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The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams [Hardcover]

Ben Jr. Bradlee
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

26 Dec 2013

At long last, the epic biography Ted Williams deserves - and that his fans have been waiting for.

Williams was the best hitter in baseball history. His batting average of .406 in 1941 has not been topped since, and no player who has hit more than 500 home runs has a higher career batting average. Those totals would have been even higher if Williams had not left baseball for nearly five years in the prime of his career to serve as a Marine pilot in WWII and Korea. He hit home runs farther than any player before him - and traveled a long way himself, as Ben Bradlee, Jr.'s grand biography reveals. Born in 1918 in San Diego, Ted would spend most of his life disguising his Mexican heritage. During his 22 years with the Boston Red Sox, Williams electrified crowds across America - and shocked them, too: His notorious clashes with the press and fans threatened his reputation. Yet while he was a God in the batter's box, he was profoundly human once he stepped away from the plate. His ferocity came to define his troubled domestic life. While baseball might have been straightforward for Ted Williams, life was not.

THE KID is biography of the highest literary order, a thrilling and honest account of a legend in all his glory and human complexity. In his final at-bat, Williams hit a home run. Bradlee's marvelous book clears the fences, too.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown US (26 Dec 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316614351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316614351
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 15.9 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 723,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A work of obvious journalistic muscle and diligence, The Kid" provides documentary evidence on every page to bolster the book's presumption that Williams was, to use the cliche, larger than life....Mr. Bradlee writes a graceful sentence and crafts a cogent paragraph. His authorial attitude is one of restraint, generally letting the flood of his facts and quotations from interviews speak for themselves." ---Bruce Weber, New York Times""

Book Description

At long last, the epic biography Ted Williams deserves--and that his fans have been waiting for.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
I am among the 200 reviewers (thus far) who have rated this book highly but there are others (and there always are) who complain about something: its length, abundance of historical material, too much coverage of this/not enough of that, etc. I have read a number of biographies in recent years, including those of John Cheever (Bailey), Steve Jobs (Isaacson), Barbara Stanwyck (Wilson), Johnny Carson (Bushkin), John Wayne (Eyman), Michael Jordan (Lazenby), Woodrow Wilson (Berg), and John Updike (Begley) as well as Leigh Montville's biography of Ted Williams (2005). In my opinion, none is a greater achievement than what Ben Bradlee, Jr. offers in The Kid, his examination of the "immortal life" of Ted Williams (1918-2002).

As Charles McGrath points out in his review of the book for The New York Times, "What distinguishes Bradlee's The Kid from the rest of Williams lit is, its size and the depth of its reporting. Bradlee seemingly talked to everyone, not just baseball people but William's fishing buddies, old girlfriends, his two surviving wives and both of his daughters, and he had unparalleled access to Williams family archives. His account does not materially alter our picture of Williams the player, but fills it in with much greater detail and nuance...Bradlee's expansiveness enables his book to transcend the familiar limits of the sports bio and to become instead a hard-to-put-down account of a fascinating American life. It's a story about athletic greatness but also about the perils of fame and celebrity, the corrosiveness of money, and the way the cycle of familial resentment and disappointment plays itself out generation after generation."

Bradlee devotes seven pages of Acknowledgments of hundreds of sources (including Montville) to which he is "deeply indebted.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  219 reviews
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Decade of Research Finally Brought to Fruition 16 Dec 2013
By Bill Emblom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Whew! It has taken me two weeks to pioneer my way through this detailed biography of Ted Williams authored by Ben Bradlee, Jr. but the effort was worth it. We now have had two five star biographies on Williams, the other by Lee Montville entitled "Ted Williams". Both are worth your time. If you want to know practically everything you care to know and more about Teddy Ballgame than Bradlee's book "The Kid" would be the book to read. Some may feel they are being told more than what would interest them because Bradlee goes into great detail about the several wives of Williams in addition to his children and step-children. In addition there is a detailed hassle regarding Ted being "stored" in the Alcor facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, that may be belaboring to some readers.

Ted Williams was a man of many mood swings which may have dated back to his childhood where his mother was a dedicated worker with the Salvation Army and pretty much ignored him as did his father as well. Williams could be profanely abusive to people including his many wives and others who crossed his path. He, no doubt, could be very difficult to live with. On the other hand he could be very gentle with youngsters and would go out of his way to be of assistance to others who were in need. It was the great Rogers Hornsby who gave Williams the advice to "get a good ball to hit." Red Sox clubhouse man Johnny Orlando tagged Williams with the nickname "The Kid.".

Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was often beloved by his players. He did, however, run a house of prostitution in South Carolina in which he, himself, took advantage of. We have often heard of "The curse of the Bambino" in which the Bosox failed for so many years to win a championship due to their shipping Babe Ruth off to the Yankees in 1920. However, the real curse lies in the lap of owner Tom Yawkey who wanted nothing to do with having an African-American player on the team. The Sox turned down both Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays in a tryout. Can you imagine those two in addition to Williams in the Hub's lineup at the same time during the 1950s? Yawkey and bigoted manager Mike "Pinky" Higgins have only themselves to blame for Boston's lackluster teams during that golden decade of the '50s.

Author Bradlee gives ample coverage of Ted Williams' military career. Ted was a flight instructor in World War II and had more interest in flying than in playing wartime baseball in the army. He was disappointed to say the least in being recalled to fight in the Korean War as a fighter pilot. However, his military career was exemplary and exhibited well-disciplined behavior.

Williams' greatest thrill in baseball was his walk-off home run in the 1941 All-Star game. He batted a disappointing .200 in the 1946 World Series but he had suffered an injury to his elbow by a pitched ball prior to the start of the Fall Classic.

A biography on Ted Williams would not be complete without a detailed coverage of his fishing exploits with his favorite locations being the Florida Keys, the Islamorada in the Upper Keys, and the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada.

Ted toyed with the idea of quitting in the mid-1950s until a fan named Ed Mifflin convinced him to continue playing so he could achieve milestones that were within his reach. The book covers anecdotes of several Red Sox players such as Don Buddin, Sammy White, Ted Lepcio, and Milt Bolling all of whom I remember from my baseball cards of the 1950s and my following of the Detroit Tigers.

This book is a massive effort by author Ben Bradlee, Jr. which took him a decade to bring to fruition. It also includes three separate sections of photographs. If you want to know most everything about Ted Williams' life then this would be the book to read. If you want another five star biography on Ted Williams which will provide you with less detail then I would suggest you read Lee Montville's book entitled Ted Williams. Both are outstanding.
40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bigger Than the Game 3 Dec 2013
By BookVodney - Published on Amazon.com
I don't remember many events from my youth, but those that I do are vivid and clear. I remember a time as a Boy Scout taking an excursion in the late 1960's with my troop to Tiger Stadium to see the Washington Senators vs. the Detroit Tigers. We all knew that Ted Williams (Senators' coach) would be there and hoped for a glimpse of the Legend. Luckily we faced the visitor "dug out" way up in the cheap seats. I remember seeing the great man standing like a statue made of marble sternly watching the Senators perform. I thought to myself - " Ted could pick up a bat and knock one out of the park if he wanted to", but he was the manager and chose to see his players do the job. I don't remember the outcome of this game. I just remember Ted Williams standing tall.

I admire Ted Williams to this day, and believe the man was bigger than the game. This timely published book is one of many attempts to define the complicated life of Ted Williams. He didn't like the press, wouldn't tip his hat to the fans (until his later years), and wrote his own account " Ted Williams - My Turn at Bat " as an attempt to straighten things out. Ted Williams always had something to prove, and the tenacity & talent to do so. It's hard to say what he would of thought of this book. I think he would have had issues, but as I read it: I got the sense that the author made every attempt to be impartial and honest about this complex and legendary man.

Ted Williams admits he was very sensitive. He would hear the single boo in a stadium of cheering fans. He did not like the press, and if they ever put Ted back together some day, he properly wouldn't like this book. Ted said "he always felt the weight of the world on his shoulders when he was actively playing". It was difficult for Ted to live up to his & the fans expectations, but he did, and used the criticism to fuel his many accomplishments both inside and outside the game. He said " he was glad his baseball years as a player was over and didn't wish to repeat it". Not sure if Ted wanted to be frozen or preserved in a state of "Bio-Stasis" - so he could be put together in the future. Maybe he was content to rest in peace with his ashes spread over the Florida keys. His son John Henry pushed hard to freeze his remains, and this book will explore the circumstances and family disagreements behind this act.

