This piece was published in the short-lived National Daily Baseball Gazette on April 20, 1887, and it is believed to be among the first-ever poems inspired by the game of baseball. I wasn’t able to find a title nor an author for the piece, but it is interesting to read, including the note about butterfingers.
Then dress, then dress, brave gallants all,
Don uniforms amain;
Remember fame and honor call
Us to the field again.
No shrewish tears shall fill our eye
When the ball club’s in our hand,
If we do lose we wil not sigh,
Nor plead a butter* hand.
Let piping swain and craven jay
Thus weep and puling cry,
Our business is like men to play,
Or know the reason why.
*Hence the term “butter-fingers,” which, twenty years ago, was applied to a man or a boy who didn’t hold a ball.
I managed to watch PBS’s documentary on Ted Williams last night: American Masters – Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.” I found the documentary fascinating, even learning a couple things along the way.
The episode opens with Ted Williams’s return to civilian life after the Korean War. After seriously considering spending the rest of his life fishing after the war, Williams opted to return to baseball. Ted Williams, the documentary shows, was so obsessed with baseball, and especially with hitting, that his obsession permeated all aspects of his life. He also was infamous for his temper, often getting into it with reporters and refusing to tip his cap. These things combined made him, at times, a difficult man to get along with, even within his family.
The episode covered, briefly, some details of Williams’s youth, including his strained relationship with his parents. It also touches on many of the things you would expect a Ted Williams documentary to cover, including the 1941 season, his service in two wars, comparisons between him and Joe DiMaggio, and the final season — and at-bat — of his career.
Something I learned — which I was glad about, as I’m always happy to learn new things — was that Ted Williams was also quite the fisherman. According to the documentary, Williams is in two fishing halls of fame (which halls of fame was either not mentioned or I missed it). He was so meticulously detailed about this hobby that he would cut fish open to see what they ate in order to create baits that mimicked those foods. He would then keep a log to determine what worked and what did not work. It was the same kind of obsession and attention to detail that contributed to his success as a hitter.
The documentary includes interviews with Williams’s daughter, Claudia, and other family members, as well as with various baseball personalities: writers, historians, broadcasters, and former and current players. If there is a shortcoming, it is that the documentary seems to bounce around quite a bit, which made it feel somewhat scattered. I think part of this was due to the brevity of the show. One hour is hardly long enough to go into any real depth regarding any one man’s life, especially a man like Ted Williams.
I have had a couple of people share this with me, and it certainly seems worth sharing here. This coming Monday, July 23rd, PBS will be playing a documentary about Ted Williams. The film is part of the American Masters series being featured by PBS and is scheduled to air at 8 pm Central time on Monday. It looks fascinating, and I am looking forward to watching it.
The preview trailer is below, and more information about the documentary can be found here.