Trolling around a sports memorabilia shop during the Christmas rush, I stumbled across this photo of Ted Williams, at bat at Fitton Field on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Fenwick Hall, the school’s flagship building, can be seen in the distance.
The photo caption was entitled: The Dawning of a Legend. The date is April 14, 1939, and Williams is about to launch that classic swing. His first turn at bat resulted in a grand slam home run that scored three Hall of Famers– Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin and Bobby Doerr — ahead of him. The Red Sox that day beat up on Holy Cross — my alma mater — 14-2.
Some historians claim this is the first picture ever taken of Ted Williams in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
Six days later, on April 20, Williams made his major league debut in the opener at Yankee Stadium. Ted batted sixth that day, played rightfield, and went 1-for-4 with a double against Yankees right-hander Red Ruffing. Ruffing pitched a seven-hit shutout and outdueled Lefty Grove, 2-0, to the delight of 30,278 in the Bronx.
And the rest, as they say, is history. As in a .406 season in 1941, two Triple Crowns, two MVPs, six American League batting titles, 521 home runs, a .344 lifetime average and 17 All Star game selections — despite missing nearly five full seasons due to military service.
No wonder they call him Teddy Ballgame.