The roadrunner cartoon over,
The movie previews done,
The lights finally went down,
When a tall, looming silhouette,
Big and strong like John Wayne,
Came up the darkened aisle of the old Ritz
Theatre in the spring of 1968, when
And where we took our high school dates
To watch movies in the only cinema
In that little Florida town.
The opening credits began,
Another movie star’s name,
When the tall figure turned into
The same row where my date
And I sat on the outside—we had to swing
Our knees to let him pass. So annoying,
I said to her, but as the screen lighted up
Our faces and I glanced over to the man now
Seated on my right, I saw a familiar face, one
I couldn’t place, yet a famous face,
Though it took a minute of scratching
Before I realized that Ted Williams
Was sitting next to me, a man
Who had been the real deal,
One of the greatest hitters in the game,
Even a fighter pilot in the Korean War.
Yet in that accidental brush with fame
I found myself asking, but why a man
Known for his meticulous sense of timing
Would enter a movie late?
But as the movie’s story shifted into
Its first complication, I asked myself,
Wait, had Willams cultivated
A tardy, movie habit? To avoid being
Recognized by an awed public?
I barely watched the movie
As I pondered and wondered.
Williams was a split-second specialist,
Here was a man who had his timing down
So precisely that I guessed he’d
Lingered in his car out on Central Avenue,
Clutching a stopwatch in his right hand
As surely as he would a baseball bat,
He knowing well the time the movie started,
He watching the minutes and seconds
Until he was sure the movie previews
Were done and the lights gone down,
when he could safely enter the theatre
And not be recognized by the movie crowd,
Who would be begging for autographs,
Asking the same question as they had
Up in Boston—hey man, how did you do it?
How does a mortal man hit 400
In a season? And the answer they say
That Ted Williams often gave:
“The timing, it’s all in the timing.”
Reed Venrick Lives in Florida usually writes on nature themes.