Statue honors Williams' charitable activities

Updated: April 16, 2004, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- A bronze statue of Ted Williams -- a tribute to the "Splendid Splinter's" devotion to children with cancer -- was unveiled Friday outside Fenway Park.

"Ted Williams did two great things, that was play the game of baseball and care for children," daughter Claudia said while crying. "And it's beautifully represented in this statue."

Williams, who died in 2002, was the last major league player to hit .400, and is regarded by many as the greatest hitter in baseball history. He put his baseball career on hold twice, fighting in both World War II and the Korean War.

Williams also made hundreds of trips, most unreported, to local hospitals to visit sick children during his playing career. His support was critical to the founding and continued success of the Jimmy Fund, which raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino proposed the idea of a statue to the Red Sox shortly after Williams died. The plan quietly moved forward, at a time when the location of Williams' body made headlines. At the request of Williams' son, his body was sent to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., where it was cryogenically frozen.

"Ted Williams, .406 hitter, a guy who left his career twice to serve our country," Menino said. "How many of our athletes today would do the same thing? They'd find excuses. Teddy did it."

While his on-field prowess was well known, Williams was private about his charity work. Former teammate Bobby Doerr recalled that Williams visited a hospital to see sick children the night after the Red Sox won the 1946 pennant.

"He went to the hospital to see somebody, and he was criticized because he didn't show up for our banquet," said Doerr, who joined former teammate and Williams friend Johnny Pesky at the unveiling.

It's that side of Williams that artist Franc Talarico sought to depict with his 8½-foot statue, which sits atop a 4-foot granite base on the sidewalk just outside the park, behind the right-field stands.

The statue shows Williams smiling, a bat over his left shoulder, and placing his Red Sox cap on the head of a young boy. Talarico estimates Williams to be in his 40s.

"It was something that was there that wasn't really shown -- the compassion. It was something that I felt needed to be shown," Talarico said.

The boy in the sculpture is loosely designed as Einar "Jimmy" Gustafson, who helped launch the Jimmy Fund when, as a 12-year-old cancer patient, he appeared on a live radio program. Williams met Gustafson in 1999.

"It's him in the sense that he is every kid," Talarico said.

The team unveiled the statue hours before the Red Sox and Yankees opened a highly anticipated four-game series at Fenway Park.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press