Boston baseball fans gave a last hurrah to Ted Williams yesterday, and their hero responded with a booming home run in his last time at bat in Fenway Park.
The standing crowd of 10,000 cheered for five minutes after the blast. They chanted, "We want Ted," but the Thumper stayed in the dugout, pacing nervously.
The 42-year-old Red Sox slugger, who had previously expected to finish the season on the road with the Boston team, decided after the game to call it quits with his fitting round-tripper. "I'm convinced I've quit at the right time," Williams told the Associated Press in the dressing room.
Before an appreciative gallery that came only to say goodbye to their