Mock photo of Ted Williams's preserved head
  • Mock photo of Ted Williams's preserved head
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A former executive of the Scottsdale cryonics company where baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams’s body is frozen launched a pay-per-view website with gruesome decapitation photos to raise money for his legal defense.

“To be honest with you,” Johnson said Wednesday, “I fear for my life. The people at Alcor are whacked. They’re unstable and dangerous, all of them. They’re a cult. Fanatics.”

The foregoing was published August 14, 2003, in USA Today. The speaker is former Alcor interim chief operating officer Larry Johnson.

Not a lot has changed in six years. Same guy, same charges, same fear for his life, same ghoulish head, same pictures on the internet. What’s new is the packaging, courtesy of Vanguard Press.

Typically, a news story rises from the information slipstream, joins human flotsam for a day, two days, maybe a week, and then slips back into the info bog. The first round of news reports are often inaccurate, so are later news reports, but usually not to the same degree. Which is a long intro to Ted Williams’s head. Second-wave coverage repeated the original story but took on a jolly tone:

FanHouse.com: Ted Williams’s Frozen Head Used for Batting Practice.

Boston Herald: Author Frozen by Fear Over Alleged Ted Williams Head Hit.

Chicago Sun-Times: Fox Sports Employs Ted Williams’s Frozen Head to Predict the Playoffs.

Ted Williams is a grisly, macabre joke. He was a man once.

Theodore Samuel Williams was born in San Diego. Mom worked for the Salvation Army, dad was an alcoholic, younger brother earned his way into jail after stealing household furniture. Problem was, it was his family’s household furniture, taken from his parents’ house. Mom dropped the dime. Mr. and Mrs. Williams were divorced in 1939.

There were 68,000 people living in San Diego at the time of Ted’s birth. He attended Herbert Hoover High School, helped his team win a state championship, and signed with the local minor-league franchise (San Diego Padres). It was 1936, and Williams was 17 years old.

His first major-league game occurred on April 20, 1939. He played for the Boston Red Sox. His last game was on September 28, 1960. He played for the same team. Williams batted .406 in 1941, the last guy to break .400. He won too many awards to cite here, had a 19-year major-league career followed by a 4-year managing career.

As the country entered the Second World War, Williams had a 3-A deferment (marriage and sole support of his mother). He was reclassified 1-A, appealed, lost on appeal, then saw the verdict overturned by the White House. In the process, he lost the good will of many, including his largest sponsor, Quaker Oats.

He enlisted into the Navy on May 22, 1942. Williams spent the war in school. He received preflight training, primary training, advanced flight training, and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in May, 1944. Then, posted to Pensacola as a flight instructor, wound up in Hawaii on his way to the war when it ended. Released from active duty January of 1946.

He sounds like a regular human being.

Wasn’t eager to go to war, used what influence he had to avoid being drafted, but when things didn’t go his way, took his place without complaint. He could have spent the war playing baseball for the Navy but didn’t.

But, he got his war. Ted was recalled to active duty in 1952, at the age of 34, and flew 39 combat missions in Korea. He never forgot where he came from, was loyal to his friends, kept some early San Diego friendships going all his life.

Leigh Montville, author of Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, wrote, “Williams was also one of the greater champions in profanity. The Lord above, the crudest Anglo-Saxon words for male and (especially) female anatomical parts, sodomic acts — all were included in long but connected swearing diatribes, more often than not peppered by the adjective ‘syphilitic.’”

He was married three times. Wife 1, Doris Soule, was the daughter of his hunting guide. Wife two, Lee Howard, was a model. Wife 3, was Miss Vermont, Dolores Wettach. His big love appears to be Louise Kaufman. They lived together for 20 years. She died in 1993.

Ted Williams had two daughters, both estranged, and one son, John Henry, who seems to be disliked by all who knew him. He was a great fisherman, a good friend, and anonymous benefactor. He came from one dysfunctional family and fathered another. When he was old and weak, he allowed his predatory son to take over his life. He was a great, great baseball player, and for 95 percent of his time on earth lived a normal, dysfunctional life. He doesn’t deserve this.

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Comments

PJFaur Oct. 14, 2009 @ 5:52 p.m.

If you're interested in a serious but entertaining read about cryonics, try Yale-educated, Phoenix lawyer Robert Begam's novel, Long Life? It's a good read that examines the scientific, religious, ethical and legal issues surrounding cryonics. You can learn more at http://www.robertbegam.com.

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SDaniels Oct. 15, 2009 @ 5:45 p.m.

Thanks for the link. I am totally confused by what is depicted here. It looks like a clay bust (minus the bust)...

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SDaniels Oct. 15, 2009 @ 6:10 p.m.

I include the wiki link because the link in #1 is to a work of fiction that does not treat Williams' story. It is unfortunate that Williams' son (now himself deceased and frozen), and daughter decided after his death, with a forged document, to preserve his head cryogenically. This is apparently counter to Mr. Williams' last wishes, which were to have his body cremated and ashes scattered. Now, as Mr. Daugherty points out, his head is a macabre joke, capitalized (sorry for that pun) upon by many.

Mr. Daugherty's "he was a man once" seems to echo Jeanette Donaldson's recent story title, "But after all, he was a man." If the title choice was influenced by Donaldson's story on an anonymous donor for plastination, I submit again that there is a big difference here, morally and ethically. The man who became a plastinate planned on this kind of preservation and display of his body as a teaching tool--see the rest of my response to the story at:

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/sep/23/letters/#comments

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monaghan Oct. 16, 2009 @ 10:16 a.m.

