when i was a kid, i wanted to be a baseball player. my neighbor wanted to be a fighter pilot. neither one of us made it - i stopped playing ball at the age of 29 in an amateur league, while my neighbor served in the armed forces as an officer for the us army, not a pilot.
one man who lived both of our dreams was ted williams. not only was he a baseball player, he was one of the best that there ever was. 521 home runs. two triple crowns. a career .344 batting average - better than all but 7 men. a .482 onbase percentage - the best that there ever was. and of course, he was the last man to hit over .400 during the regular season.
on top of all that, he left the red sox twice to serve his country as a us marine fighter pilot, missing the entire 1943-1945 seasons during world war ii, and then again missing parts of the 1952 and 1953 seasons during the korean conflict.
he retired following the 1960 season and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1966. he spent some time managing the washington senators/texas rangers and later had a baseball card company bear his name. williams also became a hall of fame fisherman and has a highway named after him in his native san diego, and a tunnel bearing his name in boston. his appearance at the 1999 all-star game in boston was one of the coolest things i have seen as a baseball fan.
ted williams passed away on july 5, 2002, and the red sox began wearing a black armband and williams' number 9 on their right sleeves soon thereafter. you can see the memorials on nomar garciaparra's 2003 upper deck first pitch card
here it is again on nomar's 2003 upper deck vintage 3-d sluggers short print subset card
but it's manny's 2003 upper deck vintage card that is in my memorials binder
can you imagine a better american life? neither my neighbor nor i could. here's to ted williams, but especially today, here's to all the men and women who lost their lives in service to our country.