Sprawling, entertaining life of the baseball great, renowned as a sports hero while leading a life as checkered as Babe Ruth’s or Ty Cobb’s.
“My name is Ted Fuckin’ Williams and I’m the greatest hitter in baseball.” So recited Williams, by Boston Globe editor Bradlee’s account, as a mantra before each game, “interrupting it only occasionally to offer a lecture on the finer points of hitting to anyone who cared to listen.” He had the credentials to deliver such lectures, of course; Bradlee does indeed acknowledge him as “the greatest hitter who ever lived,” and few in baseball have bettered Williams’ numbers. Like Ruth, Williams was a bruiser with a chip on his shoulder; like Cobb, race was his bête noire, for, as Bradlee reveals, Williams had a Mexican mother and took great pains to conceal that ancestry, both fearful of discrimination and perhaps with an element of self-loathing. Williams had a reputation as a military hero as well, which he did nothing to gainsay, even if he did his best to stay out of the draft in World War II and resisted his reactivation during the Korean War. Williams ended life with a bit of sideways fame as well, having been decapitated and frozen after death in a cryonics venture that did not end well; Bradlee’s description of the macabre proceedings is not for the faint of heart. The author dishes plenty—one of the kindest things he says about Williams as a human being was that he was “self-absorbed”—but the repeated demonstrations of flawed character do nothing to diminish Williams’ outsized stature as a player. Bradlee is as enthusiastic as Vin Scully or Harry Caray when it comes to describing Williams on the field: “He allowed three hits, one run, walked none, and struck out Rudy York on three pitches. The move seemed an attempt…to placate angry fans with some pure entertainment in one of the worst losses of the year.”
An outstanding addition to the literature of baseball.