He was called “the Splendid Splinter,” “the Kid,” “Teddy Ballgame” and other unmentionable names. But Ted Williams was always something else.
There was the love-hate affair fans at Fenway Park had with Ted Williams. He dropped a fly ball in the first game of a doubleheader. Raucous razzing followed. In the second game, a ball scooted past him in left field, and he made a half hearted effort to go after it. Three runs scored. The booing was deafening. The inning ended. Williams came to the dugout, stopped and made a negative, some would say, obscene gesture — twice.
ROGER KAHN: Every once in a while, Williams would lose his temper and give them the finger. People out in left field would jeer. There was a constant clash between Williams and the customers.
BOB BRADY: But in those years he was the only reason to go to Fenway Park. As soon as his last at bat many would depart especially if the Sox were losing.
ROGER KAHN: At that time, the Red Sox clubhouse closed something like 40 minutes before a game at the request, no the demand of Williams who called reporters the “Knights of the Keyboard.”
There were more bodies than you could imagine in the Fenway press box, people from all of the papers. Platoons of reporters. Somebody doing the pregame color—this is when the Yankees came in. Somebody doing the dressing room Somebody doing the other dressing room Somebody doing crowd notes. Somebody doing the game itself.
IKE DELOCK: He didn’t like the press and there a lot were a lot them – he wanted to ban them from the clubhouse. The players said, “You can’t do that.” So he eased up. But whatever he wanted he damn well got.
At the urging of Williams, Red Sox players agreed to a one hour interview lag after games before reporters could enter the locker room. The Sox icon would stand outside the door wearing just a towel, counting off the seconds. “Okay,” he’d snap. “Now all you bastards can come in. “
MEL PARNELL: Ted was called out on strikes and came back to the dugout and complained that home plate was out of line. General manager Joe Cronin argued about it but agreed to have home plate checked. At nine the next morning the ground crew was out there. They checked. It was out of line. Ted had the greatest eyes. He was a man with strong opinions about everything, and his own way of doing things.
The “Splendid Splinter” ordered postal scales for the Boston clubhouse to accurately measure the weight of his bats. He trusted no one. While in the on-deck circle, he would massage his bat handle with olive oil and resin. The noise, a kind of squeal, did not endear him to disconcerted pitchers. He was one of the greatest, one of a kind, an original.
About Harvey Frommer
One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman,
A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of www.HarveyFrommerSports.com.
His highly successful THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is readily available from the author or Amazon. http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html