My dad's favorite player is Ted Williams. It seems odd to write that sentence in the present tense. Williams stopped playing 57 years ago and, um, except for his head, is no longer with us. My dad is in his 80s and rarely talks about baseball in terms of being a fan.
But I know he still has memories of Williams in action and remembers them fondly even if he never speaks of them. One of his favorite baseball books is David Halberstam's "The Teammates," which came out about 15 years ago and chronicles the relationship between Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky during Williams' final days. My dad reads a lot, but not many baseball books, so that's how much he still likes Williams. (I have the book, but I have yet to read it).
Williams was known as "The Splendid Splinter," mostly, but also "The Kid," and "Teddy Ballgame". My dad, however, is fond of calling him by one of his lesser-mentioned nicknames, "The Thumper". When my dad says it, his eyes squint as if he's demonstrating the damage Williams would wreak on a pitcher.
My dad had some baseball cards when he was a kid. He's one of the few cases that I've heard first-hand of his mother throwing out his cards. My grandmother did indeed do that. I've tried to figure out exactly what cards he had, since my dad doesn't remember. My dad's prime collecting years were wiped out by World War II. There were very few cards made during the period when my dad was 8, 9, 10 years old, and certainly nothing that would reach a tiny town in Upstate New York.
So I'm thinking that my dad might have collected late 1940s cards. Is it possible that my dad owned a 1948 Leaf Ted Williams? It's entirely possible. (It's also possible he may have owned a 1939 or 1940 Play Ball Williams, which would be crazy, although he may have been too young to have cards then).
I don't have any cards of Williams during his playing days. One day I hope to own Williams' 1956 Topps card.
But on the occasion of Father's Day, I decided to add a playing days Williams to my next online order. It's from the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set. Most of those are easily affordable and it will fit nicely with my other latter day Williams cards.
And speaking of those later cards, how about a look at 10 of my favorites? My dad might not have much interest in talking about Williams trading cards, but I do.
So here are 10 of my favorites. No manager cards though. I'm staying with playing-days Williams, just as my dad remembers it.
10. 1982 TCMA Baseball's Greatest Hitters: These perforated cards printed white index-card stock aren't the sturdiest cards (and mine features black smudges), but I appreciate the color photos and I like anything retro. TCMA was a pioneer of retro.
9. 1993 Ted Williams Company: How cool is it to have your name as part of a baseball trading card company? That alone gets this card on the list.
8. 2016 Topps Bunt: The spare look of Bunt works well with this card. Williams played a long, long, long, long time ago. That's what this card says to me.
7. 2008 Stadium Club: At card No. 99, Williams was one of those pain-in-the-butt, divisible by three Stadium Club cards that year. So I treasure this card for that reason alone. Even though the photo is colorized, it's nice to get an eyeful of Williams' red No. 9.
6. 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes: A Dick Perez special. Maybe not the greatest likeness of "Ted the Thumper" but a lot better than I could do. It's nice to have an illustrated card of Williams in my collection.
5. 1993 Ted Williams Company, Goin' North subset: What a fun card. This shows a very young Williams in a Minneapolis Millers uniform. The back is almost as fun as the front as it recounts how Williams' mom would walk through the stands collecting money for the Salvation Army when Williams was playing in San Diego, and also documents that Williams smashed a water cooler in Minneapolis, barely avoiding severing a nerve in his hand.
4. 2015 Topps Highlights insert: Williams is featured more than once in this insert set, but this one comes out the best and recalls Williams' first Triple Crown.
3. 2007 Topps Distinguished Service insert: There's no doubt in my mind that Williams would be the greatest player who ever lived if he didn't miss so many years while serving his country in World War II and the Korean War. Also, my dad was in the Air Force, so that's all I need to appreciate this card.
2. 1992 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes: You have to have a card recognizing the last time someone hit over .400! I like this card because -- yes, Williams was cranky, loud, profane -- Williams could be fun. This card says fun to me.
1. 1976 Topps All-Time All-Stars subset: When I was trying to complete the 1976 set in the first few years of this blog, this card was a toughie. And this card is different from the others in the subset. It's the only card that features the player up close.
I remember collecting these cards back in '76. Many of the names were unfamiliar. But Williams we knew. We would turn the cards over to the back and stare dumbfounded at the statistics. They seemed to come from another planet.
Batting .400? Look at all those RBIs! Look at all those runs! Keep in mind, this was the '70s and offense wasn't as over the top as it is today. These numbers were astounding.
I'm hoping that I'll live as long as my dad has. And I'm also hoping that I'll be willing to talk about baseball cards and favorite players to anyone who wants to hear about it.
But I'm happy I know who my dad's favorite player is. That's not something that a lot of sons know.