A son with a heart of cold
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Actually, it might be a good thing John Henry Williams froze his old man. Otherwise, I have visions of the son going Norman Bates on us and stuffing Ted's body into a rocking chair in the attic, then dressing up in his old uniform and attacking Pedro Martinez in the clubhouse showers.

John Henry Williams
John Henry Williams used his dad's name to get a minor-league tryout with the Red Sox.
Seriously, doesn't this God-awful affair over Ted's body make you long for the days when families restricted their funereal fighting to contesting the will? I mean, every year or so, I find myself saying, "That is the strangest, sickest thing I've ever heard of in sports.'' And yet something stranger and sicker always comes along. I just hope and pray that we never see anything stranger or sicker than John Henry Williams grabbing his dad's body and freezing it for God knows what reason.

If newspaper reports are accurate, the greatest hitter who ever lived has been placed on his head in a metal tube in an Arizona laboratory, his body frozen at 320 degrees below zero.

"My dad's ... so frozen that if I touched him it would crack him from the warmth of my fingertips," said Ted's oldest daughter, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, who is suing to regain possession of her father's body.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Ted Williams. Frozen stiff. By his son. The whole thing is so bizarre, so ghoulish and so twisted that I wouldn't be surprised if Joe DiMaggio's old sleazebag lawyer, Morris Engelberg, is somehow involved.

Why did John Henry freeze Ted's body? Does he hope to bring his father back to life someday? Does he plan to sell off the DNA to collectors and genetic engineers? Has he seen "Jurassic Park" too many times?

We can only speculate, because the guy isn't talking. The Boston Herald quoted a source who said he wouldn't be surprised if it indeed was Ted's wish to be frozen. But the Herald also quotes another person saying Ted wrote it into his will that he wanted to be cremated, and his daughter's lawyer says the same thing. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe quoted Ted's caregiver of 10 years as saying that the great player's wishes were to be cremated and his ashes spread over the Florida Keys. "I would bet my life he didn't approve of this (cryonics)," George Carter told Shaughnessy.

We don't know what Ted's real wishes were, and we can't ask him. All I know is the burden of proof is on John Henry to prove his dad wanted to be turned into a popsicle.

John Henry Williams, Ted Williams
John Henry's good relationship with his dad, Ted, has suddenly turned icy.
What a beauty this guy is. He used his father's writing hand like it was a U.S. Treasury printing press, selling off whatever memorabilia he could. He used his father's name to get a minor-league tryout with the Red Sox rookie league team at age 33. And now he freezes his old man's body, presumably to cash in on it down the road.

So now the issue is headed to court. I don't know who will wind up with the body, but I have this nagging suspicion that in the end it will wind up in a Yankees uniform.

Ted's daughter says the whole thing is straight out of a Stephen King novel, but it's worse than that. It's more like something out of Allan Folsom's best seller, "The Day After Tomorrow,'' in which Nazi doctors freeze Hitler's severed head at the end of the war, lug it around in a lunch bucket and try to clone him decades later.

No doubt John Henry can picture a dark and stormy night decades into the future when a mad cryonics scientist with frizzy hair and a white lab coat flips a couple of switches and pumps life back into Ted's body. ("It's alive!'' he cries, then asks Ted for his autograph.)

Or perhaps he sees a real life sequel to "Jurassic Park'' called "Fenway Park'' or "Field of Nightmares'' in which he brings past Hall of Famers back to life and charges fans $100 to watch them play.


    JOHN HENRY: Beautiful isn't it? The perfect baseball team. The best players in history, just as we remember them, young and powerful and untainted by the game's modern era.

    DR. IAN MALCOLM: I think you've forgotten something. Chaos theory.

    JOHN HENRY: Chaos theory?

    MALCOLM: It's the theory that even the most minor changes can cause enormous and unforeseen effects within a system. It involves fractals, nonlinear dynamics, the Lorenz Attractor and other elements, but essentially it means that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in New York City. For instance, I can see outside forces have already begun to change -- and eventually overwhelm -- your perfect little museum of baseball.

    JOHN HENRY: What do you mean?

    MALCOLM: Look at your Ted Williams and your Joe DiMaggio standing by the batting cage. Do you see who they're talking to?

    JOHN HENRY: Dear God. It isn't possible. It can't be.

    MALCOLM: I'm afraid it is.

    JOHN HENRY: Donald Fehr.

    MALCOLM: And just think, some people got scared when the velociraptors got loose.

Ted Williams
Alcor might think about adding a Hall of Famers wing if others follow John Henry Williams' lead.
I'm sorry. I can't go on in this vein. It just makes me sick to my stomach that a man who meant so much to so many millions of people, a man who devoted much of his life to helping sick children, is being robbed of the simple dignity of a funeral. It's terribly, terribly sad in so many ways.

So many questions surround this that I know only one thing for sure. Whatever Ted's final wishes were -- cremation, burial, cryonics, ashes shot into space -- I hope he gets them soon. He deserves to rest in peace.

I felt sad when Ted died last week. Now I feel worse.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com.



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