From Publishers Weekly
Montville, who also penned the bestselling bio about racer Dale Earnhart (The Altar of Speed
), covers all of Williams's heroic achievements-a Hall of Fame baseball career, two tours of duty as a Marine fighter pilot, an unmatched thirst for the thrill of the outdoors. But thanks to the author's ability to track down new sources of information, Montville presents a more nuanced portrayal of the baseball star than many previous biographies. The Kid, as Williams was known, is brought to life with portraits supplied from the people who made up Williams's very compartmentalized life. Distinct recollections of his former teammates, fishing buddies, former lovers, caretakers, family members and brothers in arms coupled with Montville's ability to display each memory in its own context gives readers an extraordinary glimpse into Williams's complex psyche. Though he admits to worshipping Williams as a youth, Montville's crisp prose holds nothing back when it comes to exposing Williams's many flaws, his heartbreaking final years and the controversy surrounding his death. Relying on his years as a sports writer, Montville is also able to subtly shift the tone of the book to fit Williams's personality as he evolved from an energetic youth to a cantankerous star, from America's bigger-than-life legend to a bedridden invalid. Sure, Teddy Ballgame was an American icon, but Montville's ability to show the darker and lighter human sides of Williams is a pretty remarkable achievement in its own right.
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The late, great baseball Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams was always a lightning rod, igniting controversy in his wake, even after his death, as those who have followed the intrafamily battle regarding the disposition of his remains can attest. Montville, whose resume includes stints as a Boston Globe
columnist and senior writer for Sports Illustrated
, offers a warts-and-all portrait of the Red Sox star but also shows Williams' wit, empathy, intelligence, uncommon loyalty to those he called friends, and unswerving commitment to excellence (in hitting, fishing, hunting, and piloting). Exploring the many aspects of this complex sports icon through first-person interviews, newspaper accounts, magazine articles, and other print sources, Montville shows Williams lashing out at fans and battling the Boston press, but he also recounts the off-the-field triumphs: the "hero" in the subtitle stems not so much from Williams' baseball exploits as from his two stints as a marine pilot, one in World War II, the other in Korea. Ted Williams would have been a difficult man to befriend, but on the basis of Montville's work and David Halberstam's Teammates
[BKL Mr 15 03], it appears that the effort was usually dwarfed by the reward of being in The Kid's inner circle. Expect this evenhanded reassessment to draw the kind of attention given to Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax
(2002). Wes LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved