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Deliberate Practice

Meeting Ted Williams

In 1960, we got tickets to see the Yankees and Red Sox play in a Labor Day double-header. We sat a few rows behind the dugout in Yankee Stadium. Before the game someone arranged for us to go down to the railing and shake hands with Ted Williams.

We were Yankee fans and so it didn’t mean much to me. From him I just remember a limp and uninterested handshake. He was only weeks away from the end of his career.

Now, decade later, the meeting would be so much more interesting for me. I would love to ask him about his obsession for hitting, and to watch him take batting practice. I would like to meet the man who wanted people to say of him, “There goes the best hitter who ever lived.”

In a sense, he was. To this day he remains the all-time leader in career on-base percentage. When he came the plate, he reached base 48 percent of the time! He truly was dedicated to winning the battle against the pitcher.

He also was the last big-league player to hit .400 or better for a season. He once said, “If I was making $30,000 a year, (an enormous sum for his time), the very least I could do was hit .400.”

Not long after the day when he shook hands with me at Yankee Stadium, Williams hit a home run in the last at-bat of his career. He won his very last battle against a pitcher.


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