Beautiful column, Patrick. I was a college student in Boston in 1960 and knew enough about Ted Williams from my older brothers to go see him play a game in his last season at old Fenway Park. It was a brilliant day, we sat in the low grandstand, and what was most remarkable about the experience was that all the fans in rows around us were Downs Syndrome children from a famous Boston-area institution for the disabled.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 16, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

That better not be a pic of Ted Williams head or I am going to be bent out of shape........

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PistolPete Oct. 16, 2009 @ 3 p.m.

I could be wrong but I'm fairly certain that is his head,SP.

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SDaniels Oct. 16, 2009 @ 3:17 p.m.

Uh, follow the first link, gentlemen, rather than wondering. There are multiple pictures of Mr. Williams' head--a horrible violation of his final wishes...

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jerome Oct. 18, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

what a block head he turned out ta be.........

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SDaniels Oct. 18, 2009 @ 4:11 p.m.

The wiki link, Pete. It shall lead you to the multiple aforementioned pictures, which indeed do seem to depict the cryogenically frozen head of Mr. Williams.

I have heard that it is less expensive to have one's head frozen than one's whole body--guess his children were on a budget when dealing with cult-like swindlers like Alcor. Only they know that they went against their father's wishes, and I hope his head haunts them forever (oh wait, the son is now a "head" too). Well, I hope his head has been placed next to his father's, which daily gives him "a piece of his mind!"

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PistolPete Oct. 18, 2009 @ 4:31 p.m.

Do you mean the reference and notes section on Ted's Wiki page? I see pics of Ted but nothing where he's in a cyrogenics tube.

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antigeekess Oct. 18, 2009 @ 5:21 p.m.

I don't see those pics either, Daniels. But there is a footnote to an entire channel devoted to the Williams cryogenics issue at YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/freeted

(It's the lead video, plus several more on the right.)

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SDaniels Oct. 18, 2009 @ 5:48 p.m.

Sorry, guys. Can't locate the first link, thought it was the wiki that led to several pics in one location--apparently like Mr. Williams's head, they are a bit scattered. Some of these are fake, obviously:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=ted+williams+frozen&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=m7XbStmyBIu4M7Oy9NMH&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CB0QsAQwAw

Bonus "article:"

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/20/national/main533849.shtml

More tripe:

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/10154142/Report:-Lab-abused-Ted-Williams'-frozen-head#

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2009/10/02/2009-10-02_book_reveals_chilling_details_of_how_cryonic_lab_thumped_remains_of_baseball_imm.html

You just can't make this stuff up, folks:

"Then he grabbed a monkey wrench, heaved a mighty swing, missing the tuna can completely but hitting the head dead center,' Johnson wrote. "Tiny pieces of frozen head sprayed around the room."

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 18, 2009 @ 9:20 p.m.

"Then he grabbed a monkey wrench, heaved a mighty swing, missing the tuna can completely but hitting the head dead center,' Johnson wrote. "Tiny pieces of frozen head sprayed around the room."

Thanks SDaniels, I just barfed.

Here, this is your payback(my buddy posted vid this on Facebook);

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-AlZsQu7Yc&feature=related

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SDaniels Oct. 18, 2009 @ 9:28 p.m.

I'm confused. Barfing should be your main form of communication--hey, are you a puppy or not?

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David Dodd Oct. 18, 2009 @ 9:33 p.m.

"Tiny pieces of frozen head sprayed around the room."

If there was a contest to construct the most unlikely sentence in a literary format, that one would get my vote.

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SDaniels Oct. 18, 2009 @ 10:07 p.m.

"If there was a contest to construct the most unlikely sentence in a literary format, that one would get my vote."

But what about these "headlines?"

Ted Williams Frozen In Two Pieces Meant To Be Frozen In Time; Head Decapitated, Cracked, DNA Missing Book claims Ted Williams' frozen head abused

Ted Williams' frozen head for batting practice at cryogenics lab: book

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frozenanon Oct. 19, 2009 @ 1:37 p.m.

I know the people at Alcor. Helped freeze a number of the people they have in storage, though not Ted Willams.

A lot of this sounds bizarre. So would a gory description of a hip replacement or open heart surgery.

And you don't even want to think what happens in mortuaries.

Cryonics takes the view that as long as the information that makes up your memory and personality has not been destroyed, there is a chance very advance technology can put you back on the street. The reason heads are removed is so the brain can be perfused with a solution that keeps ice from forming entirely. (It doesn't work well in the rest of the body.)

And even brains frozen with this solution crack. But there is no reason to think there is much information loss. Print on a mirror is still readable even when cracked.

As you pointed out, it's an old story and rapidly dieing out.

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SDaniels Oct. 19, 2009 @ 8:35 p.m.

"But there is no reason to think there is much information loss. Print on a mirror is still readable even when cracked."

And exactly how does Alcor find that memory and personality are somehow retained along with this (admittedly) badly preserved tissue? What kind of "science" are we working with here, frozenanon?

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SDaniels Oct. 19, 2009 @ 8:40 p.m.

Oh, and frozenanon, could you verify whether or not Johnson's stories about Alcor are true? As in, it's a "cult," etc., and whether or not this "batting practice" happened with Mr. Williams' head? Is Mr. Johnson's life really in danger because he wrote a tell-all? Readers appreciate anything you can add to the story.

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phmatt Oct. 25, 2009 @ 4:24 p.m.

Was just reading your story about Ted Williams. Amazing that you think a "regular guy" would use his influence to get out of fighting for his country after an unprovoked attack that killed thousands of americans and defeating Adolph Hitler. God help this country if we need your regular guys to defend this nation again.

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