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Old 10-27-2018, 02:41 PM
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Arrow Ted Williams met George H.W. Bush in combat pilot training, and their friendship endu

Ted Williams met George H.W. Bush in combat pilot training, and their friendship endured
By: Anne Keene, Contributor - 10-27-18

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In the summer of 1942, the names of future President George H.W. Bush and Boston Red Sox slugger Theodore Samuel Williams were typed on the same page of a memorandum sent to the chief of naval personnel. This 76-year-old enlistment memo, shelved in an ocean of military files at the National Archives in St. Louis, survived a fire in 1973. Fraying with time, the delicate onion-skin record preserved a story of two ballplayers from different backgrounds who dared to become fighter pilots in the prime of their lives.

On his 18th birthday Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class after graduating from Phillips Academy in Andover. Williams was 23 years old when he signed up for the same V-5 Naval Aviation Cadet training program one of the fastest and most dangerous training routes for an enlisted man to earn his commission as a pilot.

On May 22, 1942, a publicity still of the Red Sox hitter electrified the baseball world when Williams posed in a wrinkled khaki trench coat, raising his hand to recite the oath against a backdrop of recruiting posters. Three weeks later, the former captain of the Andover baseball team was sworn into the Navy at that same recruiting station, located on Causeway Street in Boston.

Bush and Williams came from vastly different worlds privilege and poverty, stability and instability, understatement and astronomical fame. With his crooked grin, 94-year-old Bush is diplomatic and quick to use humor. The boom of Williams' voice rattled china and he never censored his use of profanity. But deep down, the left-handed ballplayers and combat pilots were united by a resolute work ethic and a humble willingness to serve their country.

In 1942, recruiting stations burst at the seams with millions of American men and women lining up to enlist in various service branches.

Fate would have it that Bush and Williams were selected from a pool of applicants by the Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Board in Boston. Their names were both misspelled on the memo to the chief of naval personnel as: WILLIANS, Theodore Samuel, and BUSH, George Herbert Nalker. The subject of the memo with slightly blurred lettering read, "Enlistment papers, transmittal, of."

With his .406 season-ending batting record in 1941, Williams topped the list, followed by his service number, 705-53-11. Bush, 705-55-04, was the 15th enlistee on the page among 21 brave young souls who aimed to join the newest generation of fighter pilots.

With sun-burned faces webbed with hard-earned wrinkles, Bush and Williams reunited years later as fishing buddies in the Florida Keys. Wearing bomber jackets, Williams campaigned for Bush in the 1988 election, helping him win the New Hampshire primary. In 1991, Bush awarded his friend the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing Williams' contributions to his fellow man through athletics and charity work such as the Jimmy Fund.

When Williams died in 2002, Bush said, "On and off the field [Ted Williams] believed in service to country and indeed served with honor and distinction. The Splendid Splinter was simply the best hitter baseball has known."

Lloyd McClendon, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, spoke more directly to the values of the nation when he said, "Ted was everything that was right about the game of baseball and if you really think about it, everything that is right about this country."

Politics aside, Bush and Williams were ballplayers at heart. Regardless of which team wins the 2018 World Series, the military service of these two shows our younger generations how to be a proud American.

About the writer: Anne R. Keene is the author of The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team That Helped Win World War II. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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