NewMexiKen had the wonderful pleasure this afternoon of reading David Halberstam’s The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship. In the book Halberstam details the careers and shared friendship of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky. Red Sox teammates in the 1940s, they remained close friends through the time of Williams’s death in 2002. I recommend this superb work to anyone interested in baseball, particularly baseball as played 50-60 years ago. I also recommend it to anyone interested in friendship and human warmth.

As always in good baseball books the anecdotes stand out.

After the ’46 All Star game, Ty Cobb wrote Ted a letter telling him how to beat the shift by going to left field, and Bobby Doerr was with Ted when he opened the letter and read it. Hell, Ted had said, that’s not what I’m paid to do. Then he had torn up the letter. “Can you imagine what that letter would be worth today in the memorabilia business? Ty Cobb writing to Ted Williams on how to beat the shift? One million? Two million?” Doerr laughs, telling the story. [Opposing teams shifted markedly to the right side of the field against the left-handed pull hitting Williams.]

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. [Boston pitcher] 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 goddam 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.”