When Ted Williams Traded Roger Clemens

In 23 years of working in the public relations industry, I’ve had my share of great experiences working with athletes and celebrities. However, none made as much of an impact on me as baseball’s all-time greatest hitter, Ted Williams.   With HBO airing a documentary on Williams this week and the All-Star Game upon us, a game where Williams always shined, I couldn’t help but recollect over my   experience with Ted at the 1993 All-Star Game, a time I will always cherish.

In 1993 I had the privilege of launching his trading card company, which was dedicated to bringing back the great players of the past; including recognition for the Negro league players. 

To launch the company we invited editors of the leading hobby publications to send a reporter down to Ted’s home in Hernando, Florida for a weekend introduction to the executives of the company and a special get together with the Splendid Splinter.  By the end of Mother’s Day weekend, reporters had spent three hours at Ted’s home talking baseball and another half hour the next day with a one-on-one session with Ted.

The goal was to have the hobby stories hit in conjunction with FanFest at the All-Star Game in Baltimore that July when the cards would make their debut.  Richard Sandomir of the New York Times interviewed Ted by phone for a business story which ran the week after the Florida session. That New York Times story generated numerous requests from national media to get an interview with Ted but he had committed to only doing a few interviews to promote the company, including attending FanFest.

We secured an interview with CBS Early Show the morning of the All-Star Game from Camden Yards, which provided Ted with a tremendous platform to promote the card set.  It was the time spent afterwards with Williams that stands out in my memory.

In the car back to the hotel following his interview with Paula Zahn, Williams began reminiscing about an at bat he had back in the 1940’s against a certain pitcher. Of course, 16 years later I cannot remember the details but Ted surely did back then.  When we returned to the hotel we went to breakfast which was set up for us in a private room. There came a discussion that forever stands out in my mind.

During the course of breakfast, Ted got on a tangent of how he would take an everyday hitter over a starting pitcher any day.  His son John Henry began a debate with his father.  It revolved around Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers and Roger Clemens of the Red Sox.  Ted, who loved the way Gonzalez ripped the ball, argued that he would trade Gonzalez for Clemens. John Henry stood firm, arguing that Clemens was too valuable and the Red Sox would never trade him.  There I sat, along with executives of the company, taking this all in.

Ted and his son John Henry are now gone, but I’ll always remember that trade discussion because it centered totally on baseball.  Ted promoted many collectible items over his final years in order to help out his son’s business ventures. However, my memories of him will always be of his talking baseball. His passion was unbelievable.  

I’m sure if they were both around today, Ted would argue for trading Josh Beckett for someone like Justin Morneau.  The hitter always ruled in the mind of Ted Williams. And, for this publicist, who grew up a New York Yankees fan, Ted Williams will always remain the one individual, that will always be “bigger than life” for me.

Thanks for the memories Ted. 

Tom Cosentino

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One Response to “When Ted Williams Traded Roger Clemens”

  1. TC –
    What a great story. I have always admired Ted Williams even though he was on the Red Sox (I’m a Mets fan) and had the opportunity to see him one night at Shea Stadium during a special event in the late 90s.

    That man was one of a kind and his obsession (good word here) for hitting is something that very few ball players have today. Ted studied every pitcher, every permutation and every count.

    UNCANNY is all I can say.

    I envy (in a good way) the fact you had the chance to spend some quality time with him. That is more like a .407 to you than .406 is to the baseball world.

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