Schultz: Before Ted Williams enlisted, everyone hated him for not enlisting

From Ken Schultz at Baseball Prospectus on January 10, 2020:

Whenever a writer or pundit wants to condemn a present-day star athlete for being less than sufficiently worshipful of their concept of America, the name of Ted Williams is inevitably mentioned. Williams has been invoked as a way of shaming everyone from Colin Kaepernick to LeBron James, with the latter example leading The National Review’s Rich Lowry to anoint The Splendid Splinter as “a sterling example of patriotic commitment” and “a reminder that professional athletes once had a deep connection to their nation.”

Lowry’s words of praise are typical of how the sacrifice of five seasons during the prime of Williams’s career to World War II and The Korean War were used to beatify his image as ballplayer/patriot. Throughout the latter half of his life, Williams had to listen to interviewer after interviewer inform him that because of his military exploits, he was “the real life John Wayne” — as if his stated life’s goal was to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes a guy who reminds me of the most mediocre actor who ever lived.”

Your mileage may vary on his acting, but there’s also this to consider: Not only was describing Williams as akin to John Wayne a massive oversimplification, but Wayne’s own legacy includes repeatedly avoiding WWII military service in the years before he urged everyone else in the country to enlist for war against the communists.

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Originally published: January 10, 2020. Last Updated: January 10, 2020.