A little something for baseball fans hungering for the start of this year’s season, truncated though it will be:
Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams—undeniably one of the greatest hitters in the history of the sport—was a 20-year-old rookie when he joined the Boston Red Sox in Sarasota in 1939 for the start of spring training.
(Sarasota’s Payne Park was the spring training home of the Red Sox from 1933 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1958, and, except for the five years when he was a fighter pilot in World War II, Williams played for the BoSox until 1958. According to Sarasota History Alive, when he was in town, he was given Room 406 at the Terrace Hotel to match his 1941 batting average of .406.)
When Williams wasn’t at the ballpark, he was on the water pursuing his other passion, fishing. Fans often followed him to Tucker’s Sporting Goods in downtown Sarasota, where he liked to try out the latest rods and reels. Sarasota History Alive reports that he even thrilled a capacity crowd at the Sarasota High auditorium in 1956 with “fish stories, a question and answer session, and a film showing the "Angular Angler" catching tarpon, bonefish, small mouth bass and salmon.”
Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Fishing Hall of Fame in 1999. In a video tribute upon his induction, the IGFA extolled “the same physical prowess and intense mental discipline that made him a great athlete to the sport of fishing.”