Ted Williams in cryo-freeze.

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.
July 8 2002 7:20 PM

The Splendid Splinter, Now in Cryo-Freeze

Ted Williams, 83, died of heart failure Friday. The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan writes, "We can cut right through the clutter and get right to a reasonably solid premise. The two greatest all-around hitters of all-time were Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. … But Williams clearly was the most patient and precise man who ever played the game. Take the day in 1957 when, in his first three at-bats against Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, he took three strikes, walked on four pitches, ran a count to 3-2 and then, on his first swing of the day on pitch No. 13, hit a home run that gave the Red Sox a 1-0 victory."

The New York Daily News' Mike Lupica says that Williams suffered from the inevitable comparisons to Joe DiMaggio. In 1941, the year Williams hit .406, "the writers gave the MVP to DiMaggio and his 56-game hitting streak. In '42, Williams won the Triple Crown and they gave the MVP to Joe Gordon. Williams won the Triple Crown again in '47 and they gave the MVP to DiMaggio, again, in a season the Yankee Clipper had 20 home runs and 97 RBI."

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell writes, "DiMaggio was regal. But Williams was real. Joe D met the world like an icy myth of a starched man and liked it that way. Ted wore his rough edges and his opinions on his sleeve. And if you didn't like his dock shoes and his shirttail out, then tough."

Williams' son, John Henry, has spurned requests for cremation of his father's body, preferring to preserve it in cyro-freeze at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona. According to stories in the Boston newspapers, the body is already frozen. The Globe's Dan Shaughnessy writes, "If this is what Ted wanted, he never told anyone, at least not anybody who's talking these days. … There are only two ways to think of this: Best case—The son is in denial and thinks he can bring his father back to life. Worst case—John Henry hopes to profit from prospective cloning or DNA distribution." You can peruse Williams' stats at Baseball-Reference.com, and read the rest of the Globe's special section.

Reilly vs. Sosa: Sammy Sosa has long boasted that he would be "first in line" to take a steroid test, if and when the baseball players' union decides to allow it. In an interview, Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly challenged the Chicago Cubs slugger to take one right away. Sosa refused, telling Reilly, "You're not my father!" and calling the columnist a "motherfucker."

Reilly replies, "I tried to tell him how important I thought this was. How attendance is headed for the cesspool. A former MVP told SI that 50% of the players are on steroids. The fans are starting to look at every home run record the way people look at Ted Koppel's hair. … The funny thing is, I doubt Sosa is on steroids. He has never missed more than six games in any of the last five seasons. Most nukeheads come apart like Tinkertoy houses."

Newsday's Jon Heyman cries favoritism: "It's not so much that Reilly ambushed Sosa, though he did that. It's that he singled Sosa out. … There is not one bit of evidence to suggest that Sosa has taken steroids, other than big muscles and great power numbers, two traits of all power hitters. He displays no symptoms of steroid use. … Meanwhile, Reilly's boy, Mark McGwire, was moody, and was forced to retire because of a patella tendon injury that just would not heal."

Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock writes, "Sammy Sosa, despite his hyperbolic statements about being 'first in line' and dramatic rise in home runs, doesn't deserve to have an egomaniac, publicity-seeking sports columnist demanding a urine sample. Is there a working man or woman reading this column who would submit to a stranger's request for you to take a drug test?"

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Bryan Curtis, Slate's "Middlebrow" columnist, writes for Grantland, Texas Monthly, and Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter.