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Right after that game I got on a plane and flew to Boston, then to Bangor, Me. late that night. The following day I was out on the Miramichi River for the last day of the salmon season. I have always felt that going after Atlantic salmon was the greatest fishing there was. I got on the river at about 2:30 in the afternoon. The season would be closed in two hours. The wind was blowing like a son of a gun. right downriver, and I had to fish on the left side, casting to keep the fly away from me, picking it up slow and laying it down easy. And boy, I got hold of the fightingest salmon I ever caught, a 20-pound hooked-bill, a beautiful fish. I've never had another like it. I was so happy that night, there in my cabin on the Miramichi. I felt, gee, here I am 40 years old and feeling like I could go on forever.
Then, in the spring of 1959, I was sitting under the coconut trees with a bat in my hand, out back of my house in Islamorada in the Florida Keys, telling an old friend what I thought I was going to do that season and how good I felt. I got up and started swinging the bat, just swinging it as though it were a fly swatter. I didn't realize it then, but I hurt my neck that day. I'm sure of it.
The Red Sox were training in Scottsdale, Ariz. that year, and it was a lot cooler out there than it was in Florida, actually cold at night, and right away my neck began to bother me. I couldn't bend my head. To turn my neck, I had to turn my whole body. They finally took X rays, and Doc Fadden, the trainer, and one of the doctors agreed I should be sent up to Boston to see the orthopedic specialist at Lahey Clinic, Dr. John Poppen. I wound up in traction for two weeks with a pinched nerve. I remember being in that hospital, feeling down, and getting a letter from John Glenn. I'd been with him in Korea and he said he was writing to tell me he was going through the centrifuge, the weightlessness chamber, and I'd really get a kick out of it. Just after that they announced who the astronauts would be and John Glenn was the one from the Marines. I wish I still had that letter.
When I finally got out of the hospital and back with the team, I was no good to anybody. I had a miserable year. By far the worst of my career. Because I could barely turn my neck toward the pitcher, I wasn't getting nearly enough of a look, and I thrashed around all year near .250. A lot of times I wouldn't even go to the dugout between innings if I didn't think I would get to bat. I'd just wait in the bullpen. The only relief I got was when the season ended. Then the Red Sox owner, Tom Yawkey, called me in.
My two-year contract was up, but I sure wasn't thinking about quitting on a sour note like this. I went up to his apartment at the Ritz-Carlton, and he started talking and I could see what was on his mind. Finally he said, "What do you think you ought to do next year?" And I came right back at him. "What do you think I ought to do?" He said, "Ted, I think you ought to quit." Like that. He said, "You've had a great career. You were hurting this year, and I don't want to see you hurt more. Listen, why don't you just wrap it up."
Well, that kind of burned my butt. Sure, I had just turned 41, but what had happened in 1959 had nothing to do with age. I was hurt. I'd hit .356, .345, .388 and .328 in the four previous years. Then .254. Clearly an injured man. I said, "Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Yawkey, I'm going to wait until spring to decide. I still think I can hit. If by spring I feel I can't, I'll let you know."
I was now an old, old man as far as baseball was concerned. Forty-two in August. Ty Cobb was out of baseball at 42. DiMaggio, Ruth, Hornsby, Foxx, Greenberg, they were all out of the major leagues before they were 42. But I felt good that spring. Not The Kid from San Diego anymore, all full of spit and vinegar, but not old either.
Billy Jurges started the season that year as the Boston manager, and I remember his saying the most he expected from me was 100 games, and the least was pinch-hitting. I had no intention of just pinch-hitting. I played 113 games. First game of the season, first time up I hit a 500-foot home run off Camilo Pascual, who was always tough for me, and the next day I hit another home run off Jim Coates of the Yankees. At one point I was hitting a home run every seven times at bat.
The year went by in bits and bursts. I was tired a lot of the time, and my neck still bothered me. I know I wasn't swinging exactly the way I wanted to all the time. But I was hitting home runs and I was staying well above .300. One night in Cleveland the weather was bad. A couple of days earlier I had hit my 499th home run. In our lifetime there won't be a dozen guys to reach 500, but that night I went to Mike Higgins and said, "Mike, how about taking me out of the lineup. It's a lousy night. I could use the rest." He said, "Gee, Ted, I just handed the lineups in. Go on and play tonight; I'll take you out tomorrow." I was thinking, "What the hell difference does it make if he had turned in the card? He could take me out of the lineup as easy as he put me into it." But it never fails. The first time up I hit a home run to left field, my 500th.
The season moved into September. They were trying to line up "days" for me in Detroit and other cities, but I didn't want to be bothered with that sort of thing. I was just fed up with that part of the game. So there had been nothing special as we came into Boston for the last series, with Baltimore, and then it got down to the last game there. The team still had a doubleheader in New York that weekend, but I went to Higgins and said, "Mike, look, this is the last game I'm going to play. I don't want to go to New York." He said, "All right, you don't have to go." Regardless of what I had done, this was it, I'd had it. I knew the club, which hadn't been in the pennant race since 1951, was thinking about youth. I knew there was a kid named Carl Yastrzemski coming up who was going to be a hell of a player. And in all fairness I have to say that I felt that a lot of people didn't want me around anymore.