At this time last year, Ted Williams — not the legendary slugger but the man with the golden voice — was homeless and bumming money on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.
This week, his signature, baritone pipes officially debuted on New England Cable News as he became the voice of the regional network and its 9 p.m. newscast.
“What another blessing that God has bestowed upon me in the year 2011,” Williams said last night while waiting for his mother at a Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant. “A year ago today, I was homeless and toothless and everything else-less.”
Williams, 54, rocketed to fame in January after a Columbus newspaper reporter videotaped the panhandler delivering his marquee voice-overs as he held a cardboard sign that read: “I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times.”
The clip became a web sensation and made Williams an overnight hit who was suddenly appearing on national TV shows, delivering the opening of the “Today” show and fielding job offers.
But it was too much too soon.
Williams said he was mismanaged. He also ended up in rehab. Yesterday, the upbeat announcer said he’s been sober since May 4.
Williams was in the Hub this week to appear on NECN to tout his new gig. Staffers surprised him with a No. 9 Red Sox [team stats] jersey of the Hall of Famer who bears the same name.
NECN station manager Stacey Marks Bronner sought out Williams because he’s got a “one-of-a-kind voice,” in the words of station spokesman Skip Perham.
The father of nine now lives in a condo in Dublin, Ohio, with his longtime girlfriend, doing the voice-over work for NECN from his at-home studio. He said he’s got a great lawyer, mended “a few bridges that were kind of burnt” with family members and has an inspirational memoir coming out next year.
While in jail on a probation violation last October, Williams said he wrote up a wish list for 2011, which included getting dental work, new glasses and making “a better person of myself.”
“Within months, I’ve got Gucci glasses on and $46,000 worth of dental work,” Williams said.
This Thanksgiving will be a far cry from Williams’ last one — when he went to a Wendy’s restaurant and a church that feeds the homeless. He plans to spend this Turkey Day with family and friends.
“I wish this would have happened 25 years ago,” Williams said of his life makeover. “Better late than never, and thank you Jesus.”