Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why "The Splendid Spitter"?

Theodore Samuel Williams, the Ted Williams, was my boyhood hero and the best natural hitter ever. Just look at that swing. When he was young he was tall and thin and known as "The Splendid Splinter." He had a lifetime average of .344, hit 521 home runs, had an OBP of .482, walked 2021 times and struck out only 709 times. And he served as an ace Marine aviator for three years in World War II and was called up at age 35 to fly jets for the Marines in Korea for a year and a half.

In 1957, when I was ten, Ted Williams, aged 39, batted .388, hit 38 homers, had a slugging average of .731 and an OBP of .526. And still finished second to Mickey Mantle for AL MVP. I'm still upset about that. I remember reading it in the evening paper and going crazy.

Ted Williams is no longer my hero because, as a grown-up, I have come to realize that boyhood heros usually have feet of clay. So let's just say that Ted Williams remains a strong presence in my life not only because he was The Splendid Splinter but also because he was The Splendid Spitter.

Ted Williams became The Splendid Spitter because Ted Williams, in his quest to be his own man, never could resist telling off someone who had failed to show him what he considered the proper respect. 

August 7, 1956, in the top of the eleventh in a scoreless tie, Williams drops a Mickey Mantle fly ball for a two-base error. The fans boo him mercilessly. Some of the fans along the left field line in Fenway Park used to barrage him with boos, catcalls and bad names. He retires Yogi Berra on a line drive to end the inning. The attacks continue. On the way to the Boston dugout along the first base line, Williams spits - not once, but twice - at the fans. Some say he spat towards the Knights of the Keyboard, as he called the local writers. 

In the bottom of the eleventh, two errors and a walk load the bases. Williams walks in the winning run to end the game. And tosses his bat forty feet in the air. And immediately gets fined $5,000 by the Red Sox. And gets quoted by the United Press as saying "I'm not a bit sorry for what I did. I'd spit again at the same fans who booed me today."

This blog is going to be about baseball, politics and the law. Hopefully, The Splendid Spitter wouldn't spit on it.

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