EASTHAM — Hall of Famer Ted Williams was one of the greatest Red Sox players in history. The left fielder played from 1939 to 1960 (minus three years in military service) and compiled a lifetime batting average of .344. That’s good enough for sixth highest all-time.
But Eastham’s Ron Morissette remembers Williams for his raw attitude.
“He was very boisterous, very loud,” Morissette says. “He didn’t mince words. He could be obnoxious at times.”
Morissette, who turned 80 in 2021, was born in Nashua, N.H. but grew up in Connecticut, in the small town of Wethersfield.
In 1961, playing in Hartford in a semi-pro league, Morissette won a batting title. A baseball scout who watched him play that season invited him to a workout at Fenway Park. That’s when he met Williams.
“I’m in a locker room at Fenway Park and who shows up but Ted Williams,” Morissette says. “This was September of 1961.” Williams had just retired from the Red Sox and was working as a hitting and minor league coach for the organization.
“They asked Ted Williams to come in to watch me hit,” Morissette says. “He stood behind me during batting practice. He told me to hit it to right field and to do this, do that.”
Morissette, who was a shortstop, met Carl Yastrzemski that day, too. The next day he took infield practice before a Sox home game, while his parents watched from the stands. After the two-day workout, the Sox offered Morissette a minor league contract.
“At the time I was at Springfield College,” he recalls. “I originally had a basketball scholarship at UConn but transferred out.”
In those days, student athletes weren’t allowed to play any college sports if they had signed a contract with a professional sports team while they were still in school. That meant Morissette wouldn’t be able to play basketball or any other sport in school if he decided to sign with the Red Sox.
Later, the rules changed. Student athletes can now sign a pro contract and still play in college — as long as it’s a sport other than the one they’ve signed for.
“I ended up signing,” Morissette says. After reading a biography of Pete Rose, he realized his first minor league contract offer was worth more than Rose’s first offer had been. Of course, he didn’t become quite the player Rose did.
The kid from Wethersfield played just two seasons for the Red Sox minor league affiliate Waterloo Hawks in Iowa.
“My problem was hitting,” he says. “What really bothered me in the minor leagues was changes in speed. From changeups to curveballs to fastballs — that really bothered me.”
The Hawks spent spring training in Ocala, Fla. and Williams was one of the team’s hitting instructors.
“He had some hitting tips,” Morissette says. “But he was a natural and I wasn’t.”
Williams certainly left his mark in Morissette’s memory, though.
Players and coaches had their own dressing rooms, Morissette recalls, but, for some reason, the team had him dress in the coaches’ room.
“My guess is they were trying to impress me,” he says. All it really did was allow Morissette to see Williams’s nature up close.
Morissette distinctly recalls an incident involving Williams’s sideline, advising Sears Roebuck on fishing gear. Williams “was making more money from them than he did playing,” says Morissette.
“I watched a guy come in with a fishing rod,” he remembers. “Ted Williams loved to fish, and he apparently made recommendations on the design of this fishing rod.” But something about the prototype was wrong by Ted’s standards, and “he went ballistic,” Morissette says. “I felt sorry for the guy, because all he did was bring in the fishing rod.”
Want another memory?
“We were having batting practice once,” he says. “The pitcher hit me in the groin with a fastball and I went down on the ground. I don’t know how long I stayed down there. Ted came up and said, ‘If you don’t want to hit, then get out of here.’ Then he walked away.”
Baseball has changed a lot since the 1960s, and the future of the sport remains uncertain at this time. Major League Baseball (MLB) is currently in the middle of a lockout that was imposed by team owners on Dec. 2 after the MLB and its players association could not reach a compromise on a new collective bargaining agreement.
This is the first lockout in the sport in 26 years, and it has effectively barred players and team employees from communicating until a new agreement is signed, according to SB Nation.
Morissette went on to teach biology at Longmeadow High School in Western Mass. for 34 years and coached soccer and basketball for 22 years. He doesn’t have many regrets about his athletic life, even though things didn’t work out at the professional level.
Well, maybe just one regret.
“Do you think I ever got a photo with Ted Williams?” he asks. “No.”