“Ted Williams, who was the greatest hitter in baseball … spent time with me telling me the do’s and don’ts for a young kid. But his team didn’t like that.”
My mother is wildly into baseball, as was her mother. I don’t think my father’s growing up near Tito Francona played any part in their getting married, but I’m sure the day she found out he was a family friend was very exciting. To me, Tito is a kind face whenever I return to my father’s hometown to visit family, not a famous ball player weary of reporters.
Tito Francona was born November 4, 1933 in Aliquippa, PA. He started playing baseball very young, and seemingly had a knack for it. At age ten, his family moved to New Brighton, PA – where my father grew up. There was no baseball team there at that time, so Tito began waking up at 6am to ride with his dad who worked at the steel mill to play with the Aliquippa team. His continued play throughout grade school and high school garnered the interest of scouts, who helped him begin his career as a major league baseball player.
My favorite part of Tito’s story isn’t his records, but what took place on the morning of Tito’s first major league game. His roommate had advised he break into the ball park before it was open in order to acclimate himself to the new field. Here, in his own words, is the story of how he met opposing ball player Ted Williams.
Tito played with the likes of Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra. Tito went on to be the technical leader for the batting championship in 1959 while playing for the Cleveland Indians, but lacked enough at-bat’s to qualify. Even so, his team celebrated the victory by wheeling a tea cart onto the field, a silver tea set on top, and a bag filled with 363 silver dollars (the count of his record). I was able to see the tea cart in his home during the interview.