In baseball and beyond, Williams was a true American hero
By Gordon Edes, Globe Staff, 07/06/02
Williams was rewarded with a $30,000 contract by Yawkey for the 1942 season, but by then the United States had entered World War II and with that came one of the uglier controversies of Williamsís career, revolving around his status for the draft. Initially, Williams was exempt on the grounds that he was the sole supporter of his mother. His father, Sam, had divorced May Williams, and his brother, Danny, was unreliable, at one point dismantling one of Williamsís cars to sell it for spare parts and on another occasion selling the new furniture Williams had purchased for their mother.
Danny Williams, who had leukemia, died at the age of 39. He had two sons, Samuel, which was his fatherís name, and Theodore, his brotherís name.
"I have to think poor Danny had a tormented life,íí Williams said in a 1988 Globe interview. "I know he was a thorn in my motherís side, always getting in scraps. He died tough.íí
Williams was reclassified 1A, making him draft-eligible, but on appeal to a special presidential commission, he was again made exempt, provoking howls of protest in Massachusetts, where he was accused of receiving preferential treatment. The controversy did not die until Williams enlisted in the Naval aviation training program on May 22.
Williams continued to play baseball in the 1942 season, and went on win the first of his two triple crowns, batting .356 with 36 home runs and 137 RBIs. After the season, Williams was officially activated as a Naval cadet and entered a civilian pilot training program at Amherst College with teammate Johnny Pesky. By January 1943, he was in Chapel Hill, N.C., for preflight training. He underwent basic flight training in Kokomo, Ind., and by December he was stationed in Pensacola.
On May 4, 1944, Williams married Doris Soule, the daughter of a hunting guide, whom he had met while playing in Minneapolis. When Williams was discharged from the service in 1946, the couple lived in an apartment in Brighton.