In 1941, a teenager took it upon himself to see his favorite baseball player in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in history
Baseball fans all have that one player who speaks to them more than any other. It’s the player they love to watch play, agonize over their stats and dream the impossible dream that one day they might be able to meet their hero. In 1941, a 14-year-old boy from Maine was watching his favorite player, Ted Williams, have one of the great seasons in baseball history and decided he couldn’t wait. He had to go see the Splendid Splinter in person, and when no other alternative presented itself, he hitchhiked 250 miles to Boston and got himself a sit-down meeting with the legendary outfielder.
In 1941, Ted Williams was on top of the baseball world. The 22-year-old left fielder for the Boston Red Sox was in his third big-league season and having what would prove to be his best year in a 19-year Hall-of-Fame career. Appearing in 143 games, the man with the sweet left-handed swing hit .406 with 37 home runs and 120 RBIs. He would have won the Triple Crown except he finished five ribbies behind leader Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees. He also led the league in walks, runs scored, on-base and slugging percentages. Largely due to the magical 56-game hitting streak of DiMaggio, he finished second in MVP voting.
As Williams was tearing through American League pitchers, 14-year-old Billy Kane was following him closely up in South Brewer, Maine, a modest town just outside of Bangor. Living in the heart of Red Sox country, it’s little surprise that the team’s biggest star was his hero. The roughly 250 miles that separated him from Fenway Park might as well have been 10,000. No matter the distance, the teenager was determined to see his favorite player play in person.
On Labor Day, Kane listened in as Williams helped torch the Washington Senators, as the Red Sox took both games of a doubleheader by a combined score of 23–11. The left fielder went three-for-five with three home runs, five RBIs, four walks and five runs scored. It pushed his patting average to .410 on the year. He was simply unable to wait any longer to see his god of the diamond play in person. With nobody to take him to Bean Town, the boy decided to hit the road and take matters into his own hands.
Experiencing the benefit of a much safer time, Kane hitchhiked down the New England Coast to Boston. Arriving on September 2nd, he faced the crushing blow of arriving on a Red Sox off day, which he had not been aware of previously. Without a fully formed plan in place, he decided to wait at Fenway Park where the Yankees were scheduled to play the next four games.
Police officers doing a nightly patrol of the park found Kane asleep in one of the aisles, no doubt dreaming about the upcoming game. The trespasser was taken to the local precinct where he told his story to a number of amused officers, a few of whom went to the nearby Shelton Hotel, where Williams was about to settle into bed for the night. They informed him of his dedicated young fan, which was enough for him to get dressed and go visit him at the police station.
After Williams met with the incredulous boy, he invited him to be his personal guest at the game the next day. The story was immediately picked up by the press and became a wide-spread story. Although Boston lost 2–1 in 11 innings, Ted continued his hot run with a hit and two more walks.
It’s lost to history what happened to young Mr. Kane. He likely had some explaining to do once he got back home but that was no doubt heavily outweighed by his once in a lifetime adventure with his baseball hero. It only goes to show that some baseball dreams aren’t necessarily unattainable, they just need a little more ingenuity and determination than others.