"But I'm away from my point, which is this: the smartest thing I did this year, the smartest thing without question, was selecting a good coaching staff. And two of them, Trahilliger and Fox, were right there, just a matter of making sure they stayed. I added Joe Comacho, who had been at my baseball camp and was teaching school and had never played in the majors but is a smart guy, baseballically, a hustler, eager, great to have on the bench beside me. I didn't know how Sid Hudson was going to work out as a pitching coach, but I couldn't get anybody else at that point, so it didn't matter. But after a while I began to realize, gee, Hudson understands me, and I understand him, and we worked together good.
"And the only other guy I added was George Susce—60 years old, been around for years, terrific worker, always in better shape than anybody. And here's the funny thing about old George Susce. He gave me more good ideas, things I should have known but didn't, and he'd put them in a concrete way. I'd say, 'Hey, that's right, that's the way.' For example, when two men get on base before the fifth inning you should think about getting somebody up in the bullpen. Ideally, two men, a lefthander and a righthander, so you're ready for anything.
"After the fifth inning, if one man gets on in a close game, you get somebody up. Maybe your pitcher is throwing high, or he isn't getting the ball over, or he's slow covering first—those are good indications he's getting tired. Well, old George Susce put it to me—'Ted, whenever you get two men on before the fifth inning, give me the sign.' I'd never had to worry about that kind of thing. And Susce gave me the key, nobody else. He's been seeing the game from the bullpen all his life, and he knows."
There was a long pause. Williams might have drifted off, but then he was back from wherever he had been.
"The one big impression I got this year," he said, "is that the game hasn't changed. It's the same as it was when I played. I see the same type pitchers, the same type hitters. I am a little more convinced than ever that there aren't as many good hitters in the game, guys who can whack the ball around when it's over the plate, like an Aaron or a Clemente. There are plenty of guys with power, guys who hit the ball a long way, but I see so many who lack finesse, who should hit for average but don't."
As a player, Williams had been a notoriously soft touch for batters begging knowledge, so intrigued was he by the techniques of good hitting. The Colavitos and Kalines and Skowrons of opposing teams flocked around. He slipped and did it again this year, he said, when he could not resist a flaw in Ken Harrelson of the Indians. He saw that Harrelson was cocking his hips prematurely, restricting the pendulum action of his swing. Williams passed the word along through a mutual friend and right after that the Indians came to Washington, and Harrelson, minus flaw, beat him with a home run. Williams said after that he would be more careful who got his prescriptions.
The Senators, of course, were the immediate beneficiaries. With the mark of Williams on them, banjo hitters delivered smoking line drives; once-emaciated averages took on flesh. As a team, the Senators batted 30 points higher than they had the year before. Eddie Brinkman ballooned from .187 to .266, Del Unser from .230 to .286, Hank Allen from .218 to .279. Frank Howard hit .296 and 48 home runs and Mike Epstein .278 and 30 home runs, and neither ever had a season like it.
"In my heart," Williams said, "I think I helped everybody on that club by just talking baseball, by giving them the viewpoint of an old hitter who knew the game between the pitcher and the hitters as well or better than anybody who ever played it.
"As time went on they knew we were giving them the word. McMullen is an example. I didn't change Ken McMullen. He did everything himself. All I said was, 'Look, Mac, you're swinging down on the ball too much.'
"The ideal swing is a slight upswing. I compared the line of his swing to Mike Epstein's. It's true that Epstein swings up a little too much, but there was too much difference between his and McMullen's swing, and Mac saw it, too. He was hitting about .248 at the All-Star break. He was slicing the ball, what do you call it?"