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Save the Lore, Not the DNA

July 10, 2002

Why couldn't they freeze Ted Williams back in the '40s and '50s when it really would have helped American League pitchers not in Red Sox uniforms? Now, unfortunately, Williams' family is split in an emotional legal fight over turning the deceased super-hitter's DNA into biological memorabilia. The apparent theory of one son, who isn't known for baseball skills and wasn't alive when Williams played, is that someone will pay to create a chip off the old block from the "Splendid Splinter." Is there no refuge from technology today? Or greed?

The Boston Red Sox, now appallingly part-owned by New Yorkers, can (as always) use all the help they can get. Remember how they sold Babe Ruth for $125,000 to the Yankees? Would George Steinbrenner pay that much for some Ted Williams DNA? And how did all this science stuff get into the sports pages?

Time was, sports was sports, a refuge for those favoring a final result daily. There were good guys and bad guys, home teams and the other guys. Sports had records, injuries, comebacks and at day's end a final, indisputable score. Today's sports also have police logs, murder trials, drugs, 10-year incentive-laden contracts and, now, struggles over body parts.

Williams (he was Teddy on the birth certificate) was not always popular even in Boston, where boos and cheers might punctuate the same inning. He sometimes responded by spitting. Here's who Williams was: a Marine pilot who played baseball. Enough said. He was competitive--on the field, where he broke numerous records, and in the sky, where he invested five years fighting for his country in two wars and twice lost to opposing MIGs.

Like fellow Californian Joe DiMaggio, Williams hated losing. When his 1941 manager offered him the chance to ride the bench and preserve a .400 season batting average, Williams refused. He finished at .406. The record stands. After a subpar .254 season in 1959, Williams demanded a 28% pay cut for his final year. That's right, a pay cut. Another record unthreatened in an era of Enron and Global Crossing. Williams' last at-bat: home run No. 521. Just last night, his name went on the All-Star MVP award.

Here's a plan: Cremate the Hall of Famer as he requested, mixing the ashes with those of his beloved Dalmatian, Slugger, and sprinkling them over the Florida Keys where they went fishing and often struck out. But let's save a pinch of ash to mix into the next batch of green paint that goes up on that left-field wall in Fenway Park. Dead or alive, Williams owns the place anyway.

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