October 14, 2002

the Real Thing
Wow. This excerpt about the great Ted Williams speaks for itself:

If I had to sum up what he showed me, it was the difference between politesse -- Ted wasn't big on that -- and what was the large, true-blue, right thing to do. It was later, too, I understood this was pattern with Ted. He had to rough up the people he meant to help.

No one ever wrote, for example, that when Darryl Strawberry spiraled out of baseball in a gyre of alcohol, cocaine, and litigious women...when his imminent return to the Yankees was sadly scuttled by another acting out -- a D.U.I., or getting kicked out of rehab, or something (Straw's woes are hard to keep straight now)...the first call he got was not from his lawyer but from Ted Williams, who barely knew him, but who invited Darryl to come live at his house.

This was also pattern with Ted -- hiding the generosity of spirit that made him a great man. Maybe he assumed it would be misunderstood. Or worse still, too widely understood. "YER MAKIN' ME A DAMN SOCIAL WORKER," he yelled at me one time. This was the fact he wouldn't let me print:

For years, personally and secretly, Ted had been keeping a lot of guys in business -- guys too old to qualify for baseball's pension, or they didn't have enough time in the majors, or they didn't have the talent and never made it to the majors -- and mostly they were guys too proud to ask, but he knew they were just scraping by. He'd call them up. He'd tell them he was collecting for charity -- the Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer, or his museum, something -- and they'd hem and haw about how things weren't great with them, just at the moment, might be tough to pitch in...."DAMMIT, I CALLED YA!" Ted would bellow into the phone. "SEND ME A CHECK FER TEN BUCKS, SONOFABITCH!"...Then, when he got their check with the number, he'd deposit ten grand into their account.
- by Richard Ben Cramer

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