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Baseball Analysis  John Holway

Also Read: What if Ted and Mickey Had Been on the Juice?
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Ted Williams Teddy Ballgame's Called Shots Dear Bryce (Harper from Ted Williams)

Letter to Bill James

John B Holway

Dear Bill:

Chis Jaffe, on page 652 of the Historical Abstract in SABR, quotes you as writing that Ted Williams "was despised everywhere in the American League." and I wonder what your source is. I've been grappling for over 50 year trying to get a handle on who Ted really was. The answer has grown into a trilogy of 1,000 words. I've interviewed Ted at length and found him so charming I couldn't believe it. Didn't have an unkind would for anybody. (Well, he did lose his cool when discussing Boston writers; it was the only time in many hours of talk that he used the dreaded f-word.) But did you know that when writer Burt Whitman died, Ted actually cried?

I tracked down every living person I could find who knew him. Read every game account in the Boston papers. I met only two players who didn't like him (Harlond Clift and Tony Lupien), and dozens who worshipped him. Well, there were two more on the Senators when he managed them, such as Bernie Allen. Clift and Lupien gave no specifics; Allen, a vey intelligent guy, was analytical. If John Glenn were a member of the College of Cardinals, Ted would have been beatified years ago.

Can you imagine Ted getting into a brawl at the Copa Cabana, as Mickey did? Or hanging his manager out of a speeding train or going into the stands to punch a heckler, as Babe did?

His biographers all re-wrote each other. The ultimate re-write was Montville, who never saw him play and chatted with him once at spring training. Instead of research, Leigh substituted the obligatory sardonic tone adopted by all Ted biographers and required by their editors. He drew heavily on Bobby Jo for the portrait of Ted as a lousy father. She was so livid at him that she refuses to talk to writers any more. I agree with Montville on one point - he was the world's worst husband, with the obvious exception, of course, of Henry VIII. But the women just couldn't stay away from him anyway. After he had shed all his trophy wives, he finally found the woman he should have married in the first place.

I think you're over-stating it when you say Ted "splintered water coolers."

Though he did come in first on the all-time SABRmetric list:

Most water coolers splintered

Ted Williams ………..1

He was 19 years old at the time..

Yes, I saw his temper - hoo, boy, did I! But it came and went like a summer squall. And, yes, some days he dogged it, but they were rare. Maybe two per 154, though zero would have been better. He was a very good outfielder and made the best catch I ever saw, off DiMag at Yankee Stadium, virtually identical to Gionfriddo's. Al's is replayed constantly. Ted's was reported in graph 18 of the New York Times.

And, in spite of what Cobb said, Ted did hit to left quite often - dumped a couple over the Monster every year and a couple more against it. (Dimag almost never hit to the Short Porch in New York, but nobody ever criticizes him.)

Here's a sabrmetric stat that will interest you: He is probably the all-time leader in called shots. I'm up to 18 so far, compared to two for Ruth.

If you and Mr Jaffe should spend the next 50 years trying to answer the question: "What kind of guy was Ted Williams?" I think you would conclude with the same word I do:


I wish you'd met him.

My Volume I, Ted, the Kid, is off the press. Volume II, War and Heartbreak, is finished, and III, Ted, the Legend, is half done (I said "done," not "baked.") Send me your address, and I'll send you The Kid, so you can meet him too. I think you'll like him; almost everyone else who met him, did.

Your old buddy


Read John Holway's books, "TED, the Kid" (2006) and "The Last 400 Hitter" (1991).

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