Tuesday, 27 September 2011 00:00

Ted Williams & Investing

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Having a Dad from the Boston area who was a big baseball nut resulted in my hearing Ted Williams name mentioned as one of the greatest hitters ever to play baseball quite often.

Warren Buffett has mentioned that he feels Ted's discussion of which pitches he choose to swing at is very relevant to the investment arena because we can wait until we see the perfect investment pitch before we take a swing.

I have several paragraphs about Mr. Williams in the new edition of The Focus Investor that I'm working on but a recent New York Times article, Ted Williams's .406 is More Than a Number had several points that I think are worth quoting here.

"Williams spent the rest of his life — he died in 2002 — explaining that the .406 season was a result of his tireless dedication to what he labeled the science of hitting, and refining it consumed him. He did not, for instance, usually talk about fielding, base running or bunt strategy...

According to "Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero" by Leigh Montville, Williams would rise at 6 a.m. and, with his teammate Charlie Wagner, drive 20 minutes west of Boston to Sunset Lake, where they fished undisturbed for a couple of hours. With the games starting at 3 p.m., Williams arrived before noon and started swinging a bat or a broomstick in the clubhouse. Waving an object to mimic his baseball swing, even if it was a hair brush in front of a mirror, took up hours of Williams's days.

After many games, he took extra batting practice.

Adding to his comfort, he was familiar with most of the pitchers in the American League and had memorized their tendencies and pitching repertories. He mined the daily box scores for clues about each pitcher to update his mental databank. And because he was popular with umpires — he never argued balls and strikes — he could glean useful information about pitchers they had recently seen. Reaching base, Williams would converse with the nearest umpire, hoping to learn if someone had a new pitch or seemed overly reliant on his fastball. No insight was too small to Williams. (Such fraternization between umpires and players is now prohibited."

That kind of focus and determination is a great example of the type of ethic a good investor needs to be successful over the long-term. Hard work, focus, finding ways to develop slight advantages are all are necessary traits.

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