Seeing is Believing: Old Photos of Ted Williams Suddenly Appear at Suffolk University

9/5/2002

By Tony Ferullo

Sometimes you find the best things when you’re not even looking for them.

Take, for example, the surprised look on Sara Chadwick’s face when she was doing some cleaning at work recently and discovered a photo of a true American Hero -- Ted Williams.

Chadwick, Assistant Director of the New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University (NESADSU) in Boston, and Bill Davis, Chairman of NESADSU, were going through boxes of old materials a few months ago when Chadwick stumbled across an interesting shot of The Splendid Splinter.

"I couldn’t believe it," said Chadwick, a resident of Middletown, Rhode Island. "I said, ‘Gee, Bill, I think the man in this picture is Ted Williams.’"

Chadwick, who has been working at the New England School of Art & Design since 1978 (the school merged with Suffolk University in 1996), says that finding the Williams photo remains a personal mystery.

"I looked through those boxes at other times over the years, but I never noticed that photo of Williams before," said Chadwick. "I can’t explain why I found it now. It was kind of coincidental with Williams being in the news so much lately."

The photo shows Williams sitting back in a chair, having his portrait drawn by what appears to be two art students. Williams is dressed in a pair of light slacks, a white shirt and a hunting jacket.

What makes this photo so unique, however, is that Williams, who passed away on July 5, 2002 at 83 years of age, is not the only famous athlete in it. Jack Sharkey, the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, is seated on a nearby table, facing Williams, who is holding a piece of paper in his right hand out towards Sharkey.

Chadwick was curious when and where the photo was taken. So, in her best impersonation of Nancy Drew, she e-mailed Dick Bresciani, Boston Red Sox Vice President of Publications and Club Historian, to see if he could provide her with any helpful information. She also contacted the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the head curator of which is Ted Spencer, a 1963 NESAD graduate.

According to Bresciani’s e-mail to Chadwick, "the picture may have been taken at a mid-winter Sportsman’s Show at the old Mechanics Building or Boston Arena. Ted and Jack Sharkey were annual participants and Ted would do fly-casting exhibits. Ted looks pretty young so it may have been taken in the mid-to-late 1940’s."

On a mission to uncover the truth, Chadwick kept searching for answers. She called Ed Germano, a former NESADSU faculty member and a longtime sports cartoonist who spent much of his career exhibiting his craft for Boston-area newspapers. He was one of those people who actually knew Williams. Chadwick sent Germano a copy of her Williams photo to see if he could determine its origin.

"I did have the chance to talk with Johnny Pesky and showed him Ted’s picture," said Germano in a fax to Chadwick. "I also showed it to another baseball friend and it has been pretty much agreed that the photo was taken at a location in Boston known as Mechanics Hall/Building that used to be where the Pru (Prudential Building) is now.

"Ted and Jack Sharkey appeared at the Sportsman’s Show giving fly fishing exhibitions for a week several times a day. The photo looks like the interior of the pressroom, which also served as a VIP area where Williams and Sharkey met newspaper and radio media (no television, of course) for interviews. The room was just next to the main hall where Williams performed."

Also shown in the photo is a young boy seated next to the woman art student. A man, who appears to be a reporter as a notebook is tucked inside his left coat pocket, is sitting next to Sharkey. A fedora on top of an old Remington typewriter sits between Sharkey and the unidentified man.

"No one knows who the young boy is or the man sitting next to Sharkey," said Chadwick. "I don’t know if we’ll ever find out who they are or the two art students for that matter."

When Suffolk veteran athletic director Jim Nelson heard about Chadwick’s discovery, he went into his personal files and pulled out a stunning photo sent to him years ago of Williams wearing a Suffolk University Varsity Club jacket. Joining Williams, who autographed the photo taken in 1950, are former Suffolk students Dick Conway and Don Shea.

Nelson, who is beginning his 37th year working at Suffolk, then found an old school newsletter, titled The Suffolk Report, where Conway, now deceased, is quoted about the Suffolk-Williams connection.

"Ted was at the Sportsman’s Show giving his flycasting demonstration when Shea (then a Suffolk baseball player) and I went over to give him the news (about being chosen as a Suffolk Varsity Club member)," said Conway, a 1950 Suffolk graduate. "He was gracious and a wonderful gentleman and wanted to know about Suffolk University and its baseball program, which was in its infancy at the time."

According to the newsletter, two years later, legendary athlete Jim Thorpe was inducted into the Suffolk University Varsity Club. "With Williams and Thorpe, you can’t do much better than that," said Nelson. "They were the best in their fields."

As for Chadwick, she plans on paying more attention the next time she cleans out her office. "I’ll be more careful from now on," she said. "You never know what you’re going to find."

For more information, please contact:
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

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