CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla., July 6 (UPI) -- Ted Williams, whose exploits on the baseball diamond and service to his country combined to make him an American hero, died Friday at the age of 83.
Williams had been in ill health for several years, having made his last public appearance at the 1999 All-Star Game. Confined to a wheelchair, Williams was brought to the pitcher's mound at Fenway Park that night and given a prolonged ovation that became a final tribute to a player recognized as the best hitter in the history of the game.
"With the passing of Ted Williams, America has lost a baseball legend," said President Bush, who bought the Texas Rangers two decades after Williams had managed them. "Whether serving the country in the armed forces or excelling on the diamond, Ted Williams demonstrated unique talent and love of country.
"He inspired young ballplayers across the nation for decades and we will always remember his persistence on the field and his courage off the field. Ted gave baseball some of its best seasons -- and he gave his own best seasons to his country. He will be greatly missed."
Williams suffered a series of strokes and congestive heart failure in recent years. On Friday, he was taken to Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Fla., where he was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest.
As a 20-year-old rookie, Williams was quoted as saying:
"All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street, folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived.'"
In the minds of most, he achieved that goal during a 19-year career spent entirely with the Boston Red Sox. No one in the major leagues has batted .400 for a full season since Williams did so 61 years ago.
A two-time MVP, Williams won baseball's Triple Crown twice, captured six American League batting titles, had 2,654 hits with 521 homers. He was a lifetime .344 hitter.
Williams led the American League in runs scored six times, home runs and RBI four times, walks eight times, and slugging percentage seven times. He also struck out only 709 times in 7,706 career at bats.
His career .483 on-base percentage is the best of all time, nearly 10 points higher than the second-place Babe Ruth. His career slugging percentage of .634 trails only Ruth (.690).
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, receiving an almost unheard of 93.38 percent of the possible votes (282 out of 302) in his first year of eligiblibility.
His career statistics would have been far more spectacular had he not missed three seasons during World War II and portions of the 1952 and 1953 campaigns during the Korean War.
Cubs fire Don Baylor
ATLANTA, July 6 (UPI) -- The Chicago Cubs Friday made Don Baylor the latest managerial casualty, firing him in the midst of his third season with the club.
Baylor becomes the sixth manager in the major leagues to be fired this season, joining Buddy Bell, Phil Garner, Tony Muser, Davey Lopes and Buck Martinez.
Among the biggest disappointments in baseball this season, the Cubs are in fifth place in the National League Central Division with a 34-49 record.
Chicago announced that Bruce Kimm, who was managing the Cubs' Class AAA affiliate at Iowa, will take over the managerial duties on an interim basis, beginning Saturday.
Baylor, who was signed through the 2003 season, posted a 187-220 with the Cubs. He has an overall managerial record of 627-689 after spending his first six seasons with Colorado.
The Cubs also named Jim Hendry as the club's new general manager. Hendry had been serving as vice president of player personnel since October.
Hewitt reaches Wimbledon final
LONDON, July 6 (UPI) -- Lleyton Hewitt converted six break points Friday as the top-seeded Australian rolled into the Wimbledon final with a 7-5, 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 4 Tim Henman of Britain.
Hewitt, 21, reached his second career Grand Slam final, having captured the 2001 U.S. Open title.
Henman, Britain's best hope of ending its 66-year drought without a men's singles champion, fell in the semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
In Sunday's final, Hewitt will face No. 27 Xavier Malisse of Belgium or No. 28 David Nalbandian of Argentina. Nalbandian was leading, 7-6 (7-2), 4-2, when rained interrupted play.
The women's championship match will be played Saturday when the Williams sisters -- Venus and Serena -- meet in a Grand Slam final for the third time.
Yankees win fifth straight
NEW YORK, July 6 (UPI) -- Starting for the first time in nearly seven weeks, Orlando Hernandez allowed just two hits over six scoreless innings Friday night as the New York Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.
It was New York's fifth straight victory.
In two appearances since coming off the disabled list, "El Duque" has tossed 10 scoreless innings, giving up four hits. He pitched four shutout innings in relief against the New York Mets a week ago.
The Blue Jays made it interesting in the ninth as Steve Karsay gave up an upper-deck homer to Jose Cruz and two singles. Mariano Rivera yielded a run-scoring double to Felipe Lopez before getting Dave Berg to ground out for his 21st save.
The defeat extended the Blue Jays' losing streak to six games. Before coming to New York, Toronto lost all five games in Boston, getting swept in a five-game series for the first time in team history.
Making his first start since May 15, Hernandez (5-2) was in control against the Blue Jays, yielding only a leadoff single to Berg in the top of the first and a double to Vernon Wells in the fifth. He walked two and struck out nine.
Other American League results: Detroit 9, Boston 5; Cleveland 4, Chicago 2; Oakland 4, Kansas City 3; Texas 7, Baltimore 6; Minnesota 8, Seattle 4.
Braves stay hot
ATLANTA, July 6 (UPI) -- Kevin Millwood allowed two runs and four hits over six innings Friday night as the streaking Atlanta Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs, 4-3, for their 14th win in 16 games.
The Cubs were managed by third-base coach Jim Lefebvre after Don Baylor was fired earlier in the day. Bruce Kimm, who was managing Class AAA Iowa, will take over on an interim basis and is expected to be in the dugout Saturday.
Millwood (6-5) gave up only a solo homer to Fred McGriff in the second and a run-scoring double to Roosevelt Brown in the sixth. He walked four and struck out eight.
