On NOT Learning Hitting From Ted Williams



Topps Refused to make Rich Rich.
Read the Sig!

 I loved hearing from former catcher Rich Billings. Some retired players can’t get beyond stats. Billings remembers the FEELINGS of trying to be a major leaguer.

He has some good days to savor, including his first career homer off John Hiller and the World Champion Tigers on Sept. 22, 1968. In Cleveland, July 5, 1971, his 3-for-5 day featured a grand slam! Thanks, http://www.retrosheet.org/.

The first question I had was in trying to please manager Ted Williams, once seen as the world’s greatest hitter. Billings wrote:

“Ted Williams was a very intense individual who seemed to have ‘several’ personalities, all at different times. He was the most dynamic personality I was ever around.

He became very frustrated at teaching hitting to us, simply because we didn’t have his God-given talent to carry out his instructions.”

Billings followed Williams and the Senators from Washington to Texas. How was the transition?

“At first, we were very sad to leave D.C. We knew Texas was football country, but after a year or two, the fans really accepted us.”

No one may have felt the Texas heat more than a catcher like Billings.

“The heat didn’t seem to be much of a factor, except on days that were a double-header or it got over 100 degrees.


When you’re young, I guess the heat is a non-issue. Now, I hate July and August here in Texas.”

Yes, you guessed the state where Billings lives. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger?

Three Lessons From Former Players

Who needs fortune cookies? The hobby has been sending me messages! Such as…

1. This hobby is humbling: When Mark Dewey replied politely, he began his letter, “Dear Mr. Owens.” People called my Dad MISTER. That means I’m old?!?

2. Count your hits, not your misses: This coming week, I’ll share a fantastic reply from RICH Billings, the 1970s catcher. He made an incredible observation about Ted Williams. What I’ll try not to bemoan is how the envelope looked like an origami project run amok. Mister Billings had enclosed a card. Not since I put dupes in my bike spokes has such a result been seen. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to the Postal Service. This was my first disabled list envelope in eight months.

3. Don’t believe every card you read: If any of you write to Billings, note that he is not a DICK. The 1971 Topps card reproduced his signature as RICH BILLINGS. Still, Topps insisted on identifying him as “Dick.” Billings signs his autograph as “Rich.” Even his return address label confirms his first name of choice.

Readers: what lessons have your TTM responses taught you?

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