In the most famous salivary incident since Pavlov's experiment with the dog, Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams has divided the baseball-loving city of Boston into two campus, the "I Like Ted" faction, and the "I Dislike Ted" group.
As of last night, however, there was no evidence that many Summer School students were joining the movement to reimburse Ted for the $5000 he was fined on Tuesday. The hubbub has arisen, of course, from Williams' action in Tuesday's game against the Yankees, when, roundly booed after dropping Mickey Mantle's fly ball, Ted returned the salute to the stands with an emphatic allowance for numerical inferiority. In other words, he spat.
Yet behind all the gesticulating and expectorating not many people have considered that perhaps Ted was possessed of some inner, subconscious motivation, the type which Louis Macneice included in his Epilogue for W.H. Auden, stating that it is "time for soul to stretch and spit, before the world comes back on it." Williams has undoubtedly been using Widener Library to enlarge his understanding of the psyche.
The opposition to Ted includes many members of the fourth estate and many of the clamorous fans, who are usually seated in left field at Fenway Park. The writers call his action "displays of unrestrained rage," and "those of the only spitball outfielder the game has produced." Harold Kaese of the Boston Daily Globe has gone so far as to demand that "Ted Williams should quit baseball." "Huck Finnegan" of the Boston Evening American states that "Williams had blown himself up to such proportions that he was bigger than the game itself, or at least he thought he was."
But do the sportswriters know that in 1912 Ty Cobb was fined only $50 for running into the grandstand and punching a spectator? Why, at this price Ted could demand his money's worth and maim 100 vehement fans!
One of the cardinal rules of journalism is consistency. But in the writers' dash for the most copy in the least amount of time, gross errors have been spotted. There is no definite count of the number of times Williams spat at the crowd. The number ranges between two and four. Tax experts are not sure whether he can or can not deduct the fine from his income tax return. The New York Herald Tribune quotes a tax expert as saying that the assessment could be deducted since it is not a league penalty. But the United Press came out quoting a different expert, stating that there is "no way Ted can deduct the money."
And a spitting demonstration is not all you get at Fenway Park these days. Almost unnoticed in Tuesday's game was the effort that another Sox outfielder, Jackie Jensen, made early in the evening to "have it out" with one of the hecklers in stands. The fan persisted in calling Jensen "Mr. Double Play," and Jensen "called him down to talk to him." Nothing too exciting happened, however.
The Red Sox leave Boston this weekend, but they will be back next week for any Summer School students who are interested in seeing social relations at their lowest ebb in years. And don't go to the park alone; bring your girl friend, your wife, or all the kiddies. After all, last night was "Family Night" at Fenway Park.