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From the archives

Is Ted Williams a hero because he’s sorry?

Quite a few nice old ladies seem to be jealous of Joe Cronin’s Mrs. Heffernan.

One white-haired doll is reported to have been heard saying in a tea shoppe, “O, if Teddy’s bat had only hit me. Wouldn’t I have been thrilled.”

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If life began at 40 for Ted Williams, what ended at 39? Certainly not his capacity for being a hero. Throughout his career he has been able to emerge from the swamps of embarrassment covered all over with medals.

Now that Sherman Adams has resigned, there is nothing more to wait for except Mrs. Heffernan’s apology to Williams.

Shaken as though he was, it is unlikely that Sunday’s near-tragedy at Fenway Park will hasten Williams’ retirement. He may be temporarily subdued, but the idea that he should withdraw probably will not register.

Williams is more likely to respond by winning the batting championship, which many players in the league – including most on the Red Sox – have been hoping would go to the hard-working, self-effacing Pete Runnels.

When Williams gets in a jam, he always responds heroically, and increases his salary by another $25,000.

Two years ago, when he lost his famous temper while playing against the Yankees and gave Fenway Park an unscheduled watering, a certain local writer out of pity suggested that Williams quit before he marred his career beyond repair.

“What he may do the next time he blows his top is not pleasant to contemplate,” he wrote. “It could be more than embarrassing. He should quit before it happens.”

The reaction to this was spectacular. Williams’ admirers flayed the writer. Williams himself went on to hit .388 in 1957.

But the prophecy almost came true on Sunday, and would have except that luck was with Williams, the Red Sox, Mrs. Heffernan and all of us who like baseball.

If the accident had happened in another city … if the BUTT END of the bat had struck a spectator’s head … if the spectator had not been a friend of the Red Sox and Williams … the results would have been more serious.

As it was, consider what would have happened if a less important and popular player – say Julio Becquer of the Senators – had thrown the bat after taking a third strike.

He probably would have been (1) kicked out of the game, (2) fined much more than $50 and suspended, (3) arrested, and (4) told to go back to Cuba and stay there.

Displays of temper by emotional, highly competitive athletes are common. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes tragic.

Eddie Shore was in a rage when he upset Ace Bailey in the Garden that sad night so many years ago. He had nothing against Bailey. He would not have cold-bloodedly ended Bailey’s career for anything.

But Bailey was the first Toronto player he met as he skated back up ice, and it was Bailey he upset.

Ted Williams’ remorse when he saw his bat fly into the stands and hit a woman was like that of Shore, who stood in a stupor at mid-ice and passively let the enraged Red Horner skate up and slug him.

It’s amusing when a Ferris Fain kicks a base after popping out and breaks a big toe in four places … or when Bill Werber breaks a toe kicking a bucket he thinks is empty but happens to be filled with water … or when Lou Warnecke kicks to pieces an ancient clubhouse stove at Braves Field worth $3 – and is sent a bill of $25 by the Braves … or when a New York writer can’t get a room in a Boston hotel, flights with a clerk, and winds up with a room in a hospital.

Temper, however, is more closely related to tragedy than comedy, which nobody now knows better than Ted Williams, who has turned 40 but still is not quite as mellow as a marshmallow.

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