Red Sox to Fans: “Ted’s Sorry”

May 12, 1950


Ted Williams was known for his incredible patience at the plate, but outside the batter’s box he was quick to anger. On May 11, 1950, Williams showed a raucous Boston crowd what he thought of them. The following day, he apologized.

On May 11th, Boston had faced Detroit in a doubleheader at Fenway Park — a crucial double-dip for the Red Sox, who were angling for sole possession of first place. But in the sixth inning of the first game the focus quickly shifted from the team to the antics of Boston’s Hall of Fame outfielder. After Williams muffed a routine fly ball, he was heartily booed by Boston fans in the left-field stands. The retaliatory Williams stuck his hands up to his ears and wagged them — apparently insinuating that his fans had donkey’s brains.

When Williams stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth inning, his bat made some of the fans forget his glove. Knocking a long fly ball that bounced off Vic Wertz‘s glove and out of play, Williams was credited with a grand slam, the only runs the Sox would score that game. The Tigers closed out the game by a margin of 13-4 and the second game brought another chance for Williams to atone for his error in the first.

He didn’t. With Boston leading 3-1, another interesting eighth inning began. Rookie Tommy Fine was pitching for Boston and had loaded the bases. Wertz, the outfielder who had failed to nab Williams’ grand slam in the first game, came to bat and promptly ripped a single towards Williams which skidded to one side and rolled to the wall. Upset, Williams loped after the ball and tossed it weakly back to the infield. By the time the ball got out of the outfield, three Detroit runners had scored, Boston had lost its lead and Wertz had reached third base.

Ted was a player who kept his anger bottled up inside until he could no longer take it. He’d survived the boos during the first game, but the horrible rain of name-calling and heckling caused him to overload in the second. At the end of the inning, the barrage of insults began to fly once again, and Teddy exploded. He jumped out of the dugout, lowered his palm and proceeded to flip the bird — not once, but three times — to the center, left and right sides of Fenway. When he came to bat later in the inning the fans continued to taunt him, which provoked another reaction by Williams. He spun around and spit at the crowd, which only inspired more boos.

The next morning, a statement released by the Red Sox informed fans that Ted was sorry for his “impulsive actions” and “wished to apologize to any and all whom may have been offended.” But Williams, the man who was asking for forgiveness, was not the man who wrote the letter — the Red Sox had either made Williams agree to the release or simply wrote it without telling him.

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