Monday, September 21, 2009

The Greatest San Diego Padre Ever: Ted Williams

By The Last Hollywood Star

The Los Angeles that I grew up in during the 1950s was a place so beautiful that I can hardly believe it ever existed.

So few people lived in Los Angeles that it could easily be called a small town. The beaches were unspoiled and empty. Slightly inland, orange grove and eucalyptus trees were everywhere.

Today Los Angeles is ruined, killed by too many people and too much cement.

But back then, as beautiful as Los Angeles was, when my family wanted to vacation in a truly magnificent spot, we went to San Diego.

With the Padres in Pittsburgh, this fan associates the team not with the current version but with the San Diego team that played in the old Pacific Coast League and challenged my beloved Hollywood Stars.

Ted Williams was the premier Padre.

In his contribution to a wonderful collection of essays published 1995 by the Journal of San Diego History, Williams shared his recollections about the early days of his career as a Padre from 1936-1937 before he was called up by the Boston Red Sox:

I remember my first at-bat for the Padres. The manager, Frank Shellenback, sent me in to pinch hit and I took three strikes right down the middle. Didn't even swing. Then he sent me in to pitch one night and I got hit like I was throwing batting practice. But that first time I pitched I also hit -- and I hit a double, I pitched two innings, and the next time up I hit a double. And then I was in the lineup. I went over to Lefty O'Doul one day and I said, ‘What do I have to do to be a good hitter?’ He said, ‘Kid, don't ever let anybody change you.’

That 1937 team was a good composite team: young, old, former big league players, good leadership under Frank Shellenback (the nicest man I ever met in baseball). Why we didn't win it I don't know. There was no friction. Did we win the playoffs in '37? [Yes! -Ed.]

Lane Field was an old wooden ballpark, nice park for a lefthanded hitter, and the ball carried pretty good. We played a lot of day games. I enjoyed guys like Herm Pillette (the old pitcher), Howard Craghead, Jimmy Kerr (the catcher), George Myatt, Bobby Doerr . . .

There was no particular pressure on me playing in San Diego. I didn't know what pressure was. I was nervous--not because I was born there, but because it was a whole new experience playing before crowds, professional baseball. San Diego was the nicest little town in the world. How the hell was I to know it was the nicest town in the world? I'd never been anyplace

O’Doul was a great hitter His career stats included a .349 BA, .383 OBP, .525 SLG and .925 OPS.

And Pirate fans should note that Williams’ called the Padres “a good composite team” made up of young, old, experienced and inexperienced players.

The flailing 2009 Pirates (105 losses?) are young, inexperienced and possibly without a meaningful future in major league baseball.

1 comment:

Steve Sailer said...

Lefty O'Doul is one of those great might have beens -- he was supposed to be a pitcher, washed out, then finally got back to big leagues as a hitter, so he pretty much missed his twenties.