Baseball names All-Star MVP after Williams

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2002

MILWAUKEE -- For the second time in three years, baseball's All-Stars paid tribute to Ted Williams -- although this time it was a much more understated ceremony than the poignant one at Fenway Park three years ago.

Boston Red Sox All-Stars Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon and Ugueth Urbina unveiled Williams' No. 9 painted into the grass in left field -- the position he patrolled in 18 All-Star games.

Baseball also formally announced that the All-Star game MVP will be named after Williams, who died Friday at age 83. Although no MVP award was given when the game was called after a 7-7 tie when both teams ran out of pitchers following the 11th inning.

Highlights of Williams' career played on the video board before the unveiling, and Garciaparra, Tony Gwynn, Sammy Sosa and Shawn Green talked about the impact Williams' All-Star appearance at his home stadium in 1999 had on them.

At the end of the video, the scoreboard simply said, ''Ted Williams, 1918-2002, 'The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.'''

There was a notable absence from the ceremony as Williams' son, John Henry, pulled out at the last minute.

He is embroiled in a legal fight with his half-sister about whether Williams' body should be cremated or frozen. Bobby-Jo Ferrell, plans to ask a judge later this week to stop her half brother from freezing Williams' remains.

Baseball officials didn't want to get in the middle of the controversy.

''I love Ted Williams and I am going to miss him,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. ''I'm sorry for what's going on. But that's a family matter that they are going to have to settle.''

Williams touched many of today's players during a ceremony honoring the greatest players of the 20th century three years ago.

In an unforgettable moment, Williams rode in from center field on a golf cart. Then, the All-Stars converged at the pitcher's mound around him, looking like little kids about to meet a real major leaguer for the first time.

The warm welcome brought tears to Williams' eyes, as well as those of the current stars, who appeared almost dumbstruck in the presence of the game's last .400 hitter.

''He was a real-life John Wayne, and he deserves to be treated as a hero,'' Mets catcher Mike Piazza said.

The All-Star game was a fitting place to pay tribute to Williams, considered by many the greatest hitter ever to play the game. Some of Williams' greatest feats came on the All-Star stage, where he has the second most homers and most RBIs ever.

He hit a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the 1941 game for the AL at Briggs Stadium. Williams homered twice at Fenway Park in 1946, including one off Rip Sewell's famed ''eephus'' pitches.

Williams touched the lives of many of the game's greats. He sent a letter to Jackie Robinson shortly after he crossed the color barrier in 1947.

''Jack was very impressed that someone of that stature took the time to do that,'' said Robinson's widow, Rachel. ''That was the kind of person Ted Williams was.''

Willie Mays, considered by many the greatest all-around player ever, had no doubt about that Williams was the best hitter he ever saw.

''You saw him and you know he was a special guy,'' Mays said. ''He studied more than anybody I ever saw. I just went up there and hit the ball. He really studied every aspect of hitting.''

Baseball also paid tribute to St. Louis pitcher Darryl Kile and Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, who both died last month.

A video showing highlights of both men's careers played while many of the All-Stars got loose on the field and exchanged jokes.

Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris had ''DK'' and ''57'' written on his palms and flashed them to the crowd after he was introduced. Kile's No. 57 Cardinals jersey hung in the NL dugout.

''He's going to be greatly missed,'' former teammate Luis Gonzalez said. ''He was always there for all his teammates.''

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