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Inside his room at Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 27, 1941, Ted Williams was jumpy and impatient. That might have been an apt description of the mercurial Williams at most times, but on this evening he had good cause for his unease.
His batting average stood at .39955 with a season-finale doubleheader to be played the next day at Shibe Park, home of Connie Mack’s Athletics. Since batting averages are rounded to the next decimal, Williams could have sat out the final two games and still officially crested baseball’s imposing .400 barrier.
At the time, Williams said, “If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”
But waiting it out in the hotel was asking too much. Recruiting the clubhouse man Johnny Orlando for companionship, Williams marched into the streets of Philadelphia. They walked for more than three hours, with Orlando stopping at bars for occasional sustenance as Williams, who rarely drank alcohol, sipped a soft drink outside.