Appeal By Ted Williams' Teammates

Current and former Boston Red Sox players stand around Ted Williams' number 9 in left field as a U.S. Marine bugler plays taps at a memorial for the baseball legend at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts July 22, 2002. Williams, baseball's last .400 season average hitter, (.406) died July 5 at the age of 83. REUTERS

Red Sox fans gathered by the thousands Monday at Fenway Park to pay their respects to Ted Williams, who vowed as a rookie to become "the greatest hitter who ever lived."

About 12,000 people came to the ballpark in the morning to meander around the warning track past mementos of Williams' Hall of Fame career. At night, some 20,500 people bought tickets for a memorial service.

Inside Fenway, each base marked a milestone for Williams. At first, a "521" - the number of home runs he hit. At second, "USMC," marking his service in two wars as a Marine Corps pilot. And at third, a ".406" - his batting average in 1941. He was the last player to hit over .400.

At the evening service, nine white doves were released to soar over the outfield where Williams once roamed. In left field, white carnations were arranged in the shape of a "9," the number worn by the baseball and war hero. Among the speakers was John Glenn, the former senator and astronaut and Williams' squadron leader in Korea.

"Just saying his name means excellence in baseball," said Glenn, who flew more than a dozen missions with Williams. "For me, Ted also stood for excellence in a setting far removed from baseball and for which he is less well-known. ... He never held back."

Williams died July 5. His three children, who have been feuding since his death over what to do with his remains, declined invitations to attend the service.

His son, John-Henry Williams, wants his father's body to stay frozen in an Arizona cryonics lab. Williams' oldest daughter, Bobby Jo Williams Ferrell, said it was her father's will to be cremated. The dispute is pending in probate court in Florida.

Former teammate and longtime friend Dom DiMaggio drew a standing ovation when he broke from the program with an impassioned plea to scatter Williams' ashes over his favorite fishing spot, the Gulf of Mexico.

"I hope and pray this controversy will end as abruptly as it began and that the family will do the right thing by honoring Ted's last wishes as to his final resting place," DiMaggio said. "And may he then finally rest in peace."

Another former teammate and close friend of Williams, Johnny Pesky, also appealed for Williams' wish to be cremated to be respected.

Pesky's words were met by a standing ovation from fans gathered at Fenway.

Proceeds from the evening event were donated to the Jimmy Fund, Williams' favorite charity.

Fans had a chance to sign condolence cards, with many choosing to say simply, "Thanks, Ted."

"I saw your last homer," one wrote. "Awesome."

That's how the Red Sox chose to finish the program, with broadcaster Curt Gowdy narrating Williams' final at-bat - a home run - on Sept. 28, 1960.

"What a way to go out!"

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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