Friday, January 28, 2011

The myths and facts about Ted Williams' vision

From Dr. Robert Levy:

So Dr. Paull's recent entry about our 20/10 patient reminded me of the late great Red Sox player, Ted Williams, one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time. Williams was rumored to be able to see 20/3 (able to see from 20 feet away what a normal-sighted patient can see from three feet away); rumored to be able to see the seams on a baseball as they approached him at 90-100 miles-per-hour and tell by the spin of the seams whether the ball was going to be a fastball (straight pitch) or a breaking ball (curve ball or the like); was rumored to be able to read the label on a 78rpm record as it spun (records are what we had before compact discs and mp3s, for you young-uns).

While these make for amusing stories, Williams himself admitted that none of them were true. He DID in fact have 20/10 acuity, same as our star patient from the last blog entry, meaning he could see from 20 feet away what normal-sighted people could see from 10 feet away - but the other myths and legends were just that, myths and legends. Although as he entered the Marines as a pilot in World War 2, the ophthalmologist performing Williams' entry examination said his vision was on the order of a "1 in 100,000 occurrence."

Still, this remarkable vision was one contributing factor to his being one of the best hitters of all time, and to date, the last player to hit over .400 for an entire season. His lifetime batting average ranks among the best of all-time as well.

So he may not have been able to see the seams on a spinning baseball, or read the label on a spinning 78rpm record, but his actual visual acuity is still legendary.

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