The Story of My Life
by Ted Williams
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So now it's 1940 and I'm having my troubles at the park and visiting my uncle at the fire station, seeing the firemen hang around with their shirts off, getting sunburned, playing checkers, some of them playing cards. My uncle's telling me about this $150-a-month pension he's going to get, and I'm thinking, Boy, here I am, hitting .340 and having to take all this crap from the fans and writers. Then one day in Cleveland I'd had a bad day at bat and Harry Grayson, the writer from NEA, was at my locker and I was telling him about my uncle, and then I said, "Nuts to this baseball. I'd sooner be a fireman."
Well, Grayson took that and blew it all out of proportion. It was all over the papers, and that weekend we went into Chicago. The White Sox were managed by Jimmy Dykes, and with him the biggest bunch of jockeys ever on one ball team. Dykes and Mule Haas and Edgar Smith and Ted Lyons. Doc Cramer and Lyons were always squashing eggs on one another. Cramer was a great agitator himself -- all the time making midnight calls to somebody or loading up a suitcase with rocks -- and he'd squash an egg on Lyons and Lyons would say, "All right, you bastard, you'd better start dancing the next time you get up there," and sure enough he'd aim one at Cramer's knees and Cramer would have to skip rope.
Then Lyons would come in our dugout and he'd say, "Hi, Doc" -- yaaak, an egg on Cramer's head. Lyons was a strong son of a gun, too. When he grabbed you, you stayed grabbed.
They were an agitating bunch of guys, the White Sox, and when I come out on the field, geez, they're blowing sirens and ringing bells, and two of them have these Texaco fire hats that Ed Wynn used to wear, and then here comes the game and I go out in left field and there's the real fire chief with a real white helmet on and sitting with him are eight guys with big red helmets, real helmets.
Then we go to New York and Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing are ringing cow bells when I get up to the plate, raising all kinds of hell, so I get out of the box and I say to Bill Summers, the umpire, "Those guys can't do that, damn it, not while I'm hitting." Summers warns them, but they keep banging and a-booming, and finally he goes over there and kicks them out of the game. Gomez was supposed to have said that he'd just as soon go fishing anyway.
You say, Well, that was funny, and sure it was. But I'm still a kid, high strung and prone to tantrums, and more and more I'm feeling like the persecuted. Next was the incident over the pigeons. There used to be a lot of big pigeons in Fenway Park, and every now and then the groundskeeper would flock shoot them, put out a bundle of grain and kill them in bunches. They were a nuisance. I was a nut for guns, and he let me go out one day with my twenty gauge and I suppose I killed thirty or forty pigeons. Then Mr. Yawkey came out, too, and he was an excellent shot. Together we knocked off seventy or eighty pigeons. We had a hell of a time. Bang, boom, bang.
This was on an off day, a Monday. Tuesday night we're having batting practice in Washington and one of the writers comes up to me and says, "The Humane Society has made a complaint about you." Yeah? What happened? "They found out you were shooting pigeons." He didn't say anything about Mr. Yawkey shooting pigeons, old Teddy Ballgame is the S.O.B. they're after. I used to take my .22 out and take target practice on the 400-foot sign, too, but that was put to rest when I knocked out a few lights in the scoreboard. It turned out that a little writer in Boston named Hy Hurwitz, a guy I always had trouble with, had phoned the Humane Society. So I apologized and promised I wouldn't shoot any more pigeons.
Funny, sure, but not all my difficulties were funny to me, and I didn't know how to handle them. Joe Cronin did. Cronin was a big good-looking Irishman who could just swoon you. He married the owner's daughter in Washington, and he was everybody's favorite. He could suave those writers to death. If it were me, if I'd been the general manager, I'd have nipped it right now.
I'd have called the writer in and said, "Look, this kid is going to be a hell of a player. But he's twenty years old. How can you write such a lousy article about him? Give him a break. We're getting on his ass. You don't have to put every little mistake in the paper so that every son of a bitch in Boston knows about it. You're not only hurting him, you're hurting the club." You know, set the writer straight. I couldn't, though, and I sure wasn't getting any help from the front office.
I never had problems like that in San Diego or Minneapolis, and I got along fine with guys like Red Smith and Arthur Daley in New York. Isn't that funny? Well, my way of handling it was to get nasty right back. If there were eight or ten reporters around my locker, I'd spot a guy who'd written a bad article about me and I'd say, "Why should you even come around me, that crap-house stuff you've been writing." So that would embarrass him, and he'd get mad, and then off we'd go.
Take Dave Egan. They called him The Colonel, the big columnist for the Boston Daily Record. He could write some elegant things, beautiful things, make you think Ted Williams was responsible for the entire American League. Then, boy, he could tear me down, write rotten stuff. And the other columnists followed his lead.
From My Turn at Bat by Ted Williams with John Underwood.
Copyright © 1969, 1988 by Ted Williams and John Underwood. Reprinted with permission.