A touch of Teddy Ballgame

PROSPECT — Ben Bradlee Jr.’s new book, “The Kid, The Immortal Life of Ted Williams,” checks in, appendices included, at an even 800 pages.

It’s as long as the current winter, but far more enjoyable. Nor does a reader want to see it end (knowing, as it were, that Ted’s road leads to that cryonics lab in Arizona).

Coinciding with the start of the Major League Baseball season, Bradlee Jr. will be in the neighborhood on April 28, appearing in Prospect to promote his Little, Brown & Co. project, which took over a decade to complete.

Thorough? Oh, yeah.

Worth the $35? For anyone who takes pride in a quality personal sports library, yes.

Groundbreaking in any way, given the amount of “Ted lit” that’s preceded it, including “Ted Williams: An American Hero,” by Bradlee’s former Boston Globe colleague Leigh Montville?

Yes again, especially in regard to what happened to Williams’s body after his death (there’s new evidence Ted wanted to be cremated).

Bradlee’s book isn’t so much about Ted Williams on the baseball field as it is Ted Williams off it: the boy growing up in San Diego and shunning his Mexican heritage, the war pilot, the husband and father he struggled to be, the benevolent force behind the Jimmy Fund.

Bradlee’s book rests on far-ranging reporting, the two cornerstones being extensive interviews with Williams’ daughters, Claudia and Bobbi-Jo. Claudia, in particular, gave Bradlee access to a trove of Ted’s papers and belongings, which opened up new insights and sources.

Bradlee, a reporter and editor at the Globe for 25 years and son of former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, can tell you more about it on April 28 at the Prospect Fire House on Center Street, right across from the library.

“The hall there can easily hold 100 to 150 people, so I am hoping that we can fill the place,” explains Prospect library director John Wiehm, who arranged the event. “So everyone is invited to attend.”

Prospect is one of those Connecticut towns hard along the Munson-Nixon Line. It’s much closer to New York (76 miles compared to 115 to Beantown), yet is firmly within the orbit of Waterbury, which produced one of Williams’ Red Sox teammates, Jimmy Piersall, and hosted the Splendid Splinter in 1961 (a visit made famous by Joan Joyce striking him out in an exhibition at Municipal Stadium).

Wiehm notes that when he had author Tom Clavin appear in Prospect last summer to talk about his book on the DiMaggio brothers, the crowd that packed the senior center was fairly mixed.

“Being that one DiMaggio played with the Yankees and another with the Red Sox, we had a very active discussion that day concerning Yankees versus Red Sox,” Wiehm remarked. “People in this area still talk about the time Ted Williams visited Waterbury back in the 1960s, so we are hoping baseball fans come to hear about his colorful life.”

Wiehm had become quite adept at booking the authors of sports books. Prior to arriving at Prospect Library last February, he worked at the Whittemore Library in Naugatuck, and during the last four of the 11 years he was there he launched a sports author series.

He brought in 14 different authors with books about the Red Sox, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, the 1942 baseball season, the 1947 Yankees, UConn men’s basketball and Notre Dame football. The last guest drew one of the bigger crowds: Oil Can Boyd.

Given the success of the series, Wiehm figured he’d transplant it to Prospect. Clavin, who had visited Naugatuck with his book on Maris, came to town last July with the DiMaggio book.

By the fall, Wiehm was contemplating whom he’d bring in next when he read a glowing review on Bradlee Jr.’s book. He got in touch with the author through the Red Sox archives department, which Bradlee Jr. deeply plumbed. With a little emailing, Wiehm landed his plum.

“He agreed to come here to Prospect in April of 2014, just when the baseball season was beginning,” the library director said. “For Prospect, Mr. Bradlee is probably our most nationally known name to come here.”

No reservations are required for the April 28 event at Prospect Fire House. For information, contact John Wiehm at (203) 758-3001 or libraryprospect@yahoo.com



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