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The Story of Ted Williams

Aired August 13, 2003 - 19:46   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the story of the late baseball great Ted Williams just keeps getting stranger and stranger, if that's possible. The hall of famer, the last player to finish season with a .4 battering -- or .400 batting average died last summer. When he did, his son had his body frozen in a facility in Arizona.
John Henry Williams' stated hope was that one day science would allow the one-time Red Sox great to be brought back to life.

Our Gary Tuchman picks up the story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived, which made his death and the details that came out afterwards so notable and bizarre.

The body of Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams is suspended in chemicals at a Arizona cryonics company called Alcor. The decision was made amid fighting among his children.

But according to a "Sports Illustrated" investigation, Williams' body is not resting upside down in a liquid nitrogen tank at Alcor, as has been reported. Instead his head is stored in a liquid nitrogen filled steel can that resembles a lobster pot.

Alcor says some clients hoping to restore their loved ones to life someday agree to just save the head. But sources talking to "Sports Illustrated" say that's not what Ted Williams' family wanted.

LESTER MUNSON, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": When he arrived they had no idea what they were supposed to do. They bring him into what they called their operating room where chaos immediately ensues. They are arguing over whether to remove the head. They are arguing over what the wishes of the family were. It was a complete mess.

TUCHMAN: "Sports Illustrated" says it received extensive cooperation from the Alcor's ex-chief operating officer, Larry Johnson, who alleged other improprieties too. But regarding the Ted Williams' situation, Alcor tells CNN it denies any impropriety and vows it will seek Johnson's criminal prosecution, saying he is an ex- employee with a grudge.

Johnson certainly doesn't mind using his connections as an ex- employee to make a buck. CNN has learned Johnson started a Web site, where for a so-called donation of at least $20, graphic photographs were displayed, photographs, he said, documenting the fate of Ted Williams. Johnson won't talk on camera about Ted Williams, but his attorney acknowledges "Sports Illustrated" was not told about his client's money making plans.

"Sports Illustrated" is owned by AOL-Time Warner, which is CNN's parent company.

The sordid story continues to upset many including other former Red Sox stars, like Rico Petrocelli.

RICO PETROCELLI, FMR. RED SOX PLAYER: It's really sad. It's getting sadder, unfortunately. I just wish they would, you know, let him rest in peace.

TUCHAMN: Gary Tuchman, CNN.


COOPER: Lester Munson, associated editor of "Sports Illustrated," worked on the story recounting the latest revelation in an already bizarre case. He joins us now from Chicago.

Lester, thanks for being with us.

The former COO of this company is the man who is really provided a lot of the background material for your story. He's now got this Web site where he's charging money and folks can log on and look at what he says are, you know, photographs of, I guess, the head of Ted Williams. Do you -- I mean, what is his motivation, as you understand it?

LESTER MUNSON, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": I think the motivation for the Web site is to raise money to allow a fragment of Ted Williams' family to go back to court and follow his dying wishes, which were to be cremated and to be spread over the fishing waters of Florida.


MUNSON: Actually, on the Web site he says he's raising money because he feels he's going to be legally challenged and he needs money to be able to defend himself and try to sort of help this movement to get Ted Williams' body out of there.

COOPER: I mean, do you at all, as a writer, doubt his motives?

MUNSON: I do not doubt his motive. I think that he was -- for all the good reasons, he left the company when he realized what bad shape it was in, how they were abusing their customers and their patients. He came to us with what turned out to be solid information. We double checked it and we triple checked it. As we were doing our story, we knew that he was planning a Web site but the Web site was not up. It was not running when we finished our story on Monday. So this is all new and has happened in the last day or two. I don't know why he would need money to defend himself. I think yes, there are going to be some legal fees if Bobby Joe (ph), Ted Williams' daughter, goes to court.


COOPER: He's apparently going to need some money because now Alcor is saying they're going to sue him and they're going to go after him.

We got a statement from....

MUNSON: Alcor says a lot of things and they don't always happen.

COOPER: Here's one of the things Alcor said to CNN when we contacted them about Larry Johnson, their former COO, who's the basis of a lot of this story. And I'm going to put it on the screen.

He says -- quote -- "We believe that Johnson felt he was underpaid, resented the takes he was asked to perform, and is a typical ex-employee trying to exercise a grudge and make a name for himself."

Whether or not -- I mean, whether or not you believe Larry Johnson or not or Alcor, I mean, this thing is just so bizarre. When you went into this -- I mean, did you have any idea? Did it shock you? I mean, as you reported this?

MUNSON: Anderson, it's the most bizarre thing I've ever reported on and I've reported on some very unusual things in the world of sports.

The -- to me the most shocking thing was the cavalier attitude that Alcor people have towards Ted Williams, toward his body, and toward their responsibilities for his body. When Larry Johnson found out that they were planning on dumping Ted Williams' body back on the family because they had not paid the bill, and found out about other plans they were making, he decided that he had had enough and that he would leave the company and that he would find a way to allow the rest of us to know what is going on with this great baseball player, this great hero of two wars.

COOPER: It is a fascinating -- it's a very sad tale no matter how you look at it.

MUNSON: It is.

COOPER: Lester Munson, appreciate you joining us from "Sports Illustrated." And I anticipate this is not the last we've heard of this story. Thanks very much.

MUNSON: You're welcome.


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