Friday, December 27, 2013

Four Things You Might Not Have Known About Ted Williams

I figure you know he's in the Hall of Fame and considered by some to be the best hitter of all time. But here are some less well-known aspects of The Splendid Splinter:
  1. He was very unpopular in his day and feuded constantly with the press. In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, published in 2003, Bill James likened him to Albert Belle. I think the modern analog is probably Barry Bonds (pre-PEDs): prodigious talent widely viewed as a big jerk. 
  2. His career in baseball was shortened by two stints in the military, as a naval aviator in 1942-45 and a Marine Corps pilot in 1952-53. Although he was widely regarded as a skilled pilot for the Navy, apparently setting records in his training to be a combat pilot, he did not see active combat during World War II. In the Korean War, although he was called up as a reservist, he flew 39 combat missions and received numerous commendations. Many enlisted ballplayers simply played on a service baseball team. Williams flew combat aircraft.
  3. After his baseball career, Williams became an expert deep-sea and fly fisherman, hosted a show on fishing, and was named to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one of only three athletes to be named to more than one professional sports hall of fame.
  4. During his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966, he spoke out for inducting Negro Leagues stars into the Hall. I was reminded of this yesterday by this fantastic piece by Joe Posnanski. Williams was way ahead of his time--Satchel Paige was the first Negro Leagues player in the Hall of Fame in 1971--and saying what he said, during all the Civil Rights turmoil, was as gutsy as it was foresighted.

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