"I honestly feel that way," he said when he had hung up. "I'm a Johnny-come-lately in this business, and those guys won their divisions, and Weaver won the pennant in a breeze. I voted for Weaver. If you win like he did and don't get it, well...."
By themselves, the statistics of Ted Williams' first year of managing do not give it the dimension it deserves or the emotions it stirred. The Washington team had its best won-lost record in 24 years. It won 10 more games than it lost, a 21-game improvement over the previous year; it rose in the standings from its home in the cellar to within a single game of the first division. It was fourth in batting, fifth in pitching. Individual improvements were practically unanimous. Batting averages soared; pitchers discovered they could throw strikes. Dick Bosnian had the lowest earned run average in the league. Attendance almost doubled. Revenue almost tripled.
Success has a hundred fathers, it has been said, and failure is an orphan, but the fatherhood of this altogether prodigious child was never credited to anyone except Ted Williams. He examined the phenomenon for a long time late one night as he lay in his tent by the Kafue River. It was in the bedlam hours before sleep, when toe frogs and night birds go into hysterics and are joined by the occasional high whooping of a passing hyena.
The subject, as it inevitably did, had come up earlier in the evening around the fire. The hunters asked Williams how it was that a man could pick up where he left off so effectively after all those years, and Ted had said the truth was that things happened so fast he did not realize how little prepared he really was.
"I'm signing, then I'm packing and going to camp, and I don't know who's on the team or anything. I remember talking to one of the Washington writers, trying to get some information, and he mentions Hondo, and I said, 'Gee, tell me about that Hondo. How good is he?' Well, Hondo is Frank Howard, but I didn't know that."
So there in the tent, in a halo of light from a ridiculously full moon, Williams went on with his summation of the season he had promised would never happen.
"Did you enjoy it?"
"I enjoyed being on the field," he said, and yawned such a loud, sustained yawn it seemed sure that he would not last the sentence through. "I enjoyed being with the players, helping the kids, working with them. You feel good when things are perking. There is no greater satisfaction I know of than when things are going well. When things aren't going well...."
And he began to talk about a player who had not responded to stimulus, who had told him that all he really cared about doing was lying out on the beach in the sun, and in his mind's eye he was seeing the young Ted Williams, practicing until his hands bled and loving it, and he said, "This guy hasn't got the drive. He just hasn't got the drive. He hasn't been out for extra hitting practice four times all year. That's what I mind.... Well, he ain't going to be on our club, I don't believe, and still I don't know how we're going to get rid of him, we don't have anyone any better, and that's the thing that bothers you on a club like this. Where do you go from here? It's going to be a struggle to improve." He paused, and his breathing could be heard over the crooning frogs.
"You see," he said, "this is the thing. If I was smart, if I was really smart, I'd say forget about it, see you later. I can see this is the kind of job you suffer with, you get a lousy ulcer, you get buried in it. Boy, if I had it made, if I had all the money I wanted...."