Leukemia claims son of Hall of Famer

Updated: March 13, 2004, 4:25 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The last two years of John Henry Williams' life were spent fighting.

He struggled to make it in baseball, the sport his father and Hall of Famer Ted Williams excelled in. He battled family members when he arranged to have his father frozen at a cryonics lab after his death. And he fought cancer.

On Saturday, that final fight ended in a Los Angeles hospital room.

Williams died of leukemia at UCLA Medical Center with family members at his bedside, said Peter Sutton, an attorney for Ted Williams' family. Williams was 35.

The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, citing family sources, reported John Henry Williams' remains were delivered to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., where his famous father's body has been stored since his death.

Williams, at the center of a controversy surrounding his father's remains, had been battling the disease for months. In December, he had a bone marrow transplant, using a donation from Claudia, his youngest sister.

"On behalf of all of us with the Boston Red Sox, we extend our condolences to the John Henry Williams family," Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said. "Perhaps no person meant more to the history of the Boston Red Sox than did his father, and it was clear that his father's life and legacy were the focal point of John Henry Williams' life.

John Henry Williams, Ted Williams' only son, was 4 when his parents divorced. After that, he saw little of his larger-than-life father, a war hero and noted outdoorsman, as well as one of baseball's greatest hitters of all-time.

But John Henry Williams became part of Ted Williams' life in the early 1990s after the slugger's romantic companion, Louise Kauffman, died.

"He took over Ted's business affairs, his household affairs and he just became the boss," Kay Munday, who managed Williams' household from 1989-95, told The Associated Press in 2002. "I would ask Ted something and he would say, 'Let John Henry handle it,' and I would have to go through John Henry."

After his father died July 5, 2002, John Henry Williams had his father's body taken to an Arizona cryonics lab for freezing, setting off a battle with his half-sister, who said her father had wanted to be cremated.

The matter was settled in December 2002, when Bobby Jo Williams Ferrell, Ted Williams' oldest daughter, dropped her objections.

An informal family pact that Ted Williams signed in 2000 included a provision that John Henry and Claudia Williams would join him: "JHW, Claudia and Dad all agree to be put into biostasis after we die," it read. "This is what we want, to be able to be together in the future, even if it is only a chance," the document said.

Sutton declined comment when asked if John Henry Williams had pursued cryonics for himself. A message left for Joe Waynick, the CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., was not returned Sunday.

A phone number for Claudia Williams could not be located. A message left at a listing for John Henry Williams' attorney Eric Abel in Hernando, Fla., was not returned.

Ted Williams finished with a .344 career average and was the last major leaguer to bat over .400, when he hit .406 in 1941.

John Henry Williams made an attempt in the past two seasons to follow in his father's footsteps, playing for some low-level minor league and independent baseball teams.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press