That Williams spent much of his life either hiding or downplaying his half-Mexican heritage is perhaps unsurprising given the biases that permeated his southern California upbringing and the segregated sport in which he became a star.
But the extent to which his ethnic background has remained obscured is striking. If one were to gather a roomful of passionate baseball fans today, I’d confidently wager that more than half would have no idea that Teddy Ballgame was among the first great Hispanic ballplayers in the big leagues.
In all, Williams lost five of his prime playing years to military service -- a fact that makes his final stat sheet all the more remarkable and that has long been a centerpiece in any discussion of his greatness.
After all, who could imagine a pro athlete in the modern era giving up all of the money and privileges of sports fame to serve his country?