Well, like the .400 season, and the World Series, and the party I missed when we won the pennant, that last game has become so much more important as the years go by. I wish I could remember every minute of it, but I can't. I don't remember if I arrived particularly early. I don't remember what was said in the locker room except I might have been aware of some feeling. You sense things. The players knew it was my last game. I remember a guy from one of the magazines came in, and I said, "What the hell are you doing here?" because I felt that gutless magazine had given me a bad time for years. Bud Leavitt, an old friend from the Bangor Daily News, was in the runway when I came out, and we chatted. The photographers were crowding around. I didn't give them too much to focus on.
They had a ceremony for me at home plate. They gave me a silver bowl and a plaque. They retired my number, and the mayor presented a $4,000 check to the Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer. I've been affiliated with the Jimmy Fund since 1947, getting a whole lot more credit than I deserved, but I have always loved kids. If a guy likes kids, he has to hope their lives are going to be good, that they will avoid the pitfalls he did not, that they will be appreciative, of how lucky they are. I think one of the greatest things ever said is that a man never stands so high as when he stoops to help a kid. That is a hell of an expression.
I thought about what I was going to say at the ceremony, but I don't know if it came out exactly right. I knew I was going to be brief. I thanked them all, and I meant it, and I said, "Despite some of the terrible things written about me by the knights of the keyboard up there," and I looked up at the press box, "and they were terrible things—I'd like to forget them but I can't—my stay in Boston has been the most wonderful part of my life. If someone should ask me the one place I'd want to play if I had it to do all over again, I would say Boston, for it has the greatest owner in baseball and the greatest fans in America."
I didn't take batting practice. It was one of the lousiest days you ever saw. The wind was blowing in—a dark, dreary, drizzly day, a real outhouse day. And Baltimore was starting Steve Barber, a tough sinkerball lefthander. He never struck me out much, but he was hard to get hold of and his control was not too hot.
Sure enough Barber was wilder than a March hare that day. And this is fate, it has to be. If I had had to face Barber four times I'd probably have gotten one good ball to hit, certainly not three. But Barber walked the first three batters. They pulled him out, and Jack Fisher came in. Fisher's a pretty good pitcher, too. He's been in the big leagues ever since. But he's a little easier to see. The second time up I hit a fly to right center. Another day it might have gone, but the air was just too heavy. The next time I really got into one, and gee, it just died. Al Pilarcik caught it against the 380 sign. I remember saying to Vic Wertz in the dugout, "If that one didn't go out, none of them will today."
I was second man up in the eighth inning. They'd turned the lights on by now. It was eerie and damp. This surely was going to be my last time at bat in baseball. Twenty-two years coming down to one time at bat. I remember how the fans started applauding when I went to the on-deck circle, and feeling the chills up my spine, and thinking how much I wanted to put one out of there but knowing what the odds were. The first pitch was a ball. Then, from the batter's box, it seemed to me Fisher humped up as if he were going to try to fire the ball by me. I knew he was going to try to pump it right past. And gee, here comes a ball I should have hit a mile, and I missed the son of a gun. I don't miss, completely miss, very often, and I don't know yet how I missed that ball.
Fisher couldn't wait to throw the next one. He must have thought he threw the last one by me, and maybe he did, but all my professional life I had been a fastball hitter, and whenever I had an inkling one was coming it was that much better for me. This time I tried to be a little quicker, and I hit it a little better than the others that day. I had a little extra on it. It fought the wind, and it just kept on going into right center, going and then out.
There were only 10,454 people in Fenway Park that day, but they reacted like nothing I have ever heard. I mean they really put it on. They cheered like hell, and as I came around the cheering grew louder and louder. I thought about tipping my hat, you're damn right I did, and for a moment I was torn, but by the time I got to second base I knew I couldn't do it. Like I said, I was just fed up with that part of the act.
You can't imagine, though, the warm feeling I had, for the very reason that I had done what every ballplayer would want to do on his last time up. I had wanted to do that so badly and knowing how the fans really felt, how happy they were for me. Maybe I should have let them know I knew, but I couldn't. It just wouldn't have been me. I got to the dugout and went to the water cooler, then sat down, my head back against the wall and, gee, they were still applauding, and players were pleading with me to go back out. "C'mon, Ted, give 'em your hat." The umpire was looking over as if he expected me to come out. But I couldn't, and the inning ended. Higgins sent me back out. Since he had Carroll Hardy replace me in left field after one pitch, I guess Higgins wanted to give me another chance to acknowledge the fans' cheers. I couldn't, though. When Hardy took over I just turned around and ran back into the dugout. And the fans were all on their feet, clapping and clapping and clapping.
Celebrate? I don't remember celebrating. It was over, that's all. I probably just went back to my room at the hotel, which was always a retreat for me, the place I'd gone back to so often after something bad had happened, something that was sure to get me in a wringer, something that had started me thinking. God, here it goes again. That's when guys like Freddy Corcoran and Johnny Orlando would come around, to be there to console me when I was down. That's why they mean so much to me today.