It arrived a couple of weeks ago but over the weekend, I finally got a chance to page through the huge catalog for the upcoming Ted Williams Auction. It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in more than 30 years of pretty serious collecting. Yes, there are historic pieces that will sell for a lot of money. What’s most riveting to me, though, is seeing what an amazing life he led through his memorabilia.
Think about that for the second.
The greatest hitter of all-time was not above putting his life on the line in the middle of a war. Try putting one of today’s athletes in that flight suit ready to face the enemy. It’s hard to imagine. Looking at the photos, though, it looks like he’s going out to take batting practice. Williams gave up some of the best years of his career. We’ve known that for a long time. The images and war relics bring it to life.
There are signed photos and letters from presidents of the United States, some of whom considered him a personal friend.
Williams saved everything.
There are literally thousands of Williams autographs in the auction. Hundreds of boldly signed checks (“Theodore Samuel Williams”). Picures. Prints. Baseballs. Books he owned. Insurance papers. His driver’s license.
He traded autographs with Mickey Mantle. Those are here.
Bob Feller wrote him a note about having to serve in the military. That’s here.
There’s an amazing personalized photo of Jim Thorpe.
Williams’ time as manager of the Washington Senators put him even closer to political figures of the day. Nixon wrote him notes signed simply “Dick”.
You get the feeling paging through the 290+ page catalog that Williams was never bored. He tied flies (his fishing rods are up for bid as is the table he used to do it). He went big game fishing (yes, you can buy his mounted trophy fish). He hunted (his guns and knives are in the auction). He played golf (you can buy his clubs), collected coins (dozens of graded coins bearing the “Ted Williams Collection” provenance are being sold) and once autographs became a commodity, it’s clear from the auction that he was busy signing (there’s a ‘practice sheet’ with multiple signatures).
Williams, history tells us, was busy in a not so good way, too. His personal life was often a mess. One of his former wives wound up with a lot of memorabilia from their time together and that was sold off awhile back. He was a little too loud at times. He definitely didn’t suffer fools.
Still, looking through the catalog is like looking at the life of a vintage man’s man. The kind they don’t make anymore. If you can’t afford to bid, it’s still worth an hour of your time to see the stuff that helped make him what he was.