In 1941, Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams became the last player to end a season with a batting average over .400.
But after Williams griped that he’d rather be a fireman than a ballplayer, a series of opposing players showed up wearing fire hats and clanging fire bells, and every time the 22-year-old stepped to the plate, they let loose with a siren.
So, the prodigy turned a new leaf.
- He thoroughly enjoyed himself. Instead of tensing up when he started hitting over .400, Williams attributed his run to luck, saying he was hitting the same as the year before.
- He played hurt. Despite a bum ankle,Williams performed well. After one particularly painful episode, he was happy to get clearance from the doctor. “All I know is, watching the boys lose while I’m in street clothes hurts worse than if they cut my ankle off entirely.” Soon afterward, he more or less faked his doctor’s OK to get back in the game.
- He produced. Except in postseason play, the “Splendid Splinter” came through for his team. When the White Sox manager started shifting his defenders to the right, Williams promptly smacked a line drive to the left. Despite this defensive move called the “Williams shift,” the Red Sox hitter collected four hits in 10 at-bats.
- He intimidated opponents. “Honestly, I just can’t get that guy out,” said Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. “I can’t get Williams out no matter how hurt he is.”
- He gained perspective. Much later in life,Williams said: “The art of hitting is all about balancing what is usually a series of failures with the belief that you are good enough to make it all about a series of successes instead.”
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