Smell the Wood?

June 7, 2010

Yesterday I watched this great documentary on the life of my all time favorite player Ted Williams. Towards the end of the program, they showed footage from the 1999 All Star pre-game ceremony which turned out to be Ted’s final farewell to the world. In a touching, unscripted moment, all the past and present baseball heros crowded around Ted to pay their respects.

As the camera peered in, Williams called out for Mark McGwire. McGwire made his way through the crowd and as Ted took his hand and pulled him in close, he asked him, “do you ever smell the wood burning when you hit?” “Yep” replied McGwire.

And that brought back a flood of sensory memories for me.¬†Until I heard Williams ask that question, I just kinda took it for granted and forgot about it. When it happens, it happens so quickly – then it’s gone – that sometimes you’re unsure of whether you actually smelled it or not. It’s so ephemeral and dreamlike that you end up asking the umpire excitedly “did you get that?”

I love this photo of Ted.

I think we’ve probably all got a whiff of that smoke. At least all of us who’ve used wood bats. At least I think we have. Maybe it’s just because I was squatting back there, nose level to the impact of the bat and ball.

But the fact is, when someone just misses a pitch and maybe fouls it straight back, the wood burns. Especially when that someone swings the bat as hard as McGwire (or Williams I guess.) Or maybe it’s the ball burning. I’m not sure, but judging by the aroma, I’m pretty sure it’s the wood.

Anyway, just thought I’d share that little weird baseball insight….have you ever smelled the smoke of wood and leather colliding?

Before the 1999 All Star game, past and present stars pay respects to Ted Williams.

3 Responses to “Smell the Wood?”

  1. Jim McDowell says:

    I remember several years ago when Ernie Johnson was still doing Braves games, he was talking about pitching to Mickey Mantle in the World Series and smelling burning wood clear out at the mound when Mantle fouled one straight back.

  2. sstoerck says:

    I have never experienced the smell, but I can offer some insight into the SOUND of a 120 mph comebacker.

  3. Judy says:

    Wow I never knew about the phenomenon of burning wood, but this definitely makes sense as you explain it. Very cool. I just discovered your blog, and your perspective on the game is awesome, especially for those who have never had the opportunity to play the game for real (not to mention at a high level). People like me can only imagine what it’s like, which is something I often try to do. Also – what a great picture of Ted Williams! The photo that I included in a recent post was very different, but equally as good. I look forward to learning more next time I visit your site – thank you!

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