Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter...


October 31, 1990|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

:TC HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter was 72 yesterday. You remember him as the Boston Red Sox superstar of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. I remember him as the man who elected George Bush president.

I know, I said here last week that George Bush won the New Hampshire primary and thus the presidency because he, unlike his principal opponent, Sen. Bob Dole, was not on the Senate Finance Committee and thus could lie with a straight face that he wouldn't raise taxes ever.

But I have had my attention directed to a book by my Evening Sun colleagues, Jack Germond and Jules Witcover, about the 1988 election ("Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?") in which Dole's pollster said only 2 percent of Bush's voters in the New Hampshire voted for him because of the tax issue.

Since Bush won by 9 percentage points, it must have been something else, and I believe it was Ted Williams. Williams is a hero in New England all these years after he retired. Bush took him around with him in New Hampshire during the primary campaign.

I accompanied the Bush tour one day when Williams was along. At every stop, from an old folks' home, where people remembered him, to a community college, where youngsters had only heard of him in the sense they had heard of, say, Abe Lincoln and other historical figures, I saw many people ask Williams for his autograph. But none asked the other prominent figure accompanying Bush for his. That was John Sununu, the state's governor.

So I figure the real kingmaker was the ballplayer, not the politician.

Politics can get rough in New Hampshire. Dole called Bush a liar there in 1988. This year, in the Senate race to fill a vacancy caused by a senator's retirement, the rhetoric is even more heated.

John Durkin, a Democrat, is running to get back into the Senate. He's the guy who lost a U.S. Senate race by two votes in 1974. The Senate, which had a Democratic majority, voted not to seat the Republican winner, since it was so close. So New Hampshire had a second election, which Durkin won easily.

Then in 1980, he lost by a wide margin to Warren Rudman. Now he's back, but trailing Rep. Bob Smith, the Republican candidate, in part at least because of some apparently effective and wounding anti-Durkin ads paid for by a trade group of auto dealers who sell mostly Japanese imports.

Here is Durkin's cool, reasoned, New England Yankee reaction to this: "The same Japs who planned and carried out a sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941, are now planning a sneak attack on the voters of New Hampshire on Nov. 6, 1990! They buy Rockefeller Center and try to turn the Rockettes into geishas! That's bad enough! But here they're trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat! It's not a racist comment! It's true! If you want a Jap in the U.S. Senate, vote for Bob Smith! Bob Made in Japan Smith!"

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.