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Commentary: Williams saga ends

By
LES KJOS, United Press International

MIAMI, June 17 (UPI) -- The family of Ted Williams says it will allow the frozen remains of one of the greatest hitters in baseball history to rest in peace.

Bobby Jo and Mark Ferrell, the daughter and son-in-law of the famed slugger, said this week there will be no more lawsuits.

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Thus ends one of the game's most bizarre stories. It included efforts at virtual reincarnation, unconfirmed reports of post-mortem decapitation and nasty family infighting.

And all this centered on one of America's heroes -- both in the real world and in the world of games.

It was funny at times, especially on late-night TV, but mostly it was sad.

Now, as Mark Ferrell told the Florida Today newspaper, "It's over."

"I no longer have any want or will to fight this. I am tired. They're not going to sue me and I'm not going to sue them," Ferrell said.

"We've called a truce. It's time to put it to rest. We're going to leave it in God's hands now. Bobby Jo and I are at peace with this. We have to be," he said.

The Ferrells signed a legal settlement with Williams' estate Tuesday, agreeing not to try to remove Williams' remains from the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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They also agreed to refrain from encouraging anyone else to seek removal.

The latest and last chapter began early this year when the Ferrell's filed a motion for legal documentation that Alcor signed permission to have his body cryonically preserved.

The Ferrells doubted the existence of the document, but on May 10 the estate filed litigation seeking an injunction against their effort.

The legal bills were mounting and the Ferrells gave up.

"I can't afford any more fighting. This has cost us about $100,000. I did what I thought I had to do. But I can't do it any more," Mark Ferrell said.

The fighting began almost immediately after Williams' death June 5, 2001. He died in a Crystal River, Fla., hospital of a heart attack at age 83.

John Henry Williams and his sister Claudia Williams, two of Williams' three children, planned to have their father frozen at the Alco facility.

They later produced a handwritten note signed by Williams Nov. 2, 2000, in which he agreed to being frozen.

But their half sister Bobby Jo Ferrell said a will prepared in 1996 should prevail. It stipulated that Williams would be cremated and his ashes sprinkled over the Florida Keys near Islamorada, Fla., his former residence and one of his favorite fishing areas.

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Ferrell said that hours after her father's death his body was sent to Arizona where it was frozen at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. This would allow the body to be revived later, according to the Alcor foundation.

Ferrell said John Henry Williams hoped to sell Ted Williams' DNA or profit some other way from his fame.

But Alco Chief Executive Officer Jerry Lemler said many of the schemes that have been mentioned aren't possible, especially the ones that involve cloning. He said Williams' DNA had been readily available by using strands of hair or fingernail clippings.

In December 2002 a judge approved distribution of an insurance trust to Williams' three children, and Bobby Jo Ferrell agreed to drop her opposition to freezing the body. Each sibling received $200,000.

Then John Henry Williams died March 7, a 35-year-old victim of leukemia.

But both John Henry's estate and Mark Ferrell continued to press on until this week.

All the legal hassling and the nature of the use of his remains tended to blur the legacy he left as a baseball icon and a war hero.

Williams was the last hitter to hit .400 over a season with a .406 average in 1941, earlier in his career. And in his final at bat in 1960, he hit a home run.

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Playing his entire 19-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Williams had a lifetime average of .344 and hit 521 home runs.

He was often mentioned as the best hitter in the history of major league baseball. With him it was both an art and a science.

Known as the "Splendid Splinter" because of his 6-4, 200-pound frame, he called hitting a moving round ball with a round bat the most single difficult act in all of sports.

He feuded with the media until his final decade, when everyone made up. But they still talk about the time he spit in the direction of the press box after a home run.

Williams devoted his time to fishing the Florida Keys during his retirement but after eight years returned to baseball as manager of the Washington Senators. He won a Manager of the Year Award but soon became discouraged and retired again.

Many believe his playing career would be even more resplendent if it hadn't been broken up by war.

Williams joined the Navy as a pilot in 1942 and missed the next three baseball seasons. He was recalled to active duty in the Korean conflict at the age of 33 in 1952 and played a total of 43 games in the 1952 and 1953 seasons.

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Williams narrowly escaped death when he belly-flopped his flaming plane along 2,000 feet of runway in Korea. He returned from Korea with an ear impairment that bothered him for the rest of his life.

It's that amazing life that he should be remembered for, not the afterlife that turned out to be so unpleasant for his many fans.

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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