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The Greatest Sports Article of All Time? Esquire’s Take on Red Sox Icon Ted Williams

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Looking Back at Esquire's Groundbreaking Feature on Ted Williams
Outfielder Ted Williams, of the Boston Red Sox, poses for an action portrait during a Spring Training in March, 1950 in Sarasota, Florida. (Diamond Images/Getty Images)

 

This might as well be sports journalism’s version of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”

In 1986, Richard Ben Cramer published a now-famous profile of the famed Boston Red Sox hitter Ted Williams in Esquire. A nontraditional look at a nontraditional baseball player, whom Cramer noted in the piece “was hard to meet,” the story chronicled the baseball great in his 70s, living in the Florida Keys, obsessed with fishing, and just living life to its fullest.

This is the retired man, the one baseball fans, who coveted his prowess on the field and at the plate, didn’t know because Williams didn’t seek out the spotlight.

What may be most interesting about the piece is how Cramer eases the reader into Williams’ storied career—not immediately, but as the man’s life story unfolds. The minutia of Williams’ career that Cramer uncovers is just plain astonishing, but it’s always counter-weighted by his private side.

Read Richard Ben Cramer’s groundbreaking feature on the Splendid Splinter here. Below, watch one of baseball’s greatest moments, when Williams took the field at Fenway Park at the 1999 All-Star Game.

Read the reprint of the Williams profile on Esquire.

—RealClearLife