted Williams wanted to talk to the cook"I about dropped in my shoes,He wanted a recommendation on the Boston Scrod,What a guy,He signed his guest check for me"To Rex,Best wishes,Ted Williams,I have it hanging in my restaurant as we speak

Posted by: Rex Crocker at April 30, 2004 02:47 PM
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