THE OLD BLOCK
When Ted Williams died recently, the cable networks fell all over themselves covering his passing and reviewing his life. He certainly was a great hitter albeit absorbed in himself. Even as he began his career in spring training of 1938, one of his teammates said to him, "Wait until you see Jimmie Foxx hit." Williams retorted, "Wait until Foxx sees me hit."
Later in his career, he summed up his goal in life with the following statement oozing with hubris: "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.'"
While modesty wasn't one of his virtues, neither was anger control. After striking out during a game at Fenway Park, Williams flung his bat into the seats. That isn't something that a world-class should do especially when the little old lady's face that stopped his bat was Gladys Heffernan, the Red Sox's general manager's housekeeper.
Ted also kept a personal grudge with Boston's fans and sportswriters his entire career. It wasn't until long after his career was over that he ever tipped his hat in appreciation to the Fenway fans.
In spite of these incidents, Williams could have gone to his grave in relative peace had it not been for a family squabble over his remains. Funerals are often emotional times filled with many seemingly important questions like burial or cremation, type of casket or urn, etc. However, his two children are into a brouhaha over his funereal arrangements. The son shipped dear old daddy to an icehouse to be cytogenetically preserved until some future day when medical science can bring Ted back from the dead to live and possibly even to play ball again. Even as you read this article, the slugger is frozen solid standing on his head (without a cap) at a consent -196 degrees C. There in what is called ironically a "patient bay" (does patient refer to the person or how long the person might have to wait?) filled with liquid nitrogen (LN2). Similar cryonic procedures cost $125,000 or more.
To the credit of Williams' daughter, she merely wants to bury the slugger and go on with her life. She is content to leave her father's place in history what it was in his first life and not have him put in cold storage.
To make matters even more tragic, some rumors abound that the son has taken DNA samples from the father and might auction them off on E-Bay or some other venue. Gregory Peck, who starred in the fascinating movie about cloning, Boys of Brazil, could come back with a sequel, Boys of Boston. Imagine nine DNA chips off the old block taking the field at old Fenway.
Now, while you and I may be shaking our heads over this farcical situation, I am really troubled by it. What are the implications of this procedure? Shouldn't there be an oversight committee with veto powers over who might be brought back again? Just because one might have $125,000 plus, does that mean that our descendants need to endure hubris, arrogance, and a bad tempered resurrected Ted Williams to once again grace the field of life?
Surely, someone out there might agree to bring him back, but first he must be genetically reengineered. For example, those genes that control pride, bad temper, and grudges need to be altered.
Beyond all this practical issue is the philosophical one. The preoccupation with immortality negates the very essence of life. We need to carpe diem and not waste time, talent, and money giving a few more times at bat. Isn't the brevity, fragility, and finality of life that which gives the motivation to excel in this life? If life were just an endless series of seasons, wouldn't we tire of our at bats? If you didn't do it today, well, there is always tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ad infinitum and ad nauseam.
Personally, the reality that I've reached my 7th-inning stretch has motivated me to get serious about accomplishing those things that I still want to achieve, see, and experience. If this life were merely an endless progression of innings and seasons, I fear that the zest for living this life would turn sour.
I don't know how the Williams' family will resolve what to do with their dear old dad. However, this is a directive to my wife and family: Don't spend any of my vast estate on freezing me into a human popsicle. Life is rich in the quest. I still have to get my book published, see the world, learn to play the bagpipes, and love and be loved by my family.