Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Hub Fans Never Get to Bid Kid Adieu

According to the Globe, the most important development in sports this week has been that Ben Bradlee, Jr. has written a biography of Ted Williams. Way to go after those younger readers, gang! Way to forget that the most important part of the word news is the first three letters.

A three-part excerpt in the sports section was one thing. A droolingly favorable column about the book in Metro by the usually not-nuts Kevin Cullen was quite another. Such overkill deserves a response -- not a nice one, either. Such logrolling (Bradlee, Jr. was a longtime Globie who became an influential editor) is as old as newspapers, not to mention mankind, but that doesn't make it right or any less tempting a target for ridicule.

The author was a very good reporter in his day, so I'm sure the book is comprehensive and well-sourced. But I haven't read the excerpts and I won't buy the book. Not because it won't be an OK read, but because of its subject matter. There's nothing more about Ted Williams I need, want to or can know.

In life, Ted Williams got the ink as few athletes or celebrities of any kind ever have, including his own autobiography, book on fishing, and book on hitting (I have all three in my library). He was the subject of journalism running the gamut from great to godawful, and I daresay there's no one over 40 who ever held a Boston sportswriting job who didn't write at least one Ted piece. I did five, and I think that's probably average.

Nor did the Williams oeuvre end with his death. Leigh Montville, just rehired by the Globe in a very good move, had his own Williams biography (again in my library) published not so long ago. Montville is Bradlee's equal as a reporter at least and his superior as a prose stylist by a good deal (not a slam, Ben, Leigh's better than almost everybody).

In short, I believe I have all the information on Williams I need. As I think is obvious, I have MORE than I need. Even if Bradlee has documentary proof poor Ted ended his days wanting his head stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen, I don't care. Williams' declining years, some of which I witnessed, not close, but close enough to see, are not inherently interesting, as they are an inevitable part of everyone's life. It's the stuff Williams did that made his life different than everybody else's that grip the imagination and that's the part of his life most fully, even ludicrously fully, documented already.

The December publishing date on Bradlee's book is the real tipoff as to its intended destiny. It's one of those books, and many of 'em sell real well, whose marketing slogan is "here's something you kids can get Granddad for Christmas." Nothing wrong with that, but nothing worthy of the front page of any section of any newspaper, not even the book review section.

The Globe thought otherwise. As a result, I think new owner John Henry has of yet had no impact on the corporate culture of his purchase. It's still the same clubby, by-and-for-the-insiders operation it's been since I first got here in 1974.

Since Boston itself isn't quite like what it was in 1974, this doesn't bode well for Henry's investment, no matter how cheap it looked to him.


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