Boston, baseball celebrate life of former Marine Ted Williams;

30 Jul 2002 | 2nd Lt. Christopher C. Wilson

"Gods do not answer letters," wrote John Updike in reference to the fact Ted Williams did not acknowledge the fans with a tip of the cap after hitting a home run in his final at-bat. Updike penned the line in the Oct. 22, 1960, essay titled "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" in the "New Yorker Magazine" the day after Ted Williams played his last game.

The evening of July 22 was one for the Gods, as the city of Boston celebrated the life of one of its deities and former Marine, Ted Williams.

The event was set up in a nine-inning format in which guests sat and reminisced with the event's hosts, sportscaster Sean McDonough and baseball aficionado and ESPN analyst Peter Gammons.

The sky, with its golden hue, shone brightly upon the guests. Former players Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky and former Sox broadcaster Curt Gowdy spoke about Teddy Ballgame. DiMaggio even used the opportunity to chastise today's players on the current contract squabble.

Senator John Glenn, a retired Marine colonel and wingman for Ted Williams during the Korean War, remembered Williams' commitment to his country.

Nomar Garciaparra, the Sox All-Star shortstop, spoke fondly of the very personal friendship he had shared with Williams.

Carl Yastrzemski, the last player to win the Triple Crown (lead the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average), spoke about replacing Ted Williams in left field.

Ken Burns, the noted baseball historian, read a virtual soliloquy on the virtues of Ted Williams.

Earl Wilson, a former Sox pitcher, reminded everyone of how Ted Williams fought for the Negro League's recognition in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He reminded the crowd how Williams used his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame to make a plea for their inclusion -- two years later the first Negro League player, Satchel Paige, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Andrews, a former Sox pitcher and chairman of the Jimmy Fund (the fundraising arm of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for children), hailed the tireless hours Williams spent with the children and raising money for the charity. Andrews stressed that Williams' involvement was vital to the success of the Jimmy Fund today.

Witnessing the ceremony, whether it was in person or on television, it was evident that this organization was not just a team, but rather a strong family. The Red Sox are a family connected at the heart with a city that has raised the team like a favorite child. The patriarch of this team, the great ambassador for the Red Sox, was Ted Williams. The mere mention of his name to a Bostonian will spawn words of glorification and stories about better times.

The one thing that will always be mentioned was his service to the country in both World War II and the Korean War. His love of the Marine Corps was evident during the memorial, as the Marines were there in full force.

Special guests of the Boston Red Sox included Gen. Michael J. Williams, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, and Maj. Gen. Larry S. Taylor, deputy commander, Marine Forces Reserve.

The Marine Corps Band played various numbers, and reservists from 1st Battalion, 25th Marines performed the duties of color guard and stood guard over the Ted Williams memorabilia that was on display. Marines escorted the guests out to the field. They lined the ballpark and folded the gigantic flag that blanketed the left field wall (famously known as the Green Monster).

Former Marine and current Massachusetts State Trooper Dan Clark sang both the "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America."

After doves were released into the twilight, music from the film "Field of Dreams" came over the loud speakers. You could almost see the goose bumps envelop the crowd as generations of the greatest Sox players came onto the field dressed in Sox uniforms from the era they played in. They came out one by one: Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Luis Tiant, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Jim Longborg, Mike Andrews, Johnny Damon, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Dick Radatz, Bob Montgomery, Grady Little, Joe Morgan, Jerry Remy and Nomar Garciaparra. They ran out (hobbling, actually, for the most part) to their positions and stood. Then, like James Earl Jones walking into the cornfield, they walked into left field where there lay a number nine adorned in flowers. They each pulled out a rose and placed it down and then put their hands over their left breasts as a Marine trumpeter walked out to centerfield, all alone, and played "Taps." You could have heard a pin drop.

It was a fitting tribute to the man they called "The Kid" and "The Splendid Splinter."

Full of humor and emotion, the night was complete with the participation of Marines. Ted Williams would have appreciated the large Marine presence.

"The Marine Corps was a huge part of his life," said Senator John Glenn. "He loved his country, and he loved the Marine Corps."