Recalling a ‘Splendid’ night in Fenway almost 50 years ago

The year was 1973. Rangers-Red Sox at Fenway Park.  Ted Williams was the Texas manager, and he was around 53, as I recall.  There was a rumor that, prior to the game, he was going to come out and take a few swings during batting practice.

As the moment drew near, the buzz in the crowd grew louder with anticipation.  And here he came with that distinctive gait and “bobbing head” motion of his, reminding us all that he knew so much about hitting that we could never even begin to understand.

I had a perfect seat to view that classic swing … from the open side above the third base dugout.  As he strode to the plate, he made a motion to the pitcher, a “punch-in-the-air” with a closed fist.  I took that to mean, “Don’t lob it in here, throw it!”

What happened next, I believe, was more than anyone in a full-house Fenway could have wished for.  With a half-dozen swings, he hit a few line drives, and then, with that natural, letter-high home run drive, deposited two towering shots into the right field bullpen.  You could about hear that old ballpark shake with excitement and appreciation.  Here he was, well into his 50s, knocking the cover off the ball like someone half his age.

As the story goes, as a young man of 17 or so in San Diego, he dreamed of walking down the street and having people say, “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.”  If only partially true, what was on display that evening would have made anyone a believer, I’m sure.

In 1960, Ted Williams, nicknamed the Splendid Splinter, hit a home run in his final Major League at-bat.  Apparently, there were a few bullets left.  What a night!  Incredible.  Marvelous.  Golden.

“Splendid,” actually.