Ted Williams seemed driven to be the man everyone expected him to be. In the early stages of WW II - Williams applied for a Class 3-A status to reduce his chances for a draft - he did this for family reasons. The Press spun it as an attempt to avoid his patriotic duty. Ted Williams becomes a fighter pilot in both wars (WWII & Korea). Again, he drives hard to prove the press wrong.

This is a long book, but reads very well. It begins with Ted Williams' end, then an overview of his child hood, beginning of his baseball career, his rise to excellence, trouble with the press, his passion for fishing (he was placed in that Hall of Fame as well), his multiple marriages, family trouble, and once again to his ending. In the twilight of Ted's life he had his pet dog "Slugger" - whom he wished to be buried with, but didn't happen. Near the end of this extraordinary life - it was The Kid and his beloved dog.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed bio of the Splendid Splinter 13 Feb 2014
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ted Williams was a tortured person, as this lengthy biography makes clear. But, oh my, what a hitter he was! The last player to hit .400. With a major league career that began in 1939, in 1957--at an advanced age for a player--he hit .388. If he had any legs left, he may well have hit .400 if he would have been able to get some "leg hits."

The book accomplishes several worthy goals. First, it provides a big picture description and analysis of his baseball career--from the time when he first started playing until his retirement. It shows a growth as a player--from indifferent to playing defense to becoming a pretty decent outfielder. The book depicts his approach to hitting very nicely. It also shows the volatile side of him, when he would lose his temper, publicly get into painful disputes with reporters, sometimes not hustling when he would become angry with someone, and so on. And the ways he would "psyche" himself for a game. For instance, taking swings in the locker room, he would say: "I'm Teddy [expletive deleted] Ballgame of the Major [expletive deleted] Leagues. How can this pitcher get me out with his [expletive deleted] pitching" (I could not retrieve the exact quotation, but this is close]. The book has his batting statistics at the end (page 785), and that is helpful, to get a sense of the trajectory of his career.

Second, it gives a glimpse of Williams as a person. Not always pretty. He was married a number of times and the end result was often unpleasant. He had numerous affairs, had a wicked temper. In short, he tended to treat his wives badly. While his children would say that he was a good father, he was often away. And his personality. . . . He was obviously someone with some emotional/mental problems. He would sometimes get discouraged easily; he would lash out at people; and so on.

Third, it portrays his distressing state near the end of his life. Health problems came up. His son was manipulative and tried to develop a career and lots of income, and he was not above misusing his father. Perhaps most distressing, he wanted to "freeze" his father after death, rather than allowing Williams to be cremated as he had requested. The story is that Williams finally agreed, but the book certainly makes it appear that his son and a daughter manipulated him into the decision.

A richly told tale of a larger than life figure, with larger than life problems, who was a larger than life baseball player.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pulitzer-quality Bio 28 Jan 2014
By Edward C. Nielsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bradlee took 10 years to complete this book, and it shows. After hundreds of interviews, he got the complete story of Ted Williams. This book pulls no punches. You'll get all the good stuff Ted did in his life, much of which he took pains to keep secret. You'll also get all the bad stuff in his life and maybe learn why it went that way. Ted was at the same time a loving, caring person who'd do anything for someone in need, even a complete stranger, yet could be the most profane and abusive person imaginable. One thing that's not open to debate and will be driven home in this book: Ted Williams was one of the best hitters ever to play the game of baseball. This book details the interactions between Ted and his family, friends, managers, teammates, and opponents. If The Kid doesn't get strong consideration for a Pulitzer, something is wrong. Great book!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bi-Polar A #1 Batsman and his Unholy Seed(s) 25 Dec 2013
By WAN2 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A remarkable, fascinating saga of a bi-polar bat magician whose skills put everyone in a trance. Just reading it MAKES one bi-polar as each page melts your heart--then freezes it. Growing up an Aaron fan, The Kid wasn't on my radar so this filled in the gap. I must say, the first half of the book was mostly about the clearly mentally disturbed (yet charming...) Mr. Williams and the second half portrayed his son as a bad seed despite attempts to leaven the facts. I was struck by the number of genuine friends he had despite his apparent abuse of most of them. Clearly a misogynist, yet he charmed women as well. He cast spells. it would seem. Sadly, as the book ended, one hoped for an early, painful (and warranted?) demise of his son...and got it. My favorite anecdote was when first basemen begged off holding runners on when Mr. Williams was at the plate for fear of getting killed by a line drive. Bravo. Should the two ever walk this earth again, Mr. Williams will spit in his son's face.
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