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TED WILLIAMS—MY YEAR
John Underwood
January 26, 1970
Outspoken as always, the American League Manager of the Year is extraordinarily candid about the team he rescued from the bone pile and made respectable in his rookie season with the Washington Senators. He will quit, he says while on safari in Africa, if the 'aggravation' gets bad, but even the white hunters do not believe him
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January 26, 1970

Ted Williams—my Year

Outspoken as always, the American League Manager of the Year is extraordinarily candid about the team he rescued from the bone pile and made respectable in his rookie season with the Washington Senators. He will quit, he says while on safari in Africa, if the 'aggravation' gets bad, but even the white hunters do not believe him

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He had shot well—reedbuck, warlhog, the sable—but the filigree that is necessary to make the Sportsman show-complete and as good as it is consumed most of the time, and he had become anxious that he would not get his buffalo and had gone on ahead to the next camp on the Zambezi, where he would find buffalo and kudu.

Now it was noon and he had driven into camp with Rolf Rohwer, an American on the professional staff of Zambia Safaris, Inc., and the mood of urgency had left him. His clothes were dirt-crusted and his beard was patchy with dust, and he was altogether a happy man. He moaned over the aches he had accumulated crawling through the grass. He massaged his left shoulder and complained how exhausted he was and how indecent it was that young Rolf Rohwer, whom he called Ralph, did not suffer equally. "Dammit, Ralph," he said, "you got to hurt somewhere." And then he smiled. "Boy, I wanta tell you," he said. "That buffalo hunting is the fun."

He was talking about trying for a bigger horn when he retired to his tent that afternoon, and he was still in there through tea and later when the hunters went out again.

"He is pleased, but he will not dream of the buffalo," said the Rhodesian professional, Mike Cameron, as Williams slept and the hunters waited for the sun to loosen its hold on the land. "He will relax with the problems of adding 50 percentage points to Mr. Casanova's batting figure—is that right, Casanova?"

"Yes. Paul Casanova, a catcher," he was told.

"Or how to make Mr. Coleman a better pitcher."

"How do you know all that?" Cameron was asked. (Only a few days before Williams had said: "I close my eyes and I lie there thinking, 'How am I going to get to Coleman? How am I going to get to this guy? What can I say without discouraging him?' He could be so much better. It's going to be my No. 1 project this spring.")

"Because," said Cameron, "he is a magnificent fraud, your Ted. He is genuinely enthusiastic about everything. He argues about the strength of fishing line and about ballistics, and he is very positive with his arguments, but I suspect he has only one true love, and he denies her.

"I asked him about managing," Cameron said, "about getting back into baseball after all those years—we have baseball in Rhodesia, you know, so I know a little about it—and he said he would not be back at all if he had enough money and if he had a big boat like Zane Grey had and could sail the world. He could see himself saying, 'Boy, see you later.' I suspect that is a front."

It is true that the mythical Ted Williams hates the limelight and said for years he would not manage anything but his tackle box. He said it was a loser's job and he would not want that aggravation for anything. Then the factual Williams signed a big contract to manage the worst team in baseball. The mythical Ted said it was "m-o-n-e-y"—he spelled it out—that got him back, but anyone who knows him has seen him leap out of his chair to make some minor point about baseball or dangerously rock a boat standing up to demonstrate a swing. "He did play the game until he was 42, and that is a pretty strong grip," Cameron was told.

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