Actually, it turns out he wanted something else, too.
According to a letter owned by Saugus native Phil Castinetti, the sports memorabilia king of New England, Red Sox legend Ted Williams had a longtime wish to be cremated immediately after his death. The letter, dated Dec. 19, 1991, is an authentic writing from the desk of Teddy Ballgame himself.
"That's the real thing," Robert E. McWalter, longtime Boston attorney and confidant to Williams, told the Boston Herald.
"It is my wish that no funeral or memorial service of any kind be held and that my remains be cremated as soon as possible after my death," Williams wrote in the letter nearly two decades ago. "I want you to see that my ashes are sprinkled at sea off the coast of Florida where the water is very deep."
Eleven years later, Teddy Ballgame passed. It was July 5, 2002. He was 83 years old.
The legal battle that followed was messy and divisive. Williams' three children fought bitterly over the body of their legendary father — Williams' son, John Henry, and daughter, Claudia, fought to have his body cryogenically stored, while Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, his older daughter from a previous marriage, defended his original intent to be cremated.
Williams' two younger children point to their father's signature, alongside theirs, on a handwritten note signed years after the cremation letter — a "family pact" asking for the cryogenic procedure.
"JHW, Claudia and Dad all agree to be put into biostasis after we die," reads the letter, which was penned in a Gainesville, Fla., hospital room according to family attorney Bob Goldman. "This is what we want, to be able to be together in the future, even if it is only a chance."
Castinetti, the best collector in the business, has both letters. And it's clear where he stands on the matter.
"When I really got into reading it, I couldn't believe, you know, what it said," Castinetti told a local television station. "It pretty much explains where he wanted to be cremated and where the ashes were to be sent, and you know, nothing ever happened like that."
What Castinetti has in his possession is much more than memorabilia. Signed bats and caps are one thing; priceless relics from Ted Williams' past are another. Castinetti is in possession of living history. But at the moment, it's not doing anyone any good.
In a perfect world, the letter in Castinetti's collection would be used to do justice in the case of Ted Williams. It's long been believed that cremation was his true dying wish — but rather than have his wishes carried out, Williams was taken to a lab in Arizona where his remains were kept suspended in liquid nitrogen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Last year, former Alcor exec Larry Johnson documented the brutal, inhumane treatment of Williams' head at the cryogenics center shortly after his death in 2002. Rather than being scattered in Florida as he'd always wished, the body of the Red Sox legend was mutilated and disgraced.
In life, Williams never got the respect he deserved. The fans in Boston booed him, the media blasted him, his personal life was unstable and troubled. In death, Teddy Ballgame has been treated even worse.
Ted Williams deserves better than this. And Phil Castinetti holds the proof.
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