Attending Fenway Park was not a rare experience for me as a young teen since I would attend thirty or more games a season. Back in the 1950s, it was not a premium ticket, as the park was far different than what you witness today. No Monster Seats, giant electronic scoreboard and no upper deck seating except for about 300 roof boxes that were not really boxes, but just elevated seating that went from foul pole to foul pole with wooden catwalks. A restaurant was planted in the middle that was used by media and baseball brass. Has the ballpark ever changed since those days.
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My father’s sporting passion was boxing and mine was baseball, so he would indulge me and provide the fiscal resources to sit where I wanted with no restrictions, so I would move around the park. Where the upper box seats are today were the lower grandstand back then, but I would occasionally get close to the field or move front row around the fifth inning.
Seeing Ted Williams was not a novel experience as you could get up close and personal if you wished by hanging over the barrier and screaming for autograph attention. I never did. Never a collector – even today.
My father owned a boat and would fish – I hated the water and despised fishing, but I would accompany him to the yearly Sportsman Show in Boston and the star of the event was Williams. Williams was a noted fly fisherman and was an expert with both casting and creating lures. You could occasionally line-up to shake hands or plead for an autograph, but I never bothered.
Warren Spahn, the former Braves great, had a diner in Boston that my father attempted to purchase with another person, but his main focus was on business ventures, however he stated that one day he would like to have a big restaurant. That day came and so did Ted.
We lived in Whitman, Ma on the South Shore and this was well before a highway could take you twenty miles further south to Lakeville. Why Lakeville? That was the location of the new and developing Ted Williams Camp. Founded in 1958 and just drive down Route 18 and you get there.
The Restaurant was also located on Route 18 and Ted stopped by a few times driving down in his big Caddy. The restaurant had a great charcoal grill inside that would just cook up steaks and chops the way you wanted them. A real indoor Bar-B-Que as an option to the house kitchen.
Williams would get a steak and attention. There was also a loft for cozier dinning that had three or four tables and Ted would wander up to the loft. Occasionally my father would pop in to talk fishing or Caddy’s and on one occasion I came along.
Williams was no longer “The Splendid Splinter” since he was in his late 30s and was a very big man. More like a tight-end than a ballplayer. Shaking hands you would be swallowed up. What struck me were the callous – no doubt from his employment.
I sat with the pair after Ted spent some time conversing with me and since he did not have a son – that came later in life – gave me some quality time and attention. Do you play baseball? What is your favorite subject in school? Have a girlfriend? Always with a smile.
Williams was an informal dresser and never wore a tie. That day it was a sport shirt and a jacket and a series of “F” bombs and some very loud guffaws. There was no filter on Ted – even with me around.
One other time he stopped by on the way back from Lakeville and sat with us. Ted was an avid golfer and was talking about a course in New Bedford that he frequents and part of that was New Bedford is a fishing center. The beauty is he actually remembered my name and asked if I had a girlfriend yet or my first beer? He spoke about his camp a bit and that it would have a “pile of kids” to just “be kids.” Later reading his life story from numerous sources I could understand the significance of that based on his own childhood.
The restaurant burned down shortly after that second encounter, so that was it for TSW paying anymore visits, but Ted was a regular at the camp for years and most of it was anonymous – no PR. The camp still exists, but the profile has changed considerably as one can now have a wedding at the camp among other things. Even the occasional charity event that Williams would be proud of.
So that is my story of meeting a Red Sox idol – although I preferred Jackie Jensen – and maybe next up is a story of meeting JFK at Brigham’s in the Little Building in Boston? Naw….he never played MLB.
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