By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  July 5, 2002 at 4:59 PM
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Today's younger generation is less interested in baseball than previous ones. And, being separated by years, it doesn't realize what a dominating presence in baseball was Ted Williams. Now, the great slugger and gentleman has died. He was often called "baseball's ultimate perfectionist." He was the last player to ever hit .400 in a season. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a man who possessed what many sportswriters called the finest baseball swing of all time, Ted Williams was also a consummate fisherman, jet pilot and an icon in Boston for decades. There will always be a debate as to who was baseball's greatest hitter, but it's safe to say that Williams would be in the top two or three. During his career, which spanned four decades, he hit 521 home runs, had a lifetime batting record of .344 and batted in more than 1,800 runs. Not only did he hit .400 in one season, he actually hit .406 in 1941. Additionally, while racking up that record he took a total of five years to fly for the Marines and the Navy -- flying combat missions in the Second World War and in Korea. He became a tireless crusader for the rights of children and became legendary off the field for his charitable work. Somewhat aloof, he would not tip his cap to fans during games. For that "lack of civility" he was vilified by sportswriters, in spite of his statistics. During his final game in Fenway Park in Boston he thrilled a standing-room-only crowd by hitting a homer during his final time at the plate. He ran the bases then went straight for the dugout. Despite shouts for him to return and acknowledge the adulation of the fans, he never returned. He did what he had been asked to do ... and more. This timid son of San Diego who transplanted himself to Boston broke nearly every record. Now, in the wake of numerous operations and treatments for congestive heart failure, Ted Williams has died. Writers use the phrase "end of an era" a lot. That phrase is nearly worn out to the point it's lost much of its impact. But to call the passing of Ted Williams something less would be a gross understatement. He did his turn and has walked to the dugout. To paraphrase Elvis's announcer at many of his concerts: "Ted Williams has left the ballpark." Baseball, suffering from drug problems and increasing lack of fan interest is, indeed, much poorer today with his passing. Today's stars of the diamond seem to be only playing AT the game. Ted Williams PLAYED it. He was 83.


It must be tough for someone who loves to talk as much as does Martha Stewart to have to keep a low profile. But that's what the TV housewares diva has been doing this week, mainly because of fears that she'll be pulled into a conversation about the cloud hanging over her in the wake of allegations of her possible misdealings on Wall Street. For example, The Hollywood Reporter says that Stewart was a last-minute no-snow on "The Early Show" on CBS TV at midweek. During last week's appearance on the show she had somehow managed to ignore questions from co-host Jane Clayson about her portfolio. Stewart continued to chop away, at one point noting that working on a salad was why she was there and she had to keep in focus. On this week's canceled appearance she was to have talked about icebox desserts. But it was other frozen assets that she was likely afraid Clayson would be more interested in.


It was a bittersweet moment for Jett Williams, daughter of legendary country singer-songwriter Hank Williams, as she visited the restored Alabama cabin of her late dad. says that the young Williams went there with several friends to check out the restoration job that was done on the rural home. It was at that cabin that Hank penned "Kaw-Liga" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." The rustic building is on Kowaliga Bay and less than 50 feet from the water. Williams told reporters that she got "goosebumps on top of goosebumps" when visiting the site. Her parents, Hank Williams and Bobbie Jett, visited there often. Their last visit was just a few months before Williams died. The cabin was moved some years ago to make way for a children's park; it has now been returned to its original location and restored to its vintage 1950s condition.


In spite of the protests of several media outlets, a judge in south Florida has ruled that autopsy photos of the late race driver Dale Earnhardt will stay sealed. Court records in Ft. Lauderdale show that Judge Leroy Moe noted that although there is freedom of speech and access in this country, there are still times when the right to privacy prevails. One of the driving forces behind attempts to view the photos has been the Orlando Sentinel. Since the driver's death (in February of 2001) several newspapers and publications have been seeking the photos in order to do their own research into the debate surrounding how Earnhardt died and whether a faulty seat-shoulder belt assembly might have contributed to the massive head injuries that took his life. Additionally, after the driver's death, a law was passed in Florida making it a felony (with jail time and a stiff fine) for anyone copying autopsy results without a court order. It was that law that was challenged in the newest legal action.


There are all kinds of surveys out there. Even this column has one -- which will return soon. You might not think that the people who collect star photographs would have their own; but they do. The memorabilia company Collectors Universe tells United Press International that rising young star Brittany Murphy is considered by autograph-seeking fans to be the best when it comes to dealing with the public. As a matter of fact she's just been given the Best Signer of the Year award by the group. The survey, now in its 11th year, is the brainchild of memento-collecting Jeffrey Woolf, a Los Angeles-based autograph hound and signature expert. On the other end of the spectrum, reports Woolf, is "bad boy" Russell Crowe, who often refuses to sign autographs. And who do you think is No. 2 on the "bad" list ... hmmm? Britney Spears. Others on the "good" list include: Tom Hanks, Shakira, Drew Carey, Willie Nelson, Matt Damon and Sir Ian McKellan.


Did you see the video of Pres. George W. Bush reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag on the Fourth with a group of veterans? Smiling, he joined the others in nearly shouting the word "under God" when he reached that part of the statement. It's interesting. That kind of strong statement that the phrase should remain was nearly an instant thing. I happened to address a Lions Club in Las Vegas the day after that controversial California court decision saying "under God" was unconstitutional. The lunch-time meeting started with the Pledge. No one had prompted the group. No one had primed them. No mention of the debate was made before the Pledge started. But, when the group got to "under God" everyone in the room shouted the two words. The instant reaction among the members as they realized what they had done was electric. No further mention was made at the meeting. But they had done what I'm sure thousands of other groups have done in the past week ... shouting that part of the Pledge. The neat thing about what happened at the Lions Club meeting was that it was spontaneous and universal. No one had urged them to do it. The irony is that it's not unconstitutional for kids to pray in public schools if their statements are also automatic and not prompted by the dictates of the school itself. It was a neat feeling that day. It was great to see Mr. Bush and the others doing the same thing on the Fourth. The sudden crescendo in the Pledge at that point might just become standard practice at a time when the country could use it most.

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