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On This Day In 1956, Ted Williams Was Fined $5,000 For Spitting On Fans And Reporters For The THIRD TIME In Three Weeks

(Boston Globe) - “I’d spit again at the same peopled who boohed me today,” Ted Williams said last night after learning of the $5,000 fine imposed on him by Sox owner Tom Yawkey.

There was talk about that Williams would quit after the latest incident with the fans. Will you be at the ball park tomorrow? “Probably,” he roared, “because I can’t afford a $5,000 fine.”

Why do the boohs bother you? “Now you got that quote …. two things … First, I’d spit at the same people who boohed me today. Second, I wouldn’t be at the ball park tomorrow if I could afford a $500 … er $5,000 fine every day. Got it? … Read it back to me. I said boohing fans …”

Is Ted Williams considering quitting? Is this his last year? “Probably …” he said.

( - About halfway between first base and the Red Sox dugout, Ted went into his spitting show. He spit in the direction of the box seats back of the Red Sox dugout. As he reached the top of the dugout, he turned in the direction of the press box and did it again.

As a player who never truly exited the spotlight, Williams’s role in the game proved decisive. In the bottom of the 11th, with the bases loaded, the 37-year-old slugger drew the game-winning walk. He flipped his bat “about 50 feet in the air” in frustration even as the team celebrated a 1-0 win over their rivals from New York. The real story, Williams knew, would not be about the game’s outcome.

“You writers are responsible for this, ” he said after declaring himself blameless for the crowd’s boos. “The whole thing. I’m no rock head, you know. If it didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t be as fired up as I am now.”

This is legitimately fascinating to me. Growing up in Boston decades removed from his playing career, I genuinely cannot think of a more lionized athlete than Ted Williams. Not Bird, not Russell, not Orr, nobody comes close to Teddy Ballgame. He was a war hero, he hit .406, you never heard of any wrongdoings as if he was impervious to making mistakes. Williams is spoken about more closely to a superhero than a human being by the olds in Boston. And I get it, I'm not here to try and argue that or take it away, but it's fascinating to me that a story like this would all but tarnish the reputation and legacy of someone playing any professional sport today. 

Imagine if Manny Ramirez dropped a routine fly ball late in a tie game against the Yankees, spit on some fans and reporters for the THIRD TIME over the course of three weeks en route back to the dugout, bat flipped a walk-off walk out of dismay, and then threatened to quit postgame while blaming the reporters for him spitting on the very same reporters. It's not as if this was some small story, it was the fucking front page headline of the Boston Globe the next morning! And I pick Manny because he was also a prolific slugger who didn't much care for his time in left field. When people talk about Manny today they still bash his fielding despite being one of the top right handed hitters in the history of the game. You cannot hold a conversation about Manny without hearing about all of his warts. So, when does that shift? When did stories like this about Ted Williams get brushed aside in favor of him hitting a home run farther than anyone in the steroid era could slug? 

It cannot come only in death. We saw Kobe die earlier this year and people still rushed to bring up his warts. So it's just time? Because if you don't know me let me make one thing abundantly clear: I don't care *at all* about Ted Williams spitting on reporters, I think this entire story is fucking hilarious. I would kill to see someone launch their bat to the Moon after winning a game on a walk-off walk specifically because he knew those asshole reporters were going to ask questions about getting spit on for the third time. Every detail of this story is funnier than the last. But that's also why I keep reverting back to the world "fascinating" when thinking about this story in the larger context about how we discuss athletes and what stories we pull first when discussing their careers. Terrell Owens will always have crying over Tony Romo and sit-ups in his driveway at the forefront of his legacy when he's one of the five greatest receivers who ever lived. Maybe that will fade as the years go, perhaps time is the deciding factor. Or maybe we should just bring spitting on beat reporters back, I don't think too many folks would complain about that.