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My Turn at Bat: The Story of My Life, written in 1969, could be the
name of any number of hitters that have played the game of baseball.
It could even be a metaphor for something that doesn’t even relate to
the game of baseball. But that’s not the case here, this book is
about, arguably the greatest hitter to ever play the game. This book
is about the only player to ever hit .400. The only man to be inducted
into seven different hall of fames. This book tells the story of Ted
Williams through his eyes, the way he lived on and off the field. The
author John Underwood does a good job in terms of letting the reader
get a first person point of view when it comes to the life of this
Boston Red Sox legend.
The book first starts out with Ted Williams stating that, “I’m glad
it’s over”, he then goes on to explain what he means by this. Williams
says that he is so grateful for what baseball has done for him as a
person but he was glad to be out of the game as a player. He tells the
reader through out the book that if he could go back to when he was 18
or 19 years of age he wouldn’t do it because knowing now what was in
store for him. He says that he had to deal with so much physical pain,
the weight of the world being on his shoulders, and last but certainly
not least the Boston reporters. At that point in his life, Ted
Williams had finished playing Major League Baseball for the Boston Red
Sox and moved on to managing the Washington Senators, a move that he
wasn’t all that comfortable with, but was willing to try. This book is
a constant one-way conversation with the reader. It seems that is just
the way Williams wanted it to be, just so he could tell the story
without any interruptions.
Williams’s talks about how he always wanted to be the greatest hitter
of all time through out the book. He says that a man needs to have a
goal for a day, a lifetime and his was to hear people say, “there goes
Ted Williams the greatest hitter of all time”. Williams also talks
about how his 22 years of playing the game were the best years of his
life but they were also some of the unhappiest. Through out his time
as a professional ball player, he felt that people didn’t like him,
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himself. He felt that when he was a young player he didn’t get the
protection that he needed for a player in his position. He was just a
small town kid from California before he moved to the east coast to
play for the sox. He did however make some stops along the way, but
only a few, and they were with small teams such as the first minor
league team he played for in Minneapolis. He recalls these players
from the minor leagues as being lovers of the game; they just played
because it was all they knew. There were no big contracts to get in
the way and most importantly no press to make him look bad in the eyes
of the public.
Williams also talks a lot about his mother and father at the start of
the story. He says that he was never close to his father until he
started to make it to the Major Leagues. He said his Father was a
quiet man that worked for him self in a photographic shop Until Ted’s
teen years and then he moved onto the San Diego police. He always
respected his father but was never really close with him at all.
Williams says his mother was the one who took care of him most of the
time. He says that she worked her whole life for the Salvation Army.
She worked 50 hours a week at her income job and the rest of the time
she took care of Ted, his Brother and their $4,000.00 home on Utah St.
in San Diego. Ted said he played baseball ever since he can remember.
He said, him and his friends would play from sun up to sun down or
until the lights from the field were shut off. He says this is why he
was so skinny his whole life; because he never ate when he was a kid
all his did was play baseball.
I felt that the most respectable times in Ted Williams’s life outside
of the game were when he enlisted in the Navy. Williams fought in not
one but two wars during his time as a professional baseball player. He
was a pilot for the Navy on both occasions. At the time he wasn’t the
only player to become a pilot, there were others such as Johnny Pesky,
Johnny Sain and Joe Cloeman. Ted says that knowing that other players
were willing to fight for their country made him fell better about
himself going to war both times.
Ted is also a very down to earth type of guy, he loved to play the
game but he also loved to fish. When he was growing up his neighbor
Eddie Collins taught him how to fish, Ted and Eddie would fish the
rest of their lives together. Ted says he would pick Eddies brain to
learn more about how to become better as a fisherman, a lot like he
would quiz his teammates when he first joined the Red Sox. He says he
would be a nuisance, he would ask players about hitting, such as
Cronin and Cramer, he would ask Vosmik about this pitcher or that one.
He was the kind of guy that new others could help him and he wasn’t
shy about seeking that help.
The Story of Ted Williams life didn’t change how I felt about him as a
player but it did change how I felt about him as a person. Ted
Williams was not a showboat kind of player; he even talks about how
much he hated those kind of guys. He fought for his country because it
was the right thing to do at the time. He never complained about how
much money he was making, he was more concerned with how to better his
swing or his bat speed. Ted Williams is a model of what ball players
should be all about, and he should be a reality check to the present
day major league players.