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The New Haven Register sports department is celebrating our 200th birthday by sharing 200 of the most interesting stories relating to sports in Greater New Haven over the past 200 years. Check back daily for historical updates.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ted Williams plays at Yale just days before Boston debut



Ted Williams was still three days away from his first major league baseball game when he came to Yale Field with the Boston Red Sox for an exhibition against Yale on April 17, 1939.

“The Kid” was very much still a kid.

But expectations were sky high for Williams, a sweet-swinging lefty who, at 19, won the Triple Crown as a minor leaguer the previous season. Boston’s lineup was already loaded with veteran stars like player-manager Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx and ace Lefty Grove as well as rising stars like second baseman Bobby Doerr. The Red Sox cleared room in right field so Williams could be the opening-day starter, and his debut was anticipated around baseball.

Boston, swimming in talent, was expected to give the Yankees a run for the American League pennant. Register sports editor Dan Mulvey, previewing the exhibition, wrote, “The 1939 world champions (that’s what they think up in Boston) will play the Yale varsity nine at Yale Field this afternoon and the Red Sox will use all of their regulars with the exception of the top ranking hurlers.”

Boston, in fact, wanted to pitch Grove, and asked Yale to move the game up from 4 p.m. to 1. Cronin, who played minor league ball in New Haven, didn’t want his top pitchers working in the late afternoon chill. Yale wouldn’t budge. But not because it was looking for a competitive advantage.

Yale had dropped four straight games on a trip to the South. “Smoky” Joe Wood, star of Boston’s 1912 World Series championship team then in his 17th season as Yale’s coach, was unhappy with his team. He decided to start seven sophomores against the Red Sox, the lone upperclassmen being second baseman Al Alter and outfielder Eddie Collins Jr. — son of Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins, the Red Sox general manager at the time.

Read Chip Malafronte's complete story.

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October 7, 2012 at 10:45 AM 

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