Say It Ain’t So

No 'roids there...

No 'roids there...

Where have you gone, Teddy Baseball, Red Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to you —

Woo woo woo.

Actually, we know where he’s gone — his body to dust, and his head to a large freezer, apparently behind the bottle of chilling vodka chugged by some lab jerk.

This is just so wrong: It has been from the start, and it just gets worse.

The NY Daily News today reported that a new book claims Ted’s cryogenically frozen head, kept at an Arizona facility since his death in 2002, has been used for batting practice by some yahoo there. Not tossing it up to hit fungoes, thankfully, but the reality isn’t much prettier. Evidently the guy took some whacks at it with a monkey wrench. RIP indeed.

I was too young to see Williams play; he had already passed the left-field Fenway torch to Yaz, who became my childhood hero. But I knew all about the Splendid Splinter, he of the extra-keen eyes and somewhat surly demeanor, the guy who would have only added to his status as the greatest hitter ever if he hadn’t lost five prime seasons serving his country.

Inside RFK Stadium: Our seats were better...

Inside RFK Stadium: Our seats were better...

I could have met Williams, I think, if I had been a little more astute. During the summer of 1969, we took our last long family road trip (cruises soon replaced them, thankfully, which meant my sister and I had almost complete freedom when we were at sea) to Washington D.C. Yes, the monuments and museums were fine, but the highlight for me was seeing the Red Sox play the Senators in an old-fashioned doubleheader at RFK Stadium. I do not remember the scores, but I know we waited patiently after the game to get autographs. See, I have them right inside this program…with Ted Williams on the cover!

Teddy Manager

Teddy Manager

What was I thinking? Forget Bill Lee and Tony C, the guys whose signatures I did get. Have Williams sign that photo of him on the cover of the program, and I am one wealthy dude! OK, not retire-wealthy, or even buy- a-new-car-wealthy. But it would be worth something, right?

Now in 1969, I knew nothing about the world of baseball paraphernalia. I don’t think there was much of one then, certainly not like today. And I was perfectly content to have Lee (stoned?) and Conigliaro scribble in my program. But to think of the opportunity missed…

Well, no matter. What would I have really remembered from getting Williams’ signature? I’d have the name in black and white, but I doubt I’d recall any more than I do about getting the autographs I got – which is basically nada. It was hot. We waited outside the stadium. The players signed. They got on a bus. Everybody went home.

A beautiful thing

A beautiful thing

Besides, the one memory I have of Williams, even if only a TV one, is much more powerful. 1999 All-Star Game, Fenway Park: Williams comes onto the field, and the modern players lovingly surround him. They know one of the truly greats will not be around much longer. They know – yes, even the pampered millionaire stars of today – what he meant to the game. I’m pretty sure I cried a bit, just as I did when the Sox blew the ’86 World Series, but for a totally different reason. Yes, I am a sentimental sap. Best to keep that Fenway image in my mind, and not the sad one of a decapitated frozen head. Or the wretched one of some sicko taking swings at it.

Teddy, you deserved much better.


~ by mburgan on October 2, 2009.

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