Well Grayson took
that and blew it all out of proportion. It was all over the papers, and that
weekend we went into Chicago. The White Sox then had Jimmy Dykes, and with him
the biggest bunch of bench jockeys ever on one ball team. Dykes and Edgar Smith
and Ted Lyons. Doc Cramer and Lyons were always squashing eggs on one another.
I come out on the field and, cripes, they're blowing sirens and ringing bells,
and two of them have on these Texaco fire hats that Ed Wynn used to wear, and
then here comes the game and I go out in left field and there's a real fire
chief with a real white helmet on and sitting with him are eight guys with big
red helmets, real helmets.
Then we go to New
York, and Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing are ringing bells when I get up to the
plate, raising all kinds of hell, so I get out of the box and I say to Bill
Summers, the umpire, "Those guys can't do that, dammit, not while I'm
hitting." Summers warns them, but they keep banging and abooming, and
finally he goes over there and kicks them out of the game. Gomez was supposed
to have said that he'd just as soon go fishing anyway.
You say, well,
that was funny, and sure it was. But I'm still a kid, high-strung and prone to
tantrums, and more and more I'm feeling like the persecuted. Next was the
incident over the pigeons. There used to be a lot of big pigeons in Fenway
Park, and every now and then the groundkeeper would flock-shoot them, put out a
bundle of grain and kill them in bunches. I was a nut for guns, and he let me
go out one day with my 20-gauge, and I suppose I killed 30 or 40 pigeons. Then
Mr. Yawkey came out, too, and he's an excellent shot. Together we knocked off
70 or 80 of the pigeons. We had a hell of a time. Bang, boom, bang.
This was on a
Monday. Tuesday night we're having batting practice in Washington and one of
the writers comes up to me and says, "The Humane Society has made a
complaint about you." Yeah? What happened? "They found out you were
shooting pigeons." He didn't say anything about Mr. Yawkey shooting
pigeons, old Teddy Ballgame is the s.o.b. they're after. I used to take my .22
out and take target practice on the 420-foot sign, too, but that was put to
rest when I knocked out a few lights in the scoreboard. It turned out that a
writer in Boston named Hy Hurwitz, a guy I always had trouble with, had
mentioned the shooting in a story. So I apologized and promised I wouldn't
shoot any more pigeons.
Funny, sure, but
not all my difficulties were funny to me, and I didn't know how to handle them.
Joe Cronin, our manager then, did. He could really handle the press, but I
couldn't, and I sure wasn't getting any help from the front office. I never had
problems like that when I was in the minors in San Diego or Minneapolis, and I
got along fine with guys like Red Smith and Arthur Daley in New York. Isn't
that funny? Well, my way of handling it was to get nasty right back. If there
were eight or 10 reporters around my locker, I'd spot a guy who'd written a bad
article about me and I'd say, "Why should you even come around me, that
shanty-house stuff you been writing?" So that would embarrass him, and he'd
get mad, and then off we'd go.
Take Dave Egan.
They called him The Colonel, the big columnist for the
Boston Daily Record. He
could write some elegant things, beautiful things, make you think Ted Williams
was responsible for the entire American League. Then, boy, he could tear me
down, write rotten stuff. And the other columnists followed his lead.
Like I said, I
didn't go home the winter of 1939. It had always been a struggle at home, the
tension, my father and mother never really together, my brother always in some
kind of scrape. While I was trying to help my mother, she was giving everything
to my brother, and I was mad at that. I tried to give my mother everything she
wanted, but I could never give her all I really wanted to, because she would
have turned it over to my brother. My mother never had a vacation in her life.
Never. She didn't want to spend the money. Or she'd go and buy old clothes or
old furniture or something that someone was peddling, and it would pile up out
I remember when
Eddie Collins, the Boston general manager, came to the house a few times before
I had a chance to make it presentable. There were holes in the chairs white
mice had made years before. One Christmas we had had a new rug in our house. We
also got a little secondhand Lionel train that year. And the transformers on it
got hot and the insulation melted on the rug. The rug with the spot on it was
still there. I mean, it was never a happy place for me, and in 1939 my mother
and father separated and there was more grief, so I just stayed away. And do
you know what that Harold Kaese writes the first time I do something to
displease him? "Well, what do you expect from a guy who won't go home to
see his mother."
Before this, I
was willing to believe a writer was my friend until he proved otherwise. Now my
guard's up all the time. Then here comes 1941 and everything is fun again. I
mentioned circumstances. The biggest thing going for me to hit .400 was Fenway
Park in Boston, and before you question the logic of that, let me explain.
First it had a good, green background. Mr. Yawkey kept all the signs out,
everything was green. There were no shadows. And then there was that short,
short high fence in left field. You say, but Williams was a pull hitter to
right field. That's correct. But the left-field wall gave me a different kind
of advantage. Even though I didn't hit out that way, I always said to myself,
"If you swing a little late it won't be the worst thing in the world,
because there's that short fence, the defense isn't there, and slices or balls
hit late can still go out." So I didn't worry about hitting late, and what
did that do for me? It allowed me to develop the most valuable luxury a hitter
can have: the ability to wait on the ball. By waiting, you get fooled less by
the pitch. By waiting, and being quick with the bat, you can protect the plate
with two strikes. You can follow the ball better.
I remember Bill
Dickey of the Yankees was giving me a lot of conversation that year. When he
was catching, he'd try to get you distracted. He'd say, "How much you weigh
now, Kid?" and, whup, there goes a strike. And then I'd take a real close
pitch, a ball, and he'd say, "How big does that bail look to you,
anyway?" Then I'd take another one real close and he'd say, "Just how
the hell big does that ball look to you?" Well, Cramer was on second one
day, and he gave me the closed fist. Curveball coming. He'd stolen Dickey's
sign. So I'm looking for a curve. The Yankee pitcher rears back and gives me a
fastball and it's almost past when I give it one of those late, little quick
swings. Line drive, right center, home run. The next day I read in the paper
where Dickey said, " Williams hit the ball right out of my glove," which
was perfect because it meant that I had waited.