The oft told Ted Williams' story
The SFGate gives a little more detail:From The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam:
When [Ted] was generous there was no one more generous, and when he was petulant there was no one more petulant, and sometimes he was both within a few seconds. Once in the mid-1950s, Pedro Ramos, then a young pitcher with Washington, struck Ted out, which was a very big moment for Ramos. He rolled the ball into the dugout to save, and later, after the game, the Cuban right-hander ventured into the Boston dugout with the ball and asked Ted to sign it. Mel Parnell was watching and had expected an immediate explosion, Ted being asked to sign a ball he had struck out on, and he was not disappointed. Soon there was a rising bellow of blasphemy from Williams, and then he had looked over and seen Ramos, a kid of 20 or 21, terribly close to tears now. Suddenly Ted had softened and said, “Oh, all right, give me the goddamn ball,” and had signed it. Then about two weeks later he had come up against Ramos again and hit a tremendous home run, and as he rounded first he had slowed down just a bit and yelled to Ramos, “I’ll sign that son of a bitch too if you can ever find it.”
Another verstion of the storyFormer Red Sox ace Mel Parnell tells this story: As a Washington rookie in 1955, Pedro Ramos fanned Williams in his first start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Ramos kept the ball and after the game asked Williams to autograph it. Williams grudgingly obliged. Later that season, the Senators returned to Boston, and Ramos faced him again. This time Williams belted one into the bleachers. As he rounded second he shouted to Ramos: "If you can find that S.O.B., I'll sign it, too."
The key thing in common is Mel Parnell who seems to be the guy telling this story. So we have an anecdote that has become fact simply because it has been retold numerous times. So is it true?
The first thing we can do is take a look at the game logs. Did Ramos strike out Ted in his first start against Boston? The answer is no he did not. How about his second start? Again the answer is no and in fact not only did Ted not get struck out by Pedro but he hit a homer off of Pedro. So maybe Pedro came in and struck Ted out as a reliever. The answer is no again. Pedro never struck out Ted that season.
Now how about Ted struggling against Pedro? That would be a no. For the season Ted faced Pedro 10 times and had this line against him: .500/.600/.1000. So maybe he started off slow against him? Again no. Ted ground out in his first PA but then got a hit in each of his next 3 PA.
So when does Pedro strike out Ted? Well, not in 1956 either. Ted faces Pedro 14 times, gives up 2 homers and a batting line of .417/.500/1.000 but again Pedro cannot strike him out. Nor does Pedro strike Ted out in 1957 when they face each other 20 times and Ted hits another homer and has a .353/.450/.588 line. Nor does Pedro Ramos strike Ted out in 1958 when they face each other 19 times and again Ted hits a homer and has a .444/.737/.889 batting line against him. Nor does he strike Ted out in 1959 in 12 PA.
So does Pedro ever strike Ted out? The answer is yes. In Ted's final year of his career Pedro finally strikes Ted out. So does Ted then hit a homer off of him? The answer is yes. Ted and Pedro only face each other in two games that year. The first one is on August 16th and in their final matchup of the game Peddro strikes Ted out after giving up two walks to him earlier in the game. The match up again for the final time that season and for the final time in Ted's career on September 17th when in their final matchup Ted takes Pedro deep.
I think we can all agree that it could very well be possible that Pedro found striking out Ted to be a big deal. Afterall Ted simply owned Pedro ever since Pedro came into the league. So it is possible that Pedro would want a keepsake of that momemtous achievement and if he did ask Ted for an autograph it is certainly possible that Ted made a sarcastic comment to Pedro after hitting the homer. Ted was well known for doing stuff like that. But we run into a problem and that is Mel Parnell retired from the bigs after the 1956 season. Mel was coach/manager in 1958 and 1959 down south and he did end up becoming a Sox broadcaster in the 1960's so perhaps Mel was in the clubhouse when the autograph seeking went down and then heard about Ted's quip or perhaps he heard about both. Well, the only problem is that Mel didn't become the Red Sox broadcaster until 1965.
So while it is possible that in 1960 Mel was hanging around the Red Sox I find this story to be highly dubious. If it did happen in 1960 you would think people would remember it happening in 1960. Afterall it was Ted's final year and 1960 is a spin of the odometer. It is clear and easy demarcation. Perhaps it happened differently. Perhaps after the groundout in their first matchup Pedro went up to Ted for an autograph or perhaps Pedro just wanted an autograph or maybe it was another pitcher but the story as commonly told is false.