- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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I'll tell you one more story about umpires, because it was one of the funniest things that ever happened to me. When I tell it it always seems like a drawn-out presentation, but I read The Old Man and the Sea and that was sure drawn out, so I don't feel bad about telling my story. We were playing the White Sox about 1946 and, as I said, they were a real rhubarb team, what with Dykes, who I love, a real fiery guy, a great agitator—you could hear that foghorn voice all over the park—and Haas and Edgar Smith and Lyons. Joe Haynes was pitching that day, and he was always tough for me. His ball was sailing all the time, sailing in, right under your chin, but that was calculated, because Haynes had control. Damn, you had to be alert with him. He was always trying to hit you in the elbow.
Anyway, in the first inning, I hit a double for two RBIs. Now, remember, Haynes can put the ball right where he wants it. Red Jones is the umpire. Next time I get up, wheesshh, right behind my ear, down I go. This is 1946, now, and everybody is back from the service, gung-ho, big crowds, bigger salaries, everything is tight, and the league has issued warnings about beanball contests, because there'd been a lot of them. The next pitch comes in and, zoom, down I go again. Well, Red Jones was the kind of umpire who took control of a game. He goes right out to Haynes, and Haynes comes in. Out comes Dykes, and there's a big rhubarb, but Jones warns him: "Throw one more like that and out you go." So on the next pitch I hit one right by Haynes's ear, base hit to center field.
Now it's my third time up, Haynes still pitching. Standing in the box, I'm facing the White Sox dugout, over there. Except this time Haynes is trying to hit the outside corner, and it's just outside, and from over there it looks like it's right down the middle. Jones says, "Ball one!" Nobody kicked except the White Sox bench, and they raised hell. "You s.o.b.! Give him everything he wants, yah, yah." Next pitch, out there again, ball two. "You homing no-good blind man." Jones stops the game right there and goes over to the bench, with Dykes and all of them yelling at him. He said, "You guys keep it up and I'm clearing the bench. Just keep it up." And cripes, here comes another one a hair outside, misses again. "Ball three." Boy, you never heard such screaming and yelling, and Red Jones goes right over and cleans the bench. Everybody out but the nine on the field.
We're standing at home plate, and the condemned have got to pass by to get to the tunnel through the Red Sox dugout. The first guy gets to Jones and he says, "You homer, you get away from home and you're horsemeat," and off he goes. Next guy says, "For crying out loud, you give the guy everything in the world. Don't give the pitcher a break." And off he goes. And Dykes chews Jones out, and Smith chews him out and so on down the line. After about 12 guys have passed, along comes Wally Moses. Wally was a nice, quiet little guy, and when he stops he says to Jones, "Red, I've been in the big leagues 11 years. I've never been thrown out of a game in my life. Honest to Pete, I never said a word to you on the bench. I was way over in the corner, I never said a word."
And old Red Jones, I'll never forget him. He said, "Wally, I want to tell you, it's like this. It's just like on a police raid—the good go with the bad." That broke me up.
Joe DiMaggio won the Most Valuable Player award in 1941, despite my .406, but I sure wouldn't knock that. DiMaggio was a great player, and he hit in those 56 straight games and the Yankees won the pennant. The Red Sox were second. The next year, 1942, I felt I should have been given a little more consideration because I won the triple crown—.356 average, 137 RBIs, 36 home runs—but Joe Gordon got it. Gordon had his greatest year, and the Yankees won the pennant again. And we were second again. The voting tends to go to the team that wins, which is right. But I have to think the reason I didn't get more consideration was because of the trouble I had with the draft.
War was imminent. I had gone to my draft board right after the season, about November of '41, and told them everything about myself, how much money I had in the bank, how much I sent my mother every month, everything. I was put in III-A, which meant I had a dependent and would be inducted only after guys in other groups had gone in first. I went on up to Minnesota. On the morning of December 7 I'd just come back from hunting ducks to this little hotel in Princeton, Minn. and was eating in the kitchen when it came over the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Frankly, none of this war talk had meant a damn to me up to then. Hitler had been giving Europe fits and things were looking bad all over the world, but it hadn't sunk in on me yet. All I was interested in was playing ball, hitting the baseball, being able to hunt, making some money. I look back now, reading about World War II, and I say to myself, "Gee, those Germans were sure raising hell," but at the time I was so wrapped up in my own problems I just couldn't get too concerned.
In January I got a notice I could be called at any time. I had been reclassified I-A. A friend of mine suggested I go see the governor's Selective Service appeal agent, an attorney, because I was the sole support of my divorced mother. She worked for the Salvation Army, but she didn't get anything. So I told this man my story as honestly as I could. I've never been a liar, never could lie very well, and he said, "You're right, you should still be III-A." So he talked to the appeals board, but it voted me down. This really got the attorney mad, and he said he was going to go to the presidential board, to General Hershey. Well, I had nobody to advise me, no father, no mother there to tell me anything, no real personal big-league friends to go to and say, "Tell me what to do," so I just let the lawyer take charge, and about 10 days later I got word that I was back in III-A-I was deferred by the presidential board. I thought, well, this is the top of the heap, I'm going to be all right after all.
In the meantime I got my 1942 contract and, boy, I remember I put it in my wardrobe trunk. $30,000. The end of the rainbow. But now some awful things are being written about me, mean articles about my draft situation. The Japs are really running wild, and patriotism has invaded the press box. Bill Corum takes out after me, and Paul Gallico. They're writing, " Williams ought to get in the service. He doesn't have to hide behind anybody. He can get in," and "Ted Williams isn't going to spring training, is he?" And yow, yow, yow. There are a million ballplayers in III-A. Gordon played baseball that year, DiMaggio played, Musial played—but Ted Williams is the guy having trouble with the draft board. I remember I had a contract then to endorse Quaker Oats, a $4,000 contract. I used to eat them all the time. But the advertising people canceled out on me because of all this unfair stuff, and I haven't eaten a single Quaker Oat since.
Well, Joe Cronin writes and tells me I ought to go see Mickey Cochrane at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Cochrane had joined up and was helping run the athletic program, and by now it's quite obvious we aren't going to win the war in six months. Cochrane had a new car then, a Lincoln Continental with pushbutton doors, and he drove me around the Great Lakes Center. There were 10,000 guys there, and Cochrane's all decked out in his Navy uniform, and he gives me the big pitch. I meet a few of the guys, and I'm weakening fast. I'm about to enlist right now. Then Cochrane says, "Gee, it's going to be awful tough to play ball. You try to play ball this summer, they'll boo you out of every park in the big leagues."