Nowlin: My favorite player, Ted Williams

From SABR Vice President Bill Nowlin at The National Pastime Museum on December 23, 2013:

Ted Williams was my hero. I was born in 1945, grew up in Greater Boston and wasn’t the only one who held Ted in such high esteem. For a teenage boy in the 1950s, what wasn’t there to like about Ted Williams? He was one of the greatest hitters ever. He was a war hero. He raised money to help fight cancer in kids. And he was a rebel, refusing to wear a necktie to social events. He was his own man and he excelled at what he chose to take on. I had no interest in fishing, but I knew he was considered one of the best at that, too.

It started when he was young. He’d been born in San Diego on August 30, 1918, to a photographer father and a Mexican mother who was a tireless Salvation Army evangelist. As a kid, he benefited from a climate that permitted baseball year-round and he lived a block and a half from North Park, where he could hit until the city lights went out at 9 p.m. He took advantage. He would hit and hit and hit baseballs.

When he wasn’t actually hitting (and he’d sometimes use his school lunch money to pay kids to shag balls for him), he was visualizing doing so — swinging a bat (or anything else he could find.) A supportive city playground director, Rod Luscomb, encouraged him. Even in the majors, when he got into a brief slump, he’d sometimes be found at the park taking batting practice after everyone else had gone home.

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Originally published: December 23, 2013. Last Updated: December 23, 2013.