by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
Summer reading in 2015 included “The Kid,” Ben Bradlee Jr.’s wonderful book on Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. The 800 page tome has fodder for dozens of columns, but one anecdote really made me laugh.
In 1959 the Red Sox conducted spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Williams was visited by a fishing pal from Rhode Island named Joe Lindia. Ted wanted Joe to meet someone so Williams drove Lindia to a seedy motel room where an old guy wearing boxer shorts answered the door. It was Ty Cobb, the baseball Hall-of-Famer with the .367 lifetime batting average, who was in Arizona for some Cactus League action. The subsequent conversation quickly turned to baseball.
The psychotic Cobb and the bipolar Williams became increasingly animated as they argued about hitting approaches and which baseball era featured better players. A serious baseball fan, Lindia thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle, which became especially validating for Joe when Ted and Ty kept looking to Lindia to affirm THEIR particular perspective. Suddenly these two ultra-competitive, strongly opinionated baseball legends—the two greatest hitters in baseball history—were desperately competing for Lindia’s approval.
Bradlee’s book didn’t say how Lindia handled the attention, but according to the author, Joe was “in heaven.”
BATS, BUILDINGS … AND BILL
Another passage in “The Kid” described how a baseball old-timer approached Williams in the mid-90’s with an old bat that Williams cracked in spring training decades earlier. Ted happily signed the bat, but was chastised by his son, John-Henry.
“Now that bat is worth $10,000 and we’re getting nothing for it,” said the younger Williams, who’d grown rich selling his dad’s autographs and memorabilia.
Ted responded with an expletive. Sometimes the honorable way is not the lucrative way.
Which raises the issue of naming rights. Almost every stadium, arena, and ballpark has sold its name to the highest bidder. Yes, corporate philanthropy can be wonderful. The Mets made hundreds of millions of dollars by selling naming rights to their park to a bank, but they disappointed many fans who’d have preferred “Jackie Robinson Park” to “Citi Field.”
Still, that’s better than what the Padres and Chargers did in San Diego, where the two teams once shared Jack Murphy Stadium, named for a beloved local sportswriter.
(Can’t we all agree that we need more ball parks named after sportswriters?)
But when Qualcomm Corporation offered many millions of dollars for naming rights, it was “Good bye, Jack Murphy.” Sad.
We discuss such things in my sports management classes. If the Mets can get big money for naming rights, then what could the Red Sox get for selling Fenway’s name? Would it be worth a half a billion to change it to Pizza Hut Park? Just changing the Pesky Pole to the Pepperoni Pole could be worth $10 million. That might buy a third baseman who could field AND hit!
One of my classes is in Plymouth State University’s Hyde Hall, named for a long-time Plymouth State president. I also teach classes at NHTI-Concord, which similarly has a building named for its first president, George Strout—a nice thing to note as the school celebrates its 50th anniversary.
One of Strout’s successors, Bill Simonton, spent over 40 years on the Concord campus—as a history professor, a dean, a president, and later as Community College System commissioner. Bill also coached basketball and soccer, and remained a nationally-ranked tennis player after retiring.
One might think that 40 years plus of service to a campus might rate special recognition, and it did. A lecture room was named after Simonton. Fine. But if a building could be named after Strout, then why not rename North Hall or South Hall in Simonton’s honor? MacRury, Little, Farnum and Sweeny Halls are named after special figures from NHTI’s past. But there are naming protocols now with a focus on SELLING naming rights for buildings. Hence, the Simonton Lecture Room.
We can do better. See above. Sometimes the honorable way is not the lucrative way.
Let’s name a building after Bill.
(And while we’re at it, let’s give Jack Murphy his stadium back as well!)
Who is Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in on-base percentage (.482), getting on base almost every other at bat? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on July 8 include ABC-TV’s pioneer sports executive Roone Arledge (1931) and 1957 Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow (1935).
“Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It’s a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest.” – Ty Cobb
Theodore Samuel “Ted” Williams of the Boston Red Sox
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at Plymouth State University and at NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.