By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela, the Detroit Tigers' third baseman, is the first player since 1967 to win baseball's Triple Crown. But is he the first Latino to do so?
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera claims Triple Crown
Media outlets report that Cabrera is the first Latino to end a season leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. But many argue that Ted Williams, considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball, was actually the first Hispanic to grab a Triple Crown.
The legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder won the Triple Crown - twice, in 1942 and 1947 - and was the first inductee in the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in February 2002.
In his 1969 autobiography, “My Turn At Bat,” Williams said his heritage was part Mexican via his mother, May Venzor, though he rarely acknowledged it in public.
"(If) I had had my mother's name, there is no doubt I would have run into problems in those days, the prejudices people had in southern California," Williams wrote.
Eric Abel, husband of Claudia Williams - Williams’ only child - spoke on the family’s behalf about Cabrera’s Triple Crown win.
“We’re proud that Cabrera is continuing the tradition. It’s a positive thing. But Latinos should have not needed to wait this long to see a Triple Crown winner when they had one for so long already. It’s unfortunate that it had not been celebrated before. Ted was actually very proud of his heritage.”
Growing up, Williams spent time in Santa Barbara, California, visiting his Mexican grandmother, Natalia Venzor, who reportedly spoke little English. Bill Nowlin, who researched Williams' early life for his new book, "The Kid: Ted Williams in San Diego," said Williams' uncle Saul Venzor taught him baseball, according to a 2005 New York Times article.
David McCarthy, Williams’ close friend of 16 years and now the executive director of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, wrote in an e-mail, “I can tell you he was very proud of his mother’s heritage and told me personally that if his name was not Williams, he would have had a tougher time getting into the big leagues back in 1939.”
McCarthy said he knows that Williams would have been very proud of Cabrera and believes that Williams' experience molded him to be a champion not only for the Latino players but for the Negro league players back in the early days.
In fact, the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame says it plans to honor Cabrera with a Triple Crown display case inside the main entrance when it reopens at the start of the 2013 season.
Not to take the spotlight away from Cabrera (congratulations, Miguel!), but Williams’ heritage and contribution to baseball history should not be overlooked.
Ted hid his mother in the kitchen?? Not much of a son, was he???
Ted Williams had three children. The oldest is Bobbie Jo Williams, followed by Claudia Williams, and a son John Henry Williams , who died of bone cancer.
Accoding to a Pew Hispanic survey, 36% of Latinos identify their race as white. Remember, Hispanic/Latino is an ethnicity, not a race.
I'm learning so much more about Ted Williams in the last couple of days from these very excellent posts (and some additional research on my part) than I have in my previous five decades. I only learned recently (about 2007) about William's heritage but hadn't delved deeper before. I realize that much of this wouldn't even be a discussion had the press itself been more open-minded and forthcoming at any point in his career or afterwards. Even today, it is rare to see William's Mexican background brought up.
Apologies to anyone if my tone was a little strong. It's just that when I think of Latino influences, names like Dolf Luque (Cuban, 1914 Major Debut, excellent career, vocal as a coach) and Jackie Robinson (breaking the color-line) spring to mind. These players, while playing, helped paved the way on a daily basis. The topic itself, however important, seems so far off in the distance these days that it feels irrelevant when discussing today's superstars.
Ted's grandmother, Natalia was a Hernandez before she became a Venzor, her mother a Rubio, and her mother a Saens. I've traced the family back to the late 1700s through church records at San Jose, Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Remember, Ted left home at 19 never to look back, anxious to set out on his career and get away from the family family life of his mother, father and brother. But he remained close to them all, mostly from a distance though he did return periodically.
I think Ted Williams was probably reluctant to identify as latino due to his public position, but he was certainly close to his extended family and never denied his origins. Fortunately he got his looks from his father; his brother (my father) looked quite Mexican.
His grandparents were born in Mexico, as were some of his uncles, possibly his mother as well, there are conflicting reports. I lived with his aunt, Sarah as a child, and they certainly lived a Latino lifestyle. I learned to warm tortillas over the stove burner from her: I never saw anyone else do that. I lived with his mother too, and she was proud to be Mexican.
Ted was in constant contact with his aunts and uncles and his mother throughout their lives with love and support. Most of the family spoke Spanish as well as English, and his mother spent quite a bit of her time as an evangelist of the Salvation Army working with what she considered her people in Tiajuna, Mexico.
Ted fondly refered to his extended family as "the Mexicans."
Ted williams accomplishments can never be diminished. Nor can our newest superstar.
We don't know that Ted's mother was "half French" – the family background was Basque, straddling the border between France and Spain. Even after interviewing many of his relatives, no one is yet certain what side of the border that side of the family may have come from. Both of Ted's maternal grandparents were born in Mexico, and Ted's nephew and I, a couple of years ago, visited the community from which they came. We were invited to take part in a couple of events there, honoring Ted's heritage.
Do Triple Crown statistics have anything to do with race? No. Does a player earn the Triple Crown alone. No. I recall in Ken Burn's film that even before Jackie Robinson broke "the color barrier", there were light skinned Afro-Caribbean players in MLB because the "gentleman's agreement" only applied to African-American players.
Ted Williams was an awesome player. He was damned grumpy most of the time on and off the field. As a kid I saw him when he managed The Washington Senators at games. On photo day down on the field he was too scary to approach for a picture and autograph in comparison to that big teddy bear slugger Frank Howard or catcher Paul Casanova or first basement Eddie Brinkman.
As a 12 year old baseball fan in 1970 I felt more diversity at the stadium than on the streets of Washington, DC, the capital of.......the people, for the people! Do I still have to check my skin color to enjoy all the players in this sport? Where has that diversity gone?
Thanks for this article. The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum did indeed induct Ted Williams as a charter member of their museum. It was my honor to accept the award on his behalf. I first wrote about Ted's Latino background for the Boston Globe Magazine, after hearing from one of Ted's nephews, Manuel Herrera, who introduced me by telephone to Ted's tia, Sarah Diaz – I was astonished to be able to interview her (Ted's mother's sister) before her passing. Over the years, I've interviewed and met with more than 30 of Ted's relatives on the Latino side of his family. The story is told at length (over 100 pages on his genealogy with a couple of dozen family photos) in THE KID, to which you referred.
Very cool. I'm a big Ted Williams fan. I didn't remember this about his heritage.
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