Ted Williams' life story, which begins on page 82 of this issue (the first of five installments), is the culmination of years of discussion between Ted and a variety of hopeful writers and publishers. The outspoken Williams is one of the most interesting people in the world—which seems like an extravagant statement but is not—and his story, a far cry from the standard sports biography, was much sought after. But for years Williams put off doing it because, he said, he wanted it "done right." Inordinately suspicious of sportswriters, he would sometimes come close to an agreement to do the story, but, like one of the fighting fish he loves to go after, he'd suddenly turn and break away again.
Then John Underwood of our staff did a fishing story with Ted (SI, August 21, 1967), and Williams was so impressed by the article that he decided Underwood was the man who could work with him on his autobiography and get it right. Details were ironed out, and the result, as readers will discover, is a memorable contribution to the literature of sport.
In the first four installments Williams discourses loudly and clearly on the people and events associated with his long and spectacular career. Then, in the final article, comes the long-awaited treatise: Williams on Batting. It is almost certainly the most authoritative thing ever written on the demanding and delicate art of hitting a baseball. Art Director Dick Gangel, who worked closely with Williams and Underwood in the preparation of the batting chapter, says, "Williams is a bright, intelligent guy, and hitting is an absolute passion with him. I've never known anyone with such a consuming passion for one thing."
Underwood agrees. "I watched Ted with those Red Sox rookies in Florida. He knows so much more than anybody else does about batting. He was a bit rough with the kids, a little impatient, but that's the way he is. He's that way because he's such a perfectionist. You'd be surprised at how little most of today's players know about their craft. Yet Williams can look at a man's batting swing and break it down and analyze it the way Hogan can a golf swing.
"There's been a lot of baloney written about Williams," Underwood adds, "a lot about his not being cooperative and so on. But he can be extremely gracious and kind. It was an enjoyable assignment. In Florida we'd sit out underneath the live oak trees, and he'd talk. He's a great, great talker. Wonderful recall. I'd mention something he had done and he'd say, 'You know about that?' And then he'd start telling a story about it.
"He gets gruff at times. He gets into these little black rages. You have to bark back sometimes to let him know you're alive. We got along fine."
Williams established some illustrious records as a ballplayer, and with this article he sets two more. Installment one is the longest baseball story we have ever run in a single issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and the five parts together are the longest overall.
GANGEL, WILLIAMS AND UNDERWOOD AT WORK