The Braves had to sweat in the ninth as a wild pitch on Alex Gonzalez's strikeout extended the game. Gonzalez took second on defensive indifference and scored on Delino DeShields' single up the middle.
Atlanta improved to a major league-best 36-10 since May 15.
Other National League results: New York 5, Florida 3; Montreal 8, Philadelphia 3; Pittsburgh 4, Houston 3; Cincinnati 8, Milwaukee 6; Los Angeles 6, St. Louis 5; Arizona 2, San Francisco 1; Colorado 9, San Diego 6.
Armstrong goes for fourth title
LUXEMBOURG, July 6 (UPI) -- The world's most famous cycling race begins Saturday with the world's most famous cyclist the overwhelming favorite to win for the fourth straight year.
Lance Armstrong's domination of time trial and mountain stages has brought him three Tour de France titles and his route to another one has seemingly been eased this year by the absence of would-be challengers Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani and Gilberto Simoni.
"But it's up to us to make the race exciting," Armstrong said Friday. "Despite the absence of people like Pantani and Ullrich and Simoni, it's still a thrilling, exciting event. It still has difficulty, it still has pain and suffering, and the things people like to see. At least I think they like to see that.
"I think it will be exciting. I think that there are plenty of good riders that can make the race."
Armstrong and the rest of the field will appear Saturday in the traditional Tour de France opening, known as the prologue.
It is a short individual time trial that will be conducted in Luxembourg. The first stage will also be held in Luxembourg Sunday with the first critical stage coming next Wednesday when a 68-kilometer team time trial will be held.
Sharks re-sign Teemu Selanne
SAN JOSE, Calif., July 6 (UPI) -- The San Jose Sharks kept their key ingredient Friday, re-signing unrestricted free agent right wing Teemu Selanne to a reported two-year, $13 million contract.
While the team did not reveal terms, TSN of Canada reported Selanne agreed to a substantial cut from last season's salary of $9.5 million.
The 32-year-old Finn led the team with 29 goals, was sixth with 25 assists and third with 54 points. He broke a franchise record with eight game-winning goals and helped San Jose to the first division title in franchise history.
One of four Sharks to play all 82 games last season, Selanne also played for Finland at the Salt Lake City Olympics, collecting three goals in four games. He led all wingers on the World Team ballot with 138,665 votes and scored twice in his eighth career All-Star Game appearance.
Selanne has 408 goals and 447 assists in 719 games with the Winnipeg Jets, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Sharks.
Sorenstam shares Women's Open lead
HUTCHINSON, Kan., July 6 (UPI) -- Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz remained tied for the lead at the U.S. Women's Open Friday and were joined in first place by Annika Sorenstam, who is trying to win her seventh tournament of the year.
Those three were the only ones under par after two rounds at the Prairie Dunes Country Club as the winds kicked up Friday to turn the course into a severe test.
The difficult playing conditions got the best of two-time defending champion Karrie Webb of Australia, who missed the cut for only the fourth time in her LPGA Tour career.
There were just four sub-par scores posted at Prairie Dunes Friday and Sorensteam had one of them -- a 1-under 69. Inkster and Diaz both shot a 72 to leave them tied with Sorenstam at 1-under 139.
Sorensteam, a two-time winner of this event, birdied four holes on the front nine to storm into contention.
The co-leaders had a one-shot advantage over Michele Redman and Australian Shani Waugh, who was tied for the lead after one round. Another shot back at 141 was Jill McGill. Among those still in the chase was Sorenstam's sister, Charlotta, who shot a 70 Friday for a 143 total.
It took a score of 9-over 149 to make the 36-hole cut and Webb wound up at 152 for two rounds. She became the first defending champion to miss the cut since Alison Nicholas in 1998.
Starzz post historic win
SALT LAKE CITY, July 6 (UPI) -- Natalie Williams and Marie Ferdinand led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points apiece Friday night as the Utah Starzz handed the Minnesota Lynx their sixth consecutive road loss, 87-56.
It was the most lopsided victory in Starzz history.
All five starters reached double figures for the Starzz, who defeated the Lynx for the fifth straight encounter at the Delta Center. Minnesota has not won in Utah since their first meeting on June 26, 1999.
After Minnesota cut a 14-point halftime deficit to 43-36 on a layup by Shaunzinski Gortman with 16:04 remaining, Starzz center Margo Dydek sparked an 11-0 run with a pair of free throws. Utah cruised thereafter.
Dydek, who returned from a one-game suspension for elbowing Cleveland's Ann Wauters on Sunday, finished with 13 points.
Other WNBA results: Charlotte 72, Miami 68; Seattle 73, Cleveland 65; Los Angeles 87, Sacramento 65.
Harvick wins NASCAR pole
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., July 6 (UPI) -- Kevin Harvick, last year's NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, earned the pole position Friday for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Driving a Chevrolet, Harvick knocked perennial Daytona favorite Jeff Gordon off the pole with a lap of 48.638 seconds, an average speed of 185.041 miles per hour.
Harvick was the 31st of 45 drivers to attempt to qualify. After posting his time, he watched Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace all make runs at him but fall short.
Geoffrey Bodine, who has made only three starts this year but finished third in the season-opening Daytona 500, finished second with a time of 48.841 seconds. Bodine bumped Gordon back to third.
Robby Gordon, Harvick's Chevrolet teammate, and Dale Jarrett completed the top five.