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Thanksgiving Leftovers Show
This story is part of Only A Game's Thanksgiving Leftovers Show. Find the full episode here.
Within every big, well-known story are scores of little, lesser-known stories. And Joel Alderman handed us a good one.
Earlier this year, Alderman, a longtime New York-area sportswriter, told us the story of a trade that could have happened but didn’t. If it had, Ted Williams would have joined the Yankees, and Joe DiMaggio would have played out his career with the Red Sox. That would have been a big, well-known story — if it had happened.
But during our conversation, Alderman, provided one of those small, lesser-known stories. The date was Oct. 8, 1956. The setting was one of the many roads leading to or from Yankee Stadium. Most of the cars were probably headed "to" rather than "from," because Game 5 of the World Series between the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers was about to happen.
"I was in a car with some friends. And the traffic had stopped," Alderman recalls. "And another car was on our left, a convertible with the top down. And who was it but Ted Williams?"
Williams was the greatest hitter ever. To learn that, all you had to do was ask him. Alderman must have figured Ted was on his way to Yankee Stadium. He had to be interested in the World Series, right? And because his team wasn’t involved, there’d be less chance that he’d be bothered by the writers, with whom Ted had been feuding throughout his career, or the fans, whom he often seemed to resent.
Anyway, having recognized Williams, Alderman shouted over to him,"Hi, Ted! And who do you like today?"
Ted knew Don Larsen was set to start that game for the Yankees. He’d faced Larsen plenty of times. He yelled back at Alderman, "You better watch out. He’s gonna be real tough.”
"And then, he kept on going," Alderman recalls. "He was driving to Florida."
To go fishing, no doubt. Williams was said to have enjoyed fishing at least as much as he enjoyed hitting baseballs, and the fish didn’t ask him stupid questions or demand that he doff his cap after he’d performed well.
Anyway, Alderman and friends made it to Yankee Stadium for Game 5 of the World Series, a game that about 1 million people have since claimed they attended.
"Of course, Larsen pitched that perfect game," Alderman says.
It’s the only perfect game ever pitched in the World Series. Heck, it’s the only perfect game ever pitched in the postseason. Ted Williams, not usually known for understatement, had delivered one of the great understatements of all time with that assessment of Don Larsen as "real tough."
Alderman wondered whether those of his friends who weren’t in the car that day would ever believe his tale of that brush with baseball greatness. So he collected the documentary proof.
"I wrote a letter to Williams and I said that I was in that car, and I would appreciate if he would answer in writing that it actually did happen that way," Alderman says. "Well, not only did I get a letter back from Ted Williams, saying, 'Yes, it did happen.' He said he was using my letter to prove to his friends that it happened. "
There was another benefit for Joel Alderman when he met the often cranky Williams 17 years later for an interview.
"That just broke the ice. He remembered that incident vividly," Alderman says. "Yes, I was very shocked at how easy it was to talk to him and interview him."
Other writers hearing that story about Williams during his playing days would likely have been similarly shocked.
This segment aired on November 25, 2017.
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