Put Steinbrenner (And Friends) On Ice

FILE-- Ted Williams is shown at-bat in this June, 15, 1939, file photo at Fenway Park in Boston. Williams, the Boston Red Sox revered and sometimes reviled ``Splendid Splinter'' and baseball's last .400 hitter, died Friday, July 5, 2002, of cardiac arrest at Citrus County Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Fla., said hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Martin. He was 83. (AP Photo/File) AP

Ted Williams never conformed, so baseball's protectors shouldn't beat their breasts over his cryogenic condition. Instead, according to the latest Against the Grain commentary by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer, they should lock the players, owners and especially the Yankees in the freezer.


Ted Williams' son, John Henry Williams, has at least one ally in his plan to put his dad into the deep freeze – me.

I know, I know: the entire right-thinking world is shocked and appalled at John Henry's grotesque and greedy stunt. Baseball, convened for the sacred All-Star Game, is saddened by the indignity.

John Henry Williams' half sister says he's violating his father's memory and wishes just so that someday he might be able to make some big bucks by selling The Splendid Splinter's DNA to over-eager fathers and conniving sports agents.

My view is more simple: anything Ted Williams can do, dead or alive, to defeat and degrade the New York Yankees is a virtue.

If his DNA can someday be used to breed or even clone beautiful hitters who can help teams of honor – the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, A's, Orioles, Indians, Tigers (certainly not the Dodgers) – destroy the Damn Yankees, America will be a better and safer place.

I mean absolutely no respect to the last man to hit over .400.

The highlight of my own career, by far, came on Saturday, February 13, 1988, when I got to spend the day with Williams. Williams spent the day in New Hampshire, Red Sox country, campaigning for Bush the Elder. Williams' idea of campaigning seemed to be to stay far away from the candidate and his handlers, and hang out with a few reporters he could stomach.

Besides being the best pure hitter ever, Williams was a master fly fisherman and a world-envied caster. I could never hit a fifth-rate fastball, but I can cast a line. For me, Williams was, in a friend's phrase, a "double icon." He told great stories, he was funny and crusty as hell, he had the biggest hands I'd ever seen, he was the most b.s.-less guy imaginable and I was in awe and ecstasy for a day.

Williams was a great American Contrarian. He did nothing by the script and flipped off any expectations the world had of him. A bizarre and even unseemly twist to the story of his death isn't at all out of tune with the story of his life. It's not a bad part of the legend.

The Williams family feud and the cryogenic calamity are not symbols of what is wrong with baseball today. The Yankees are.

John Henry Williams' greed pales in comparison to the players, agents, marketers and owners who run the game now.

Williams isn't the sideshow at this All-Star Game. There are two real travesties. First, the players are again threatening a strike. Not content with an average – repeat, average – salary of $2.3 million a year, the union of steroid-sucking players wants to insure the survival of a system where mega-rich teams can jack up player salaries even more.

The second story is an old one. The ultimate mega-rich team, the Damn Yankees, have once again bought themselves a pennant.

This is a trend that began in January 1920 when the Yankees bought the best money could buy – Babe Ruth. Thus was born The Curse of the Bambino. It has dogged non-New Yorkers ever since.

The Curse continued this winter. Not content with semi-dominance, the Yankees sacked a few loyal veterans and spent $119 million on first baseman Jason Giambi.

Now, frustrated they were only two games ahead in first at mid-season, Steinbrenner's Yankees pulled out their wad again. They'll spend a cool $5.5 million this season and $7 million next year for so-so slugger Raul Mondesi. And they gobbled up a young stud pitcher from the hapless Detroit Tigers named Jeff Weaver. Who said you can't buy me love? You can't; the Tigers can't; the Yankees can.

So as the Yankees (and the Mets, and the Dodgers) gobble up free agents and inflate salaries, the league wants to take baseball away from cities that can't find the dough to compete, like Montreal and Minneapolis. The one feel-good baseball story of the year is that those teams are actually having good seasons with Triple-A rosters.

Sometime around the playoffs, there's a good chance the players will go on strike and the fans will be insulted. Some won't return to the ballparks and box scores, but most will. Fans are loyal and noble creatures, even if they root for rats.

So baseball shouldn't fret that the Fenway freezing fiasco will bring dishonor to the national pastime. It's the Yankees, and their kind, who should be put on ice.


Dick Meyer, a veteran political and investigative producer for CBS News, is Editorial Director of CBSNews.com based in Washington.

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Against the Grain

By Dick Meyer
  • Dick Meyer

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