By Scoop Malinowski
Status: Baseball Hall of Famer.
DOB: August 30, 1918 In: San Diego, CA
Passed Away: July 5, 2002
Childhood Heroes: “That’s a funny point. I never had any childhood sports heroes. There was no radio or television back then. The only word I could get from anyone was from the ‘papers. From the very beginning I’d heard of (Lou) Gehrig and (Babe) Ruth. What I did was ask anyone who was a good hitter, What did I have to do to be a good hitter? And I got all kinds of answers. The one that I remember most was from Rogers Hornsby. He said to make sure you get a good ball to hit. Of course, that meant to not swing at balls in the dirt, or too high, or too outside.”
Nicknames: The Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame, The Thumper, Thumpin’ Theodore, The Kid.”
Hobbies/Interests: “Fishing, tennis, jazz.”
Childhood Dream: “Only to become a big league ballplayer.”
Early Baseball Memory: “Hit my first ball over the fence at the playground. A Sunday game in the San Diego league. When I was 18. Didn’t hit it far…it went over the shortest part of the fence. But I’ll never forget that one.”
Favorite Movies: “No question [laughs]…John Wayne movies.”
Pre-Game Feeling: “I’d think about the pitcher. That’s the only guy I’d think about, not of any hitters or anyone else from the opposing team. I’d think of just that pitcher. Maybe I’d found out as much as I could from someone who’d hit against him in the past.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “The home run I hit in the All-Star Game in 1941 (in ninth inning against Claude Passeau of the Cubs). Won the All-Star Game for the American League. That was my second All-Star Game but my first time in the starting lineup.”
Most Painful Moment: “When we lost the World Series to the Cardinals (1946). I hadn’t done very well (he hit .200 in the seven game series).”
Favorite Athletes To Watch: “Barry Bonds. Steve Garvey. Ken Griffey Jr. I like the big hitters in sports. Today they’re bigger, faster and stronger. These days I see more great plays in the outfield than I’ve ever seen in my life. In tennis I like Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang. I love to see Chang play. The little man. Lots of Go with him. He hammers it away with the best of them.”
Most Treasured Possession: “The only baseball I ever really kept…I kept two. Babe Ruth signed a baseball for me, signed, ‘Ted Williams, your pal, Babe Ruth.’ But someone stole it from me. I offered a $5,000 reward. Only one I ever kept was the first home run I hit off Bob Feller. I had a high regard for him as a pitcher and as a person. He sold me on him when they day after Pearl Harbor he signed for the Navy for four years.”
Interesting Fact: Ted was a Marines fighter pilot instructor during World War II (1942-1945). And then he flew 38 combat missions in the Korean War (1952-53). On February 17, 1953, Ted’s plane was hit by ground fire. Despite no landing gear, no radio, no hydraulic pressure, and his plane on fire, he was able to land the plane.
Career Accomplishments: Two-time MVP; Two Triple Crowns; Six-Time AL Batting Champ; .344 career average; 521 career home runs; ML record for most successive times (16 in 1957) reaching base safely (2 singles, 2 HR, 9 BB, 1 HBP); Oldest ML player to win batting title (.328 at age 40); Inducted to Hall of Fame in 1966; First ML player to hit over .400 (.406 in 1941); Hit HR in final at-bat and received four-minute standing ovation (1960).
Copyright: Scoop Malinowski
[Note: I did this interview with Ted Williams on the phone in 1997, arranged by Ted’s son John Henry Williams. It took several months of waiting but John Henry kept his word and I’m eternally grateful. – SM]