So it's probably worth listening to this interview with Ben Bradlee Jr. if only for the pleasure of hearing Terry Gross pronounce "on-base percentage" as if it's Sanskrit ... I'm pretty sure Terry's not a big sports fan, and she farmed out this interview to Dave Davies. Here's just one little bit of the interview, about a still-little-known fact:
It's something that didn't come out until a month before Ted died in 2002, the fact that he was a Mexican-American. His mother was Mexican — [she] was born in Mexico — and her parents were born and raised there as well. He was embarrassed about this and afraid that the prejudice of the day would hurt his baseball career. Even though Mexicans didn't figure as prominently as black ball players, nevertheless he was aware of the black prejudice and feared that it could hurt him. He was advised to keep this under wraps and he did. He always spoke rather contemptuously of his extended family on his mother's side and referred to them as "the Mexicans" in not a nice way.
There was a very telling moment in 1939 after Williams had completed his rookie year with the Red Sox and had made an absolutely smashing debut — hit well over 300 and led the league in runs batted in — and he returned to San Diego the conquering hero and was met at the train station by a gaggle of 100 or so of the extended Mexican clan. Ted took one look at them from afar and beat a hasty retreat. He didn't want to be seen with them.
In Williams' defense, he made an impassioned plea in Cooperstown, years before the election of Satchel Paige and others, for the recognition of great Negro Leagues stars. We might guess the above tells us more about Williams' feelings about his mother than his feelings about Mexicans. Then again, we don't really have to guess. We can read Bradlee's book and make, at the very least, an educated guess.
I'll admit that I probably won't read Bradlee's book, though. It's got a beautiful cover, but it wasn't so long ago -- okay, so yes it's been almost nine years -- that I read Leigh Montville's outstanding Williams biography, and I honestly don't know that enough has changed since 2005 to justify spending a week or two on another one. I should mention that it's also worth listening to the interview if you don't know much about Williams, and don't want to bother with a whole book. But geez, guys, enough with the cryogenics already.