Our last honest man
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Teddy Ballgame never came by The Cooler.

Ted Williams
We could all use some of Ted Williams' blunt talk now and then.
Wish he had.

He would have told it like it is. As always.

"AWWW, you're not going to write that CRAP again, are you?" he'd boom. "Why don't you write something NORMAL, something your MOM could read without being EMBARRASSED?"

That's probably what he would have said. Only with more f-bombs than Tommy Lasorda could muster on his bluest of days.

Are we going to miss this guy or what? The last from another time, and by that I mean, Ted Williams was a welcome blast of breathable air in this increasingly-stale P.C. world. Charles Barkley is the only thing close these days. Everyone else? Too worried about image. Too worried about endorsements. Too worried about ruffling feathers.

"AWWW, the HELL with ruffling feathers!" Williams would say. "I ruffled feathers and STILL hit .406. Stop HIDING!"

Teddy Ballgame never came by The Cooler, so I'm bringing his spirit by today.

What would he think of the weekend in sports, the first without him since 1918?

"I'll tell you WHAT I think," he'd shout, "I think those young ladies can PLAY SOME TENNIS! I wish everybody would LAY OFF 'em and enjoy the fact that they're DAMN GOOD tennis players! You know, Jupiter and Serenity, or whatever the hell their names are.

"I'll tell you SOMETHING ELSE. That Juli Inkster is a HELLUVA GOLFER. I'll tell you something. She can take on TIGER, as far as I'm concerned. What a COMPETITOR! BEAUTIFUL stuff.

"Hey, how about THAT BARRY BONDS? I don't care what you say, that guy CAN HIT! Anybody who can HIT is OK, by ME, I'll tell you that.

"And as long as you asked me, why don't you write about FISHING? Nobody writes enough about FISHING, DAMMIT. It's a beautiful SPORT, and you're MISSING OUT. You hear me?"

Ted Williams, 1955
Fish feared Ted Williams nearly as much as pitchers.
We hear you, Ted.

All we can do, fellow dwellers, is raise a Dixie Cup to one of the last vestiges of the 20th century -- when the 20th century was the 20th century. Not when the 20th century was VCRs and Watergate and AstroTurf. When the 20th century was Teddy Ballgame's 20th century. When it was Tommy Dorsey at the start of Ted Williams' career, and Elvis Presley at the end. When it was Ben Hogan, Sinatra and Ike.

Teddy Ballgame's century.

"AW, it wasn't MY century," he'd bark. "Why, there's TONY GWYNN and STAN Musial and JOE D. and THE BABE, you lunkhead. How could you forget about THEM? They could HIT!"

Ted Williams -- always allowed the last word around here, dwellers.

Now, with the world a lesser place, on to the Weekend List of Five:

1. Venus and Serena: the world tour
Serena Venus Williams
Serena, left, and Venus Williams somehow remain friendly despite their sibling rivalry.
As usual, much love from The Cooler for Les Soeurs Williams. Awesome stuff. The most potent sibling tandem since Tommy and Hank Aaron combined to hit 768 home runs, or since Bill and Roger Clinton combined to get elected to be President of the United States, not once, but twice.

The thing I don't get is, what kind of siblings are these two? What sibling doesn't want to destroy the other sibling in any event, ever? I know I've written about the epic, 1976 pingpong duels between my sister and me for the right to sit in the cushy green chair for ABC's power-packed Monday night lineup of "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley." Well, it didn't stop there. She and I played Trivial Pursuit two Christmases ago. She won by correctly identifying the roulette wheel as an invention of Blaise Pascal.

And I'm still hacked off about it.

I'm completely serious. Don't laugh. You've never lost to your sister at Trivial Pursuit, when she correctly identified the roulette wheel as the invention of Blaise Pascal.

Anyway, how do Serena and Venus go through these things not wanting to beat each other? I know this last match was their best yet, but I want shouts, I want finger-pointing, I want Smothers Brothers-inspired "Dad always liked you best!" in between points.

