Ted Williams: The Seasons of the Kid

By Richard Ben Cramer

New York: Prentice Hall Press 1991

This is a coffee table-sized book, comparable with Ted Williams: A Tribute (Prime & Nowlin) and Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures (Johnson & Stout). Williams was very photogenic, and this book contains lots of good shots. The photo editor is Mark Rucker, and John Thorn wrote the long captions, which are called “Photo Essays”.

"The Colonel" Dave Egan, most notorious of Ted Williams' tormentors (photo from the book). The Colonel's criticism of Williams was limited to the Splendid Splinter's perceived baseball failings. Egan helped invent and perpetuate the myth of the overpaid Red Sox superstar who refuses to bunt, field, or hustle, and who cares not about the team but only about his own statistics. Move ahead a few decades, and it could be Clif Keane writing about Freddie Lynn, or Dan Shaughnessy writing about Jim Rice, or Will McDonough writing about Roger Clemens. Bostonians never seem to tire of the story. Unlike other reporters, this Knight of the Keyboard refrained from remarking on Ted's personal life, such as that fishing trip in the Everglades when the first Williams daughter was born. None of our business, said Dave. Egan is remembered by Williams biographers as a Harvard-educated drunk with a poison typewriter. [But documenters of baseball's civil rights movement remember Egan as a crusader who spent years trying to get the Red Sox to integrate.]

Richard Ben Cramer’s text (from Esquire magazine) mixes stories of Teddy Ballpayer with the latter-day Teddy Curmudgeon. It includes lots of TW’s LOUD PROFANITY (usually in capital letters). There is one scene -- old TW driving fast down a Florida highway, cursing and screaming at the other drivers -- that sounds just a little too much like Al Stump's Cobb. Cramer subsequently wrote a biography of Joe DiMaggio, which came out when the deceased Yankee Clipper's corpse was barely cold, and portrayed Joe as a heartless monster. The lesson seems to be that bigtime sports celebrities grow to be monsters who hate the very people who worship them, and end up bitter, isolated old men.

When Cramer was interviewing him, Ted was living in Islamadora in the Florida Keys, where the fish were jumping and the living was easy. He never had any taste for big city life, but he was hardly a hermit. Anger at phoniness and pretension was part of his character. He doesn't seem any angrier in his 70's than he was in his 20's; in fact he probably mellowed quite a bit. Williams' sins were fairly mundane for a pro athlete. He did not drink himself to death, or ruin his body with drugs, or beat people up in bars, or bet against his team, or hang out with gangsters. While he wanted money as much as the next man (and made a lot of it) he actually requested a pay cut after his poor 1959 season. He was widely respected by his peers, and always willing to share what he knew. He played a clean game, nobody threw at him, and he did not argue with umpires. Several of his teammates reamained his lifelong friends. Probably the worst you can say about him is that he was not a good husband or father. But Ted Williams is not a likely candidate for an exposť. Enjoy the pictures.
Reviewed by David Nevard (2002)