What’s Missing from THE KID


TheKidCoverI am reading THE KID (New York:  Little, Brown, and Company, 2013) about Boston Red Sox superstar Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee, Jr.. This is a book that I got from Randy at Christmas, and I am about 250 pages in right now.

I am enjoying this book. I find it well-researched and documented, organized, and well-written.

It is hard for me to describe, but for some reason, I am irritated about the heavy use of secondary sources. I understand that Ted Williams has been dead for twelve years, and obviously, Bradlee could not interview him for the book. For that matter, Bill O’Reilly could not interview Abraham Lincoln for Killing Lincoln.

But, if you look at the many footnotes and references, there is a significant reliance on previous books and articles about Williams, including extensive quotations from the star hitter himself that appeared in these works.

The problem is not documentation. There is nothing stolen or plagiarized here. What is missing, however, are primary sources, such as original interviews by Bradlee with Williams’ family and descendants, or original observations resulting from Bradlee’s personal travel to Cooperstown, Boston, Pensacola, or San Diego (Williams’ home town). I don’t get the sense that I am reading Bradlee’s subjective take on Williams, as much as I am reading an objective master’s thesis put together from a physical or online library.

If you aren’t familiar with Ben Bradlee, Jr., I found his biography on his website, at http://www.benbradleejr.com:

BenBradlee PictureBen Bradlee Jr. is the author of the New York Times best-selling biography The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, published by Little, Brown on December 3, 2013.

He spent 25 years, from 1979 to 2004, with The Boston Globe 10 years as a reporter and 15 as an editor.

As a deputy managing editor, Bradlee oversaw the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church from July 2001 to August 2002, and also supervised the production of a book on the subject, “Betrayal”, which Little, Brown published to critical acclaim in June, 2002.

His first editing assignment was as Political Editor, supervising the paper’s State House and City Hall bureaus in 1989 and 1990. He then served as Assistant Managing Editor for local news from January of 1991, to November of 1993, when he was named Assistant Managing Editor for Projects and Investigations. He was later promoted to Deputy Managing Editor, while retaining the same position. In that capacity, Bradlee oversaw the Spotlight Team (the Globe’s investigative unit) and several other reporters who produced longterm projects or series. He also worked on an adhoc basis with reporters on the metropolitan, business, national and foreign staffs in producing special projects, and occasionally, wrote major pieces himself.

As a reporter, he served on the Spotlight Team, at the State House bureau, and as the paper’s roving national correspondent from 1982-1986. He covered the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis and also reported overseas for The Globe from Afghanistan, South Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Vietnam.

Bradlee has written three previous books. His first was “The Ambush Murders”, the case of a black activist accused and ultimately acquitted after three trials of killing two white policemen in Riverside, Calif. It was a story about smalltown justice and how justice functions in emotionally-charged circumstances when police investigate the deaths of two of their own. The book was published in 1979 by Dodd, Mead, and later made into a television movie for CBS.

Bradlee was co-author of “Prophet of Blood” the story of polygamous cult leader and self-styled prophet of God Ervil LeBaron, whom authorities considered responsible for up to a dozen murders in the Intermountain West and Mexico during the 70’s. The book which explored the interplay between sex, violence and religion in an offshoot of the Mormon Church was published by G.P. Putnam in 1981.

Bradlee’s third book was “Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North.” Published by Donald I. Fine Inc. in 1988, the book chronicled North and the Iran-Contra affair, and was the basis for a four-hour television mini-series which aired on CBS in May of 1989.

A graduate of Colby College, Bradlee served in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan from 1970-1972. On his return to the United States in 1972, he went to work as a reporter for the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, remaining there until mid 1975.

Bradlee has three children. He and his wife Janice live outside Boston.

Don’t let these comments stop you from reading this book. I am reading things here I did not know. And, perhaps about 500 pages from now, I will feel differently.

I understand that I received this book to learn about Williams, not Bradlee.  And, there has been enough written about Ted Williams where it is hard to say something new.  However, the author’s stamp is what makes a book unique.   How the author writes about what we might already know is what gives a book like this its value.

So, for now, at page 250, where is Ben Bradlee, Jr., in this book?

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