Someone once wrote that, “in 1955, there were 77,263,127 male Americans…and everyone of them, in their heart of hearts, would give anything to be Ted Williams”. Viewers can find out why on Saturday, January 30th (9:45am pst) when HBO re-airs “Ted Williams :The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”. This 76 minute film, which was produced by Margaret Grossi and narrated by Leiv Schreiber, traces the life of the Red Sox Hall Of Fame outfielder, and includes interviews with teammate Bobby Deorr, former president George H.W. Bush, and actor Robert Redford.
Ted Williams’s career (1939-1960), in terms of raw statistics, speaks for itself….six batting titles, two MVP awards, two triple crowns, and the distinction of being the last major leaguer to hit over .400, when he batted .406 in 1941. However, Ted Williams was also baseball’s anti-hero…he feuded with sports writers, had a complicated personal life, and had, what could best be described, a love-hate relationship with the Boston fans… in the process of hitting 521 career homers, Williams ignored the time honored tradition of tipping his cap to the crowd as he crossed home plate.
Williams 21 year career was twice interrupted by military duty, as he served in both World War Two and Korea…it was during the Korea conflict that he flew in 39 combat missions, once crash landing his plane after it had been hit by enemy fire. Ted Williams’s stints in the service cost him five seasons, but despite that, his batting eye never deserted him, as he played into his 40’s, compiling a lifetime batting average of .344. Playing in his final game in 1960, the 42 year old Williams would homer in his last career at bat. The writer, John Updike, described the scene at Fenway Park, in an essay printed in the New Yorker….after Williams circled the bases, he retreated to the dugout, as always, failing to tip his cap. Teammates, coaches, and even umpires pleaded with him to somehow acknowledge the cheering fans, but it never happened…as Updike pointed out, “Gods do not answer letters”.