Ted Williams’ 100th Birthday Sparks Memory of Favorite Fenway Moment
Growing up an avid baseball fan in Boston, I was too young to have ever seen Ted Williams roam Fenway Park's left field in front of the Green Monster. Baseball's greatest hitter had long been retired before I was born. But that doesn't mean I haven't appreciated what he's meant to baseball on both a local and a national level.
My favorite Ted Williams moment happened during the 70th All Star Game hosted at Fenway Park in July of 1999. On the cusp of a new millennium, Major League Baseball decided to honor their "All Century" team. Living legends were introduced one by one, representing the best that ever was in the game of baseball--but they all paled in comparison to No. 9.
Williams wasn't wearing his Sox uniform that night. The 81-year-old could barely walk, his golf cart slowly crawling (for dramatic effect) from right field into the pitcher's mound, the theme to "The Natural" playing from the park's speakers.
When Williams finally arrived at the mound, there was a collective lump in the throats of everyone watching, both at home and in the park. Legendary names like McGuire, Gwynn and Ripken crowded around Williams like 10-year-olds looking for an autograph. They were gushing. It was a beautiful moment. A tribute to a man that had dedicated himself to their sport, and had bravely defended our country as a Marine during World War II.
Williams grabbed McGuire and immediately offered him hitting advice as if he were one of his kids at his baseball camp in Lakeville. McGuire listened intently. "You know what? I told Boggy (Wade Boggs) that, and I told Mattingly that," the old man told McGuire, as if he needed to clarify his credentials.
Eventually, the Marine was overcome with emotion, wiping away tears as he remembered his long, storied career. If there was a dry eye left in the house, there wasn't anymore after Williams struggled to get out of his golf cart, stumbled near the pitcher's mound, asked where the catcher was, then threw a strike to Carlton Fisk (who caught it and leaped up with joy as if he had just won the World Series).
It was a Fenway Park moment I'll never forget. Happy 100th Birthday to the Splendid Splinter! My son asked me today, "Do you think he's playing baseball today in heaven, like in Field of Dreams?"
"Not a chance," I said. "He's taking batting practice."
That's how Ted Williams rolled.