But the rest of us knew, that's just Ted. He's always been nuts for batting practice, and he told us recently that one of the keys to his hitting this season was Boston's trade for Joe Dobson last December. Dobson hasn't pitched much for the team, but he's become Williams's personal BP pitcher. This season, if you got to the park early, you'd see the two of them out there, Williams saying, "O.K., Joe, ninth inning in Detroit, bases loaded, two out." Williams is never casual about his hitting.
Anyway, what the Philly writer forgot to write was that the Kid was ripping shot after shot off the rightfield wall (probably trying to locate some stadium accessory he could destroy, come to think of it). "I want to hit over .400," Williams told some of the boys afterward. "But I'm going to play all three games here even if I don't hit a ball out of the infield. The record's no good unless it's made in all the games." Some of the boys, knowing the skipper's plans, had to stifle smiles.
Down the stretch, most people have been rooting for the Kid. In Yankee Stadium three weeks ago, the fans booed Yank pitcher Lefty Gomez when he walked Williams with the bases loaded. In Detroit in late August, Harry Heilmann (who hit .403 for the Tigers in 1923) came down on the field from the Tiger radio booth, took Williams aside and said, "Now, forget about that short fence. Just hit the ball where you want it."
In Philadelphia there was at least one guy rooting against Williams: A's coach Al Simmons. Simmons hit .390 one year with the A's, and that apparently was as high as he felt anyone should bat. "How much do you want to bet you don't hit .400?" he groused to Williams before Saturday's game.
Sure enough, the Kid got only one hit in four at bats Saturday, and his average fell—we were back to doing high-level arithmetic again—to .39955. A lot of people might be inclined to round that off to .400, and maybe with any other average you would. But the papers had it right on Sunday morning: WILLIAMS DROPS BELOW .400. There was no getting around that. You could stretch .3995555 all the way under the masthead, and it still wouldn't amount to .400. All the same, the boys ganged up on Cronin, wondering whether he'd bench Williams and try to save the day on a technicality. But everybody knew—and Cronin did too—that it was too late now.
Saturday night Williams walked the streets of Philly with the clubhouse boy, Johnny Orlando. Williams loves to walk, and he tends to take his strolls with unlikely folks. His best friends are policemen, theater managers and, of course, Johnny. According to Johnny, the two of them walked about 10 miles; every now and then Johnny would slip into a tavern for a quick Scotch while the Kid would stop in a malt shop for a milk shake. You knew something was up because Ted didn't get back to the hotel until 10:30. He's usually in bed by 10.
So it all came down to the last day. Never mind the Kid's terrific year; never mind his game-winning homer in the All-Star Game in Detroit or even the 374-pound tuna he caught on an off day earlier this summer. If he missed .400, it was going to feel like a failed season.
Williams was scheduled to face one of Mr. Mack's rookies, Dick Fowler, and Ted says that facing a rookie is always at least one lost at bat until you figure him out. Williams was greeted at the plate by A's catcher Frankie Hayes, who told him, "Mr. Mack says we have to go right after you and pitch to you." That was good news: In earlier games this season Mr. Mack's particular idea of putting the shift on Williams was to relocate the strike zone to Delaware County. In their last eight games with Boston, the A's pitchers had walked Williams 14 times.
So his first time up against Fowler, Williams greeted a strike like a gift and rifled a drive in the hole between first and second for a single. That may or may not have lifted him over .400. Before we could calculate it, the Kid homered and then singled two more times. In the ninth inning he reached first on an error.
It was a wild game, with the Red Sox winning 12-11, but the only numbers anyone paid attention to were 4 for 5. Williams was up to .404. He'd have to go hitless (one of the boys figured it out between games) in his next five at bats to drop below .400. Anyway, in the Kid's first at bat in the second game, against another rookie, Pied Caligiuri, he singled to right. And then, in the fourth inning, he locked on that loudspeaker at the top of the wall and had to settle for a double, while Mr. Mack tallied the damages in his notebook. Williams finally popped up in the seventh inning, the first time all day he made an out, just before the game was called on account of darkness. Final: Athletics 7, Red Sox 1, Williams .4057.