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· Hall Of Fame
5,047 Posts
God bless one of the greatest players to ever live. "Teddy Ballgame" shall be remembered the way that he always dreamed of being remembered, the greatest hitter that ever lived.

A friend of mine just emailed me this, so I thought I would pass it along.

Ted Williams proved expert a long time ago at saying goodbye, so if now is the time when he must leave for good, then that is the way it is, and there's nothing to do but wish him Godspeed, close our own eyes for a moment and savor those black and white memories.

This time, sadly, with finality.

Williams' was one of the most dramatic and famous exits ever in baseball. His body betraying him at 42, his retirement imminent, Williams stepped up to the Fenway Park plate on a late September afternoon in 1960. And then he promptly deposited a pitch by Baltimore's Jack Fisher over the wall in his final at-bat.

And that was it. While the Red Sox headed for New York after the game for a meaningless, season-ending series with the Yankees, it was almost as if the heavens opened up and Williams ascended. He didn't need to go to New York, he had already delivered his own stylish benediction.

As so often happens when legends bid farewell, then and now, we don't mourn today so much for the man as we do for all of those late afternoons of our own youth, when we thought we could forever out-race the shadows creeping across the grass. Williams did for so many years, first with a bat on a baseball field, then with a fishing reel on the open seas and, finally, over much of the past decade, with a pacemaker implanted inside a body that refused to cave to disease and weakness.

He was so good that we came to expect him to overcome the odds, bat .400, fly bravely into the teeth of World War II, reel in the big one. As John Updike wrote for the New Yorker magazine in 1960, in probably the best piece ever written on Williams:

"This brittle and temperamental player developed an unexpected quality of persistence. He was always coming back -- back from Korea, back from a broken collarbone, a shattered elbow, a bruised heel, back from drastic bouts of flu and ptomaine poisoning. Hardly a season went by without some enfeebling mishap, yet he always came back, and always looked like himself.'

Early in his career, Williams once said, "All I want out of life is when I walk down the street, folks will say, "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.''

By the time Fisher's pitch landed on the other side of the Fenway fence and Williams finished with a career batting average of .344, -- heck, even all the way until Williams' death -- that's pretty close to what folks were saying.

You can argue that there have been better pure hitters in the game, such as Ty Cobb, or that there have been better power hitters, such as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or even Barry Bonds. But as far as combining the two skills, if Williams doesn't rank at the top of the charts, he isn't more than a strong wind away, either.

Several batters have taken runs at a .400 average over the years, but nobody has done it since the Splendid Splinter popped for .406 in 1941. Plus, he swatted 521 career homers.

Boston, though, always has been a tough town, and as so often happens with the legends, the greatness was even better appreciated from a distance. During his career, the disdain between Williams and Boston fans and sportswriters often was mutual. His spiteful treatment of the press may have cost him Most Valuable Player awards. And he adamantly refused to tip his cap to the fans, ever.

Even when they were on their feet begging for a curtain call when he homered in his final career at-bat.

Again, Updike: "Immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.'

But sometimes Gods answer prayers. And so it was that Williams spent many years of his life actively raising money for the Jimmy Fund, a charity for children with cancer. And so it was that he granted baseball's fondest wish in 1999 by accepting an invitation to appear at the All-Star Game -- an emotional homecoming to Boston's Fenway Park.

There he was at the pitcher's mound before the game, frail and aged, All-Stars from both leagues surrounding his wheelchair, showering him with the affection that always mattered most, anyway: Affection coming from peers, or would-be peers, in an re-affirmation of his art.

So many ceremonies are frivolous, packed with phony dimestore emotion and spritzed-on tears.

Not this one. This one was marvelous, and as lips quivered and eyes welled, if you closed your eyes tightly enough, you could see that sweet, Hall of Fame swing one more time.

· Godfather/Supporter
444 Posts
The ceremonies at Fenway Park last night were very moving. Even after the game, the "At Bat" sign on the left field scoreboard had the number 9 lit. A 9 was also mowed into the left-field grass.

I had the privilege of attending the 1999 All Star game where Ted made his last appearance at Fenway. It was electric. All the current all-stars gathered around his cart and were truly impressed with the legend. You could tell the New Englanders from the out-of-towners--we were the ones tearing up.

Ted, we will miss you.
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