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What happened to Ted?

SI: Hall of Famer's bizarre post-mortem defies belief

Posted: Tuesday August 12, 2003 2:20 PM

ATLANTA (SI.com) -- Hall of Famer Ted Williams' head and body are being stored in separate containers at an Arizona cryonics lab that is still trying to collect a $111,000 bill from Williams' son, according to a story by Tom Verducci in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.

Williams' remains have been suspended in liquid nitrogen at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., since the former slugger's death in July 2002. Williams' son, John Henry Williams, had his father placed in cryonic suspension, a deep-freezing process done in hopes that future scientific advances will restore the dead to life.

But contrary to recent news reports, Williams' body is not resting upside down in a liquid nitrogen tank at Alcor. Instead, reports Verducci, his head sits on a shelf in a liquid nitrogen-filled steel can, while his body is in the same room, stored upright in a liquid nitrogen-filled, nine-foot-tall cylindrical steel tank.

The silver can containing Williams' head resembles a lobster pot and is marked in black with Williams' patient I.D. number, A-1949, according to the SI story. Williams' head has been shaved and drilled with holes. Verducci also reports that, before the head was placed in its present location, it was accidentally cracked as many as 10 times due to fluctuating storage temperatures.

SI's investigation of Alcor internal documents, e-mails, photographs and tape recordings was done with the cooperation of the company's most recent chief operating officer, Larry Johnson. The magazine's reporting also casts further doubt on whether Williams ever intended to be placed in such a facility.

About a year before Williams died, Alcor employees visited his Hernando, Fla., home but did not meet with him. Instead, they talked with John Henry while, according to the magazine, Williams could be heard yelling from a back room. Moreover, Williams' seven-page Consent for Cryonic Suspension, a copy of which was obtained by SI, was submitted to Alcor after he had died, with the line for his signature blank.

SI.com's Tom Verducci
The idea of Ted Williams blissfully suspended intact upside down was a myth that has been perpetuated largely by the media since the former Red Sox great entered Alcor on July 5, 2002. I knew he was in two pieces, and I knew his head had been damaged. I wondered what John Henry Williams, Ted's son, knew.

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    The only publicly known documentation that suggests Ted Williams wanted to be cryonically preserved is a piece of scrap paper, stained with motor oil and dated Nov. 2, 2000. That paper, apparently bearing the signatures of John Henry, his sister Claudia, and Ted, states their desire to be put in "Bio-Stasis after we die" on the chance the three of them might "be together in the future."

    The Hall of Famer's signature on the scrap paper reads "Ted Williams." Bobby-Jo Ferrell, Williams' daughter by his first marriage, who has fought her half-brother and half-sister's efforts to cryonically preserve Williams' body, says her father typically signed legal documents "Theodore S. Williams." The fact that Williams was hospitalized at the time has also raised questions about the document's authenticity, says SI, though the executor of Williams' estate has declared the document to be valid.

    John Henry, his sister Claudia and Alcor CEO Jerry Lemler, M.D., either declined to answer or failed to respond to questions from SI regarding the state of Ted Williams' body.

    According to the magazine, Williams' body was flown to Arizona almost immediately after his death on the morning of July 5, 2002, and was on an operating table at Alcor later that night. One witness told the magazine that Williams' head was removed in "neuroseparation" surgery, even though John Henry had earlier indicated that he wanted a full-body suspension, and that "many people" snapped pictures of the famous patient during the operation.

    John Henry was billed $120,000 for the procedure, plus $16,000 for flying the body to Arizona. Ten days after Williams' death, his son wrote a $25,000 check to Alcor, but the balance remains unpaid and the company has begun legal efforts to collect it. According to the former COO Larry Johnson, and his taped conversations, a board member and an adviser joked about "throwing [Williams'] body away," posting it on eBay or sending it in a "frosted cardboard box" C.O.D. to John Henry's doorstep, to persuade him to pay the bill.

    There also have been problems with storage of Williams' head, says SI. Two dime-size holes were drilled into the head to observe the brain condition and, more important, to insert sensors that could detect cracks during the freezing process. But after "a huge crack" occurred in the head in April and nine more cracks were reported in July, Williams' head was removed from its original container and eventually placed in its current "neuro-can."

    Bobby-Jo Ferrell has contended that John Henry Williams wants to preserve their father's DNA, perhaps to sell it. Her lawyer, John Heer, said last month that Ted Williams asked in his will to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over his old fishing grounds in the Florida Keys.


     
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