Baseball pays tribute to Ted WilliamsPosted: Tuesday July 09, 2002 9:59 PM
Updated: Wednesday July 10, 2002 4:59 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- No one proved worthy of winning the first Ted Williams award as All-Star Game MVP.
Baseball never handed out its newly named award Tuesday night because the All-Star Game was called after 11 innings with the game tied at 7 and both teams out of pitchers.
"You came to see a winner, you came to see an MVP, you came to see something special," Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel said.
Instead, fans got to see only a pregame ceremony honoring Williams and some of the sport's other great players, and a game that wasn't played to conclusion.
"They named the MVP award for Ted Williams, who was one of the greatest competitors of the game. And on the same night, they chose not to compete," said David Cuscuna, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
For the second time in three years, baseball's All-Stars paid tribute to Williams, who died Friday. Although this time the night will be remembered for its wacky finish instead of a poignant pregame ceremony.
Before the game, Red Sox All-Stars Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon and Ugueth Urbina unveiled a No. 9 painted into the grass in left field -- the position the "Splendid Splinter" patrolled in 18 All-Star Games while playing for Boston.
Highlights of Williams' Hall of Fame 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 Fenway Park in 1999 had on them.
At the end of the video, the scoreboard said simply: "Ted Williams, 1918-2002, 'The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.'"
There was a notable absence from the ceremony -- Williams' son, John Henry, pulled out at the last minute. He is embroiled in a legal fight with his half-sister, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, about whether Williams' body should be cremated or frozen. She plans to ask a judge later this week to stop John Henry 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 before the game. "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 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 best hitter 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.
Willie Mays, considered by many the greatest all-around player ever, had no doubt 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."