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Baseball Fever Policy

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The Ted Williams and Pedro Ramos Story

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  • The Ted Williams and Pedro Ramos Story

    The oft told Ted Williams' story

    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.”
    The SFGate gives a little more detail:
    Former 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."
    Another verstion of the story

    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.

  • #2
    Thanks a lot, you just spoiled my favorite Ted Williams story. Happy New Year.
    Shalom, y'all!
    What's the rumpus?


    • #3
      darn computer's

      "If I hear Bowie Kuhn say just once more he's doing something for the betterment of baseball, I'm going to throw-up.">Sparky Anderson
      MLB/Rockies/Yankees, Backer


      • #4
        Aren't tracers fun?
        Baseball Junk Drawer


        • #5
          My God, David Halberstam was one of the most distinguished, respected journalisits of our time. If you can't believe him, who can you believe?
          Shalom, y'all!
          What's the rumpus?


          • #6
            Another one

            ELDEN AUKER
            Former teammate, 91

            Getting last laugh

            ''Ted's rookie year, there was a game in St. Louis I'll never forget. Bobo Newsom was pitching for them, and Newsom could be a real showboat, you know, the kinda guy who liked to show you up. For instance, if you struck out, he'd be out there laughing at you like I say, just to show you up.

            ''Well, the first time Ted faces Newsom, he strikes out, and as he's coming back to the bench, about halfway, our guys tell him, `Hey, Ted, Newsom's laughing at you.' Williams looks at the guys on our bench and says, `What, he's laughing at me?'

            ''Ted's next time up, Newsom's still out there, and Ted hits a homer. As he's circling the bases, he looks over Newsom's way and says, `Now laugh that off, you so-and-so ...'
            Did Ted strike out the first time he saw Bobo? The answer is yes he did. The first time he faced Bobo in 1939 he struck out. So did he end up hitting two homers in that game? No he did not. He ended up striking out 3 times in that game. He did hit a 2 run double in the 8th though. So did Ted ever hit 2 homers in a game against Bobo? The answer is no he did not. He did hit 1 homer against him in 1939 but that was his only homer against Bobo in his entire career. Perhaps he struck out in that game and the story was slightly exaggerated. Unfortunately no, Ted did not strike out in that game. He went 2 for 5 with a homer and a double. So did Ted ever take a pitcher deep twice in 1939? He did in fact do that once to a pitcher named Bump Hadley. Was it the first time they matched up and did Ted strike out the first time up? The answer is no and no. The first time they faced off against each other was May 29th and Ted went 1 for 2 with 2 BB in the game and no strikeouts. Ted would hit two homers against him on September 3rd and Bump struck no one out.


            • #7
              What we have here is essentially the same story, twice told. In their first joint plate appearance or close to it (Williams' rookie season), a pitcher strikes Williams out and then adds insult to injury. Williams retaliates with a big home run and drives home the message verbally as he rounds the bases.

              Auker and Parnell, or somebody else, may have dreamed up the stories independently, or they may describing in muddled fashion two different incidents that really occurred. After all, if Williams behaved one way under provocation as a rookie, he might do something similar even a dozen years or more later. The more elaborate, colorful, imaginative and generally better version is the Ramos one, and this could simply indicate that Eldon Auker isn't a very good story teller. I read his book and it made no impression on me at all; I really can't remember anything about it, and this pedestrian anecdote with its notably flat dialogue suggests why that may be.

              Then again, the Auker version was told by and about a pair of pitchers who had been in the major leagues before Williams arrived and Auker was gone pretty soon thereafter, while Parnell and Ramos were much more recent players. So a second possibility is that the story originated early in Williams' career and rattled around for many years, becoming elaborated and much improved in the retelling, perhaps before Parnell ever got to Boston. I don't know if that theory is stronger, but it's more interesting, anyway, so it's the one I'm going with.

              Either way, the Ramos story, whatever its factual basis, is a window into the complicated Williams personality, boorish and charming, generous and self-centered, and always profane.
              “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes


              • #8
                I'm not sure how a completely fabricated story is a window into Ted's soul.


                • #9
                  My favorite Williams story (probably apochryfal) was that supposedly he was called out on strikes and in a gesture of displeasure at the call flipped his bat high in the air. The umpire viewing this said, "Williams, if that bat comes down you are out of the game!".
                  Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KCGHOST View Post
                    My favorite Williams story (probably apochryfal) was that supposedly he was called out on strikes and in a gesture of displeasure at the call flipped his bat high in the air. The umpire viewing this said, "Williams, if that bat comes down you are out of the game!".
                    I've heard Hawk Harrelson tell that story on the air, with himself as the hitter.
                    Shalom, y'all!
                    What's the rumpus?


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
                      I've heard Hawk Harrelson tell that story on the air, with himself as the hitter.
                      That one has been told so many times .... As an undergrad, I took a course on Early American Humor, and one of the colonial almanacs told of the little guy and big guy in an argument. The big guy said, "I'll bite your head off!" The little guy said, "If you do, you'll have more brains in your stomach than you do in your head!" I read that story about several smallish players--Berra, Reese, and Rizzuto--in exchanges with umpires George Magerkurth and Cal Hubbard. So, stories do ripen with time.