Splendid Splinter stamped forever

Back in July, postage stamps honoring baseball greats Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell and Larry Doby were unveiled at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Sunday, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Williams stamp again, this time in Islamorada, where he loved to fish the flats, and had a home.

The ceremony at Robbie’s Marina on Lower Matecumbe Key included local fishing legends such as Stu Apte and Skip Bradeen, among others.

Williams is considered the greatest player for the Boston Red Sox ever, and one of the greatest overall. He’s the last batter to hit .400 (.406 in 1941) and finished his playing days with a .344 average, 521 homers and two MVP awards over 19 years.

But his love of fishing was right up there with baseball, and he was a fixture on the Islamorada flats. His home was on Florida Bay.

Williams, an early advocate of catch-and-release fishing, helped launch the Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament that expanded the popularity of backcountry fly fishing, and was among the first major celebrities to fish the Redbone benefit tournament founded by Gary and Susan Ellis.

When the stamp was initially unveiled, Gary Ellis said: “When Ted lent his name, that made a big difference in being able to lure other celebrities.”

Apte met Williams in 1948, sharing his secret fishing spots for three months before he knew Williams was a baseball player.

Williams, known as the Splendid Splinter, later signed his $100,000 annual endorsement with Sears at Apte’s home in the Keys because Williams didn’t want to miss out of three days on fishing with a trip to Chicago.

Williams died in 2002 in Inverness, southwest of Ocala.

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