Sunday, April 16, 2006


As promised, here is the first of my great moments in Red Sox history series.

Dateline: 09/28/1960 - Boston, MA.

For those of you who don't know, Ted Williams played his last game on the 28th of September in the year of our Lord 1960. As I suspect most people who would describe themselves as Red Sox fans at this point might not know, Ted Williams was a man of many accomplishments. In addition to being a Marine pilot in two wars, Ted Williams was the last man to bat .400 for an entire season. He also holds the career home run mark for the Boston Red Sox (somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 more than Daivd Ortiz, although I have on reliable rumor that no one has dreamed of hitting more clutch home runs than Big Papi).

Many people might wonder why I should bother to remind Red Sox fans of the greatness of Ted Williams. Rest assured, I have my reasons. I sat and suffered through the "championship" season of 2004 in silence (In this space much more will be devoted to the fact that Dave Roberts was out at 2nd base, and the 2004 Cardinals played the worst World Series since 1968, but more pressing matters intrude). In the wake of their victory, I noticed that every Red Sox fan felt compelled to share the intimate details of his/her Red Sox fandom back into the heady days when William McKinley walked the Earth.

In the very short period of time that this site has been in operation, those who read it cannot have helped noticing that hyperbole is mother's milk to me. However, the degree to which I exaggerate is nothing next to what I witnessed from Red Sox fans in the wake of their startling reversal of the curse. Fans all across New England deluged media outlets with their stories. Everybody's grandfathers, great-grandfathers and various and sundry ancestors to the nth degree worshipped the ground upon which the local nine walked, and grieved a great grief each time the boys of summer fell short of baseball's ultimate prize.

Their is a curious blend of revisionist history that lingers in New England. It pervades our regional culture. If you don't believe me, pick up a bottle of Sam Adams. I don't recommened that you drink it, especially if your under 21. I do not enjoy Sam Adams. I treat my beer like my economics. In both cases, I prefer the macro variety for my own indulgence, but I digress. The point, such as it is in this instance, is that every image that appears on every bottle of Sam Adams beer is not Samuel Adams. I have heard a few different reasons for this. Whether it was the fact that the few surviving wood cuts or other images of Sam Adams were discarded because of his aesthetic shortcomings or because there were no surviving images, you must make your own decision. The simple fact of the matter is that the image on the Sam Adams logo is actually Paul Revere.

While it may seem to the untrained observer that I wandered off on an insane digression (an event all to common), there is (or should be) method to my madness. The stories which poured forth from Red Sox Nation in the wake of the triumph struck me as revisionist history. I went forth to Google, and I searched. I came across a piece that I first read as a child when the city named a street after Ted Williams. The Globe then reprinted it when the Splendid Splinter passed. It is by John Updike, but to read it you must go to Google, as I am not feeling charitable enough to post the link.

John Updike seems, on the surface, to have little in common with the typical citizen of Red Sox Nation. He was not born a Red Sox fan. He grew up in Pennsylvania. I imagine his interest in baseball might have withered if he had the misfortune to grow up in the world of Peter Gammons and Buster Olney. Nevertheless, he knew the game and he knew people. And somehow this writer from PA drove his car out to the lyrical bandbox of a park (his words -and a phrase, I believe he coined-, not mine) in which the Red Sox play to write the best piece on baseball in Boston and maybe of all time.

After all of that sound and fury, we get to what must masquerade as the point of this post. In Updike's brilliant piece, the author touches on the point that Ted Williams for all his talent, his unfailing work ethic, his patriotism and his success was somewhat underappreciated for his greatness. One could only imagine the horrors that would have been in store for him had he failed to run out the occasional ground out or harbored fundamentalist Chrsitian beleifs (Like Manny or Carl Everett, look at their run-ins with the CHB).

Although you might not realize it at first, I bring up Ted and his final game and John Updike to bring this point to your attention. For every email, voice mail, fax and letter that claimed this victory in 2004 redeemed multiple generations and their affections for the Red Sox, there is a fact that gives hope to people like me. It seems abundantly clear (if you believe Updike) that Red Sox Nation had ample warning that September 28, 1960 would be the one last final last time Ted Williams donned a Red Sox uniform in Fenway Park.

While every single man, woman and child who lived in Boston a generation or two ago loved the Red Sox and would have died a ghastly death in their defense, a mere 10,454 deemed it worthy to show up and watch the greatest Red Sox player of all time hit a home run in his final at bat. I don't know, nor do I particularly care to Google the capacity of Fenway Park as the 1960 season drew to a close. Somehow, I'm willing to bet everything I own that the stadium wasn't more than 1/3 full.

In the next few days, or weeks, lull yourselves to sleep, O Red Sox Nation, with the fact that in the twilight hours of the team's greatest player, your lovely little stadium was 1/3 full. Tell me that the town didn't become a baseball town until the Impossible Dream of 1967 (I might even buy it, if you can come up with a compelling reason for associating your team with possibly the worst film of Robert Goulet's career). Tell me that it was a day game, and you all had to work. Tell me that the stars weren't properly aligned for loyalty. Tell me whatever you want. Tell em that Ted never answered curtain calls, that he didn;t court the fan's affection.

None of these things will change the fact that Red Sox Nation failed to give Ted Williams the support he deserved. When you marshall your thoughts to criticize me, just think to yourselves, vassals of Red Sox Nation, that many times more people came out to watch the last game that Nomar played in a Red Sox uni. And when Trot Nixon departs from the Nation as it seems likely he will come October, he will pass on from our sphere with much more fanfare than Teddy Ballgame did 46 years ago.

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