The greatest hitter that ever lived. Ted Williams is a legend among legends. What a privilege people who got the chance to watch him play had. Unfortunately, since Ted retired over fifty years ago, there aren’t many of those privileged few left. Which is what made this book so intriguing. Even better than talking about people who got to see Williams play, this book focus on people who actually played against him. What was it like trying to get him out? Did you just assume you had no chance and hope to limit the damage? Did you actually think you could strike him out? How about fielders, did they play any differently with Ted at the plate? I couldn’t wait to dive into the book.
Then, I hit a problem. This book relied on fresh interviews, as opposed to historical accounts. As I mentioned, Ted last played fifty years ago. Do the math, and even a 20 year old breaking in during Ted’s last season is pushing 75 years old. There aren’t a lot of players left who faced Ted personally. There also weren’t a lot of players who faced Ted very often. Again, if your career overlapped Ted’s by ten years, you’re at least 85 years old. So, the book had a high percentage of people I had never heard of. Bob Feller is the only name that sticks out as a name I knew, and as a player who had faced Ted quite often. It also meant that those players had faced Ted only once or twice. It didn’t make their stores less valid, but it did make them a bit less original. Every one of them, it seemed, was a wide-eyed rookie when Ted came to the plate. Their memories were all similar. Then came the second problem. Usually, their memories were all wrong. Whether it was the passage of time, or an exaggeration that crept in over the years, many of the stories were inaccurate. That left Heller with two choices. To ignore it, and let everyone tell about how they stuck Williams out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, or to point out the errors. I’m not sure which I would have done, but Heller chose the latter. In footnotes, he would correct the misremembering. That would have been fine, if it didn’t happen so often. Almost every time someone remembered something, there was a footnote correcting it. Made me wonder what I was reading…since it certainly didn’t seem to be anything like a story about facing Ted Williams. I wonder if Heller himself was a bit disappointed by what he ended up with when he saw the inaccuracies.
I know I was.
Rating: 1 base.