February 24, 2014

Great new bio of Ted Williams out

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted WilliamsThe Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This should be the final word on Ted Williams.

It's more in-depth than anything else I've read about his almost manic (in a clinical psychology sense) depth of anger and the childhood sources of it, namely, anger at his mother for her endless time and monetary devotion to the Salvation Army but lack thereof to him, and anger and embarrassment at his mom and mom's family for being Mexican-American, most of them notably so both by skin tone and, presumably, by language as first-generation immigrants.

Bradlee shows how this anger then seemed to get "transferred" to women in Williams' tumultuous personal life, with wives, lovers and mistresses, and, in the case of wives, bad parenting of, and anger at, his three kids. Yet, for children not his own, as Bradlee shows with things like the Jimmy Fund and more, perhaps thinking of his own childhood, Williams could be unfailingly kind and loving. Indeed, Bradlee compares him, and his family background, to Babe Ruth.

At the same time, primarily vis-a-vis Boston sportswriters, Williams used this anger, often creating slights out of molehills, to fuel his drive as a batter.

Bradlee also covers Ted's politics, his anger at the Marines over his Korea call-up and more, including his ambivalent relationship to his fame, and sometimes sycophancy around him.

Bradlee also knows his sports, though, and writes well about this, including the long-running comparisons to Joe DiMaggio and Ted's relation with teammates like Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, as well as his call for Hall of Fame induction of Negro League stars like Satchel Paige and his support of Jackie Robinson, Pumpsie Green, Larry Doby and more.

I pictured Ted today, with a Twitter account, after reading this bio. Any player who threw a double bird separately, to left, center, and right fields would be hell on wheels in today's plugged-in world. As for today's sports journalism world, Williams would probably take great delight in pissing off more people than he could have dreamed of 60 years ago.

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