Another thing I want: Since Venus and Serena rule supreme, I say we bag the notion of having them fly to Paris or London or Melbourne or New York to prove, once again, that they will meet in a final. I say they throw a big league Uncle Charlie at the Tennis Establishment, and hold those matches on their childhood courts in Compton, Calif.

Yeah, baby. That's right. Straight outta Compton. Bring all those Dukes and Duchesses and watch them have their drivers navigate their Bentleys through the potholes of Compton, while Dre, Snoop and accompanying posses pull up alongside in low riders, sipping on gin and juice.

And somebody tell those royals while we're at it: No curtsying in Compton.

2. As for the men's final ...
Uh, sorry. Can't work up any energy over the linescore Hewitt d. Nalbandian, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

That's not a final. That's a line of agate from the Tuesday of the first week of Wimbledon, one of those "Anybody important lose today? No? Cool, I'm moving on with my sports day" results.

Somebody get Andy Roddick on steroids, pronto. We need a rivalry.

3. Eric Gagne: Makin' it look mean!
Am I just way behind the curve on this one, or has anybody made the Eric Gagne-Hanson Brothers call yet? And I don't mean a specific Hanson brother. I mean, any Hanson brother. You can make the Eric Gagne-Jeff Hanson/Eric Gagne-Steve Hanson/Eric Gagne-Jack Hanson call, and I'll give you a solid "9" on each. And I don't give out 9s.

What makes it all the more immediate is how lights-out Gagne is these days. This guy is as unstoppable as the tax man. Just killing teams. He's the reason the Dodgers, those gutless wonders of the last 15 years, are showing some stones.

And the look!

I can only imagine him in the clubhouse at Chavez Ravine with the aluminum wrap, and Jim Tracy walking by, saying: "What are you doing?" and Gagne shouting back, "Puttin' on the foil! Every game! Want some?"

Or Tracy trying to fire the team up before a big series against the Giants, and Gagne shouting out: "Bruce Sutter! Old-time closers!"

The vignettes could go on. But we'll stop and note that, should the french fry stand at Chavez Ravine run out of salt, they could just dip the potatoes in Gagne's lid. You seen that thing? Dude, throw on a new chapeau. They're free in the bigs, you know.

4. Grudgingly respecting the Atlanta Braves
File the Braves under my previously stated Phil Mickelson-Cockroach Theory. Certainly, there are things in this sports world you don't like, and the Braves never did it for me. It started with their '93 season, when their 104 wins rendered useless the Giants' 103 Ws. It moved on to their annual sameness; their seeming lack of passion; their corporate blandness; their unremarkable fans; and the sheer horror of the TBS announcing team.

Now, here they are.


Best record in baseball at the break.

At a certain point, you have to respect their addiction to winning, and I'm at that point.

Like Lefty, they are the cockroaches who refuse to die, despite much October pain.

As we mutually decided earlier, you have to Respect the Cockroach.

I guess.

5. Jerry Kelly: Teddy Ballgame would have loved him
The thing about Ted Williams was, he hated big shots, they said. His best friends were clubhouse attendants, cabdrivers and the working man. That was a nice thing about Ted Williams, who could have big-timed everyone he met.

And along comes the Man of the People himself, Jerry Kelly, to win the Western Open. Trust me: You'd love Kelly. Self-effacing, funny, unpretentious and, quietly, now the only man on Tour to win twice this year besides Mickelson, Len Mattiace and a guy named Tiger. I'd like to think Kelly's win was somehow arranged by the sports gods, to reward a good guy who Teddy Ballgame would have loved to hang out with. Wait. What would Ted say?

"AWWW, there's no such thing as a SPORTS GOD," Teddy Ballgame would bark. "Now finish up that DAMN COLUMN and go grab yourself a BEER!"

Whatever you say, Ted.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Johnson: It's been splendid

Sportoon: So long, Teddy Ballgame

Murphy: We don't need no stinkin' TiVo

Murphy: A clothes call in World Cup

Murphy: An artful gallery at Bethpage

Murphy: Conned by an ex-con

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