Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero Hardcover – Apr 13 2004
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Leigh Montville has a home run(pardon the pun)with this book. A real, complete, mature biography. Williams from birth to death bed, in a fair and balanced fashion--what a biography is supposed to be. It is too easy to either idolize the subject of a biography, or to tear them down by airing all their diry laundry. To his credit, Montville does neither. Ted Williams comes off as an amazing athlete, pilot and fisherman. A perfectionist man's man, who often jumped to the aid of the sick and down and out. A lousy father and poor husband. A cranky individualist who didn't always like people around, but who nevertheless would be there for you in a second if times were bad.
In short, a human being, a man. Telling that life story is what a biography is all about.
With the people who knew Ted in his prime growing old, this will probably turn out to be the definitive Ted Williams book. Thanks to Leigh Montville for getting it right.
In addition to these problems, the writing style Montville utilizes is choppy and haphazard, jumping awkwardly from topic to topic while seemingly attempting to provide a historical and cultural context for Williams' life and work. Unfortunately, this only serves to give the impression that the edition is quirky and unorganized.
This is one of the largest collections of stories and anecdotes of Williams' life outside of baseball. But if you are a baseball fan you will likely be disappointed in this biography.
Montville tries to be too artsy with his style: one-word sentences, one-word paragraphs, lots of repetition. For the most part, the prose is readable, but it clashes with the book's subject, who was many things, maybe even a bit of a rebel, but not artsy.
Worse, for a book that approaches 500 pages of text, it is surprisingly superficial. Williams's World War II service gets a chapter, as does his more eventful Korean War experience; both chapters are thin and barely scratch the surface. Even the 1941 season (.406!!) gets lean treatment. I like the parallel he tries to draw with Joe DiMaggio (The Streak!!)--Montville writes, "Edge: DiMaggio" or "Edge: Williams"--but I wish he would have explored it more.
Before the book is halfway through, Williams retires from playing (the chapter on his last game is probably the book's best; Montville nicely captures the atmosphere of The Kid's famous last at bat--and no tip of the hat), and the book then focuses on his marriages, his fishing, his work for Sears, as well as a fair amount of gossip-type stories. The main character of the second part is Ted's son John-Henry. At times, Ted drops out entirely as Montville recounts the life and despicable behavior of the son, who used his father as a money-making machine.
I finished knowing more about John-Henry than Ted. Too often, Montville lets his sources speak for themselves rather than crafting a narrative from his interviews. The end result is a very distant portrait of Williams; we see him mostly and explicitly through other people's eyes. I'll stick with My Turn at Bat.
Most recent customer reviews
Leigh Montville's biography of Ted Williams is compelling reading. Williams was a complex, driven individual who sought perfection within himself often at the expense of... Read morePublished on April 8 2012 by Lava1964
This book is a must read for Williams fans, Red Sox fans and baseball fans in general. I felt this book was one of the most balanced books I have read aboout Williams. Read morePublished on July 19 2004
I recently read Cramer's bio of Joe DiMaggio and thought this would be a good complement. And it was. Read morePublished on July 10 2004
This book describes greatness, a quest for perfection, deep and long-term friendships between men; heroism and personal sacrifice for country; some of the inside details of... Read morePublished on July 9 2004 by Charles Ashbacher
I enjoyed this biography (except for a glaring typo in an early chapter that gives TW's birthday as April, 1918 instead of August....where was the editor??!). Read morePublished on May 31 2004
This is a fascinating and illuminating book about a talented baseball player, a military hero, and a cantankerous curmudgeon - Ted Williams. Read morePublished on May 21 2004 by Mark Daniels