Ted Williams Remembers His Old San Diego Padres

The Los Angeles that I grew up in during the 1950s was a place so beautiful that I can hardly believe it ever existed.

So few people lived in Los Angeles that it could easily be called a small town. The beaches were unspoiled and empty. Slightly inland, orange grove and eucalyptus trees were everywhere.

Today Los Angeles is ruined, killed by too many people and too much cement.

As beautiful as Los Angeles was back then when my family wanted to vacation in a truly magnificent spot, we went to San Diego.

I’ve always associated the Padres not with the current version but with the San Diego team that played in the old Pacific Coast League and challenged my beloved Hollywood Stars.

Ted Williams was the premier Padre.

In his contribution to a wonderful collection of essays published 1995 by the Journal of San Diego History, Williams shared his recollections about the early days of his Padres’ career from 1936-1937 before he was called up by the Boston Red Sox.

Williams as quoted in the article “This Was Paradise,”

I remember my first at-bat for the Padres. The manager, Frank Shellenback, sent me in to pinch hit and I took three strikes right down the middle. Didn’t even swing. Then he sent me in to pitch one night and I got hit like I was throwing batting practice. But that first time I pitched I also hit — and I hit a double, I pitched two innings, and the next time up I hit a double. And then I was in the lineup. I went over to Lefty O’Doul one day and I said, ‘What do I have to do to be a good hitter?’ He said, ‘Kid, don’t ever let anybody change you.

That 1937 team was a good composite team: young, old, former big league players, good leadership under Frank Shellenback (the nicest man I ever met in baseball). Why we didn’t win it I don’t know. There was no friction. Did we win the playoffs in ’37? (Editor’s note: Yes!)

Lane Field was an old wooden ballpark, nice park for a lefthanded hitter, and the ball carried pretty good. We played a lot of day games. I enjoyed  guys like Herm Pillette (the old pitcher), Howard Craghead, Jimmy Kerr (the catcher), George Myatt, Bobby Doerr . . .

There was no particular pressure on me playing in San Diego. I didn’t know what pressure was. I was nervous–not because I was born there, but because it was a whole new experience playing before crowds, professional baseball. San Diego was the nicest little town in the world. How the hell was I to know it was the nicest town in the world? I’d never been anyplace.

Readers interested in learning more about the Pacific Coast League should sign up for Richard Beverage’s Pacific Coast League Historical Society. Annual membership dues of $15 includes a subscription to the “Potpourri” newsletter. Write to Richard Beverage, PCLHS, 420 Robinson Circle, Placentia, CA 92870 or email him here.

2 Replies to “Ted Williams Remembers His Old San Diego Padres”

  1. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate this piece about what too many people and too much concrete has done to many beautiful spots in this country. Joe brought to mind Ogden Nash’s “Song of the Open Road”:

    I think that I shall never see
    A billboard lovely as a tree
    Indeed, unless the billboards fall
    I’ll never see a tree at all.

  2. Signor Guzzardi has his view of “the Splendid Splinter,” Theodore Samuel Williams; I have mine. As a 12 year old I sat behind home plate on a step – there were no seats available – when the hated NY Yankees played the Red Sox in the Labor Day doubleheader in 1949 at Yankee Stadium. It would take far too long to write of my introduction to seeing Williams for the first time, and the way he hit – or, better, “crushed” the ball, when he made contact. Combined with extraordinary reflexes and sight, he was a remarkable hitter; probably the most natural of anyone I saw from 1947-1957 at Ebbets Field or Yankee Stadium.
    But my admiration for Williams has always been that, when he was called to active duty, first during WWII, and then during the Korean conflict as a Marine aviator, this American patriot never whined or complained. One wonders the records he could have set. They don’t make them like Williams anymore.

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