A Ted Williams story for our Cuban fathers and ‘abuelos’

We can safely assume that our fathers and “abuelos” were big baseball in pre-Castro Cuba. We know that they followed major league baseball on a daily basis, by print media and radio and later TV.

So here is a wonderful baseball story, a tale of character as much as hitting.

1941 was the year of DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, the last summer before Pearl Harbor changed everything and Ted Williams ended up with a .406 batting average.  

It is remarkable to go back and see Williams’ consistency

The eventual seventeen-time All-Star began the season going one-for-one with a 1.000 batting average.

Over the rest of the season, his average never fell below .308, and was almost always over .400.  In fact, on July 24, it stood at .397.

It would never again fall below .400.  Williams wrapped up 1941 at 185-456, good for an average of .406.

While Williams’ batting average garnered all of the attention in 1941, he also led the league in home runs (37), base on balls (147), runs (135), slugging average (.735), and on base percentage (.551). 

But here is the best part of the story. This is where this goes from another baseball story to a triumph of character.

This is where Ted Williams’ talent and tenacity was displayed, as remembered in this article by Bill Pennington years ago:

Inside his room at Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 27, 1941, Ted Williams was jumpy and impatient.

That might have been an apt description of the mercurial Williams at most times, but on this evening he had good cause for his unease.

His batting average stood at .39955 with a season-finale doubleheader to be played the next day at Shibe Park, home of Connie Mack’s Athletics.

Since batting averages are rounded to the next decimal, Williams could have sat out the final two games and still officially crested baseball’s imposing .400 barrier.At the time,

Williams said, “If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”

So he went 6 for 8 and crashed through the .400 barrier.

Nevertheless, his performance in the last game of 1941 is a lesson for us all.  He could have sat out the double header and hit .400, or the rounded version of .3995.

Instead, he put everything on the line and came out with a .406 average.

Our cubano parents know a bit about putting everything on the line. I watched my parents do that several times. Maybe that’s why I admire that quality in Ted Williams so much.

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