Remembering ‘Teddy Ballgame’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Pelham High School head baseball coach

Mike Oberry can claim something that few, if any, other Shelby County residents can claim.

Oberry met Ted Williams on more than one occasion.

Oberry played baseball with the Boston Red Sox from 1975-79 and met &uot;Teddy Ballgame&uot;, as Williams was often referred, for the first time in spring training of the 1979 season.

&uot;He came out there almost every day during spring training,&uot; Oberry said. &uot;He never wanted to be the center of attention. He came in street clothes and, like any great hitter, wanted to talk about hitting.&uot;

Williams, who suffered a series of strokes and congestive heart failure in recent years, died last Friday at the age of 83. He underwent open-heart surgery in January 2001 and had a pacemaker inserted in November 2000.

Oberry, who said Williams always wanted to be remembered as the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, said he had the stats to back that.

&uot;He is the greatest hitter, or the greatest I have ever known about, to put on a uniform,&uot; Oberry said. &uot;In the four-and-a-half years of his prime, he put up some amazing numbers. If he hadn’t missed a lot of time during the war, there’s no telling what he could have done.&uot;

According to Oberry, Williams had a large desire to succeed.

&uot;He was batting .404 heading into the final game the year when he finished with a .406 average,&uot; Oberry said. &uot;You could tell he always wanted to succeed because he got two hits in three at bats that last game and raised his average.&uot;

Oberry said the .406 average will stand for a long time.

&uot;I don’t think anyone can top it,&uot; Oberry said. &uot;Back then, sacrifice flys counted as at bats, where that’s not the case nowadays. If sac flys were not counted back then, his average could have been even higher.&uot;

As for the often-asked question

of could Williams play as well against today’s athletes, Oberry said that is simple.

&uot;There’s no doubt in my mind that he would have as much, if not more, success against the pitchers today as he had back then,&uot; Oberry said.

Oberry said Williams meant a lot to the game of baseball.

&uot;He had a great life. He lived to be 83 years old and now he is the greatest hitter on earth and in heaven. What he has meant to the game of baseball is incomparable.&uot;