Ted Williams: The Sequel
July 9, 2002
Only in America. No sooner had the eulogies to Ted
Williams died out than his children were haggling over his remains.
Weve all seen bereaved families interrupt the mourning to fight
over a legacy, but this is a new one.
I cant vouch
that the following story is true. I can only say that its been in the
papers and, after rubbing my eyes, I conclude that it is either hard fact or
a gigantic journalistic hoax. I would prefer to believe the latter.
I have always been a
Ted Williams fan. He was the thinking mans ballplayer par
excellence, and his passing has afforded my fellow pundits occasion to
display their intimacy with the awesome statistics that measure his
supremacy as a hitter.
For years the aging
baseball great, crippled by strokes and other infirmities, let his son, John
Henry, manage his business affairs, chiefly the sale of his autographs and
baseball artifacts. For the benefit of my Hottentot readers, I should
explain that athletes autographs are a huge business in America.
Given his peerless celebrity, Ted Williams could have made a fortune just
sitting in his wheelchair, signing baseballs.
So lucrative is the
autograph business that it has spawned a racket in forged autographs. Like
an art museum authenticating purported works of the Old Masters,
autograph collectors have to be very wary of clever fakes.
John Henry, fairly or
not, has been accused of exploiting the old man for his own gain. Certainly
he has made his own fortune. And he has made a reputation as a tough
negotiator, jealously guarding the goods.
You might think that
Teds passing would be a distinct setback for John Henry. It appears
not. Where a less enterprising young man would see only calamity, John
Henry appears to have seen new opportunity. He has reportedly had
Teds remains frozen in a cryogenics lab in Arizona.
In the normal cryonics
process, the body is frozen at an extremely low temperature after being
drained of blood and filled with a preservative solution. The idea is to
keep it until it can be thawed and revived somewhere down the road. But
Ted, or whats left of him, may face a somewhat different scenario.
Bobby Jo Ferrell, John
Henrys elder half-sister, bitterly opposes his project. Her husband
charges that John Henry wants to freeze Teds head and sell the
DNA in the future. Perhaps, with advances in cloning, myriads of new
Splendid Splinters could be produced in the next generation. That would
indeed be terrifying news for pitchers.
The Ferrells quote
John Henry as saying, Lets freeze Dad! One seldom
hears such a sentiment expressed outside science-fiction films. Most of
us have never had occasion to say it ourselves, even when our fathers
were at their most annoying.
If all this is true, it
might be fair to say that in John Henry Williams the commercial instinct
prevails over the filial. By a wide margin. He brings to business practices
some of the same scientific spirit his father brought to hitting a baseball.
Not that hes getting much credit for this. Most of the headlines
feature rather judgmental words like ghoulish.
When Ted bade the
game farewell with a mighty home run in his final appearance at the plate,
little did we suspect that he would one day make a comeback, of sorts, as
the raw material in a Frankenstein story. Or maybe baseballs
answer to The Boys from Brazil.
followed the Ted Williams story in the sports pages. From now on we may
be following it in the business section. This story adds new meaning to
Yogi Berras famous epigram: Its not over till
At the height of his
career, Ted was paid $125,000 per season. It seemed like a lot of money in
those days. Today John Henry would laugh such a sum to scorn. Why, one of
Teds ears would be worth several times that much!
On a personal note, I
wish my siblings and I had realized the profits that might be made
auctioning off your ancestors spare parts when we allowed Dad to
be cremated. We may have unwittingly incinerated a million dollars. Live
John Henry Williams is
a handsome young man with a lot of money. He seems to be unmarried. I am
confident that with any luck at all, he will find a lovely Goneril.