From the community

Ted Williams’ hispanic heritage still a surprise to many

Posted Jan. 09, 2014, at 11:45 a.m.

Journalist Ben Bradlee Jr. is doing a lot of interviews these days to promote “The Kid,” his new biography of baseball legend Ted Williams. One aspect of Williams’ family history that intrigued me is that his heritage is half-Mexican.

Teddy Samuel Williams — he changed it legally to Theodore years later — was born to Samuel Stuart Williams of southern California, who had Welsh and Irish heritage, and Micaela May (Venzor) Williams, who was born in 1891 in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican natives Pablo Venzor and Natalia (Hernandez).

On joining Major League Baseball in 1939, Williams was advised by his bosses against disclosing his Mexican heritage for fear of prejudice. Keep in mind that the first black player in the Majors, Jackie Robinson, didn’t take the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers until 1947.

There were a few hispanic players over the years in the Majors, particular during World War II when teams such as the Washington Senators were trying to fill rosters depleted by military service — including players such as the Red Sox’ Williams.

My dad watched both Stan Musial and Ray Lamano play baseball on Hawaii in 1945 when some players were assigned to military ball teams whose task was to keep up morale as soldiers and sailors were preparing to return to battle in the Pacific.

Previous books about and by Williams mentioned his hispanic heritage, but his ancestry didn’t get a lot of attention until after he died in 2002, at which time the fact ran a distant second in the media compared to family and public scrutiny over the decision to have parts of him preserved cryonically rather than embalmed or cremated.

This is not to suggest that Williams was ashamed of his heritage or didn’t have contact with his hispanic relatives. But racial, ethnic and religious aspects of people’s lives continued to result in many kinds of segregation in this country, and of course also were a focal point of the Holocaust during World War II.

Williams was inducted in the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, the same year he died. In addition to Spanish heritage — specifically Basque, Williams is reported to also have Russian and American Indian ancestry. I wasn’t able to find specifics about these lines.

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is part hispanic as well, since his mother is Cuban. Actress Alexis Bledel and comedian Louis C.K. also are hispanic, according to The Huffington Post, and in fact learned Spanish before they learned English.

I’ve been hearing for some time about the 1924 tax records for Portland, a set of volumes that many genealogists used at City Hall to find not only information on where their relatives lived, but photos of of where they lived, worked and found their sense of community.

How wonderful it is to find that 30,000 pages of “1924 Portland Tax Records” are being put on the Internet and may be searched at mainememory.net.

I looked up the surname Gould because relatives of my Steeves line once lived in the Portland area. I found not only pictures of residences owned by various Goulds from 1924, but one business that was co-owned by someone named Gould, and also leased by her.

Searches will look not only into the resource you specify, but through other collections as well. I so enjoy looking at photos shared by the Guilford Historical Society, trying to see if landmarks that remained through my growing-up years in the 1950s and 1960s can help me identify the viewpoint from which a photo was taken.

My years of parades with the Pisctaquis Community High School Band remind me that Guilford will mark its Bicentennial in 2016, while Sangerville turns 200 years old this year.

I notice that the town of Hermon already has announced several events for its Bicentennial this year.

Edward L. King, Grand Librarian and Webmaster of the Grand Lodge of Maine, will give a talk on “Freemasonry in Maine,” including resources available to genealogists on family members who were Masons..

Joint the Penobscot County Genealogical Society for this program at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, in the Lecture Hall on the third floor of Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow St. All are welcome, and an elevator is available inside the right-hand entrance of the library.

For more information on this talk, contact Chris Johnson at arating@roadrunner.com.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

This post was contributed by a community member. Submit your news →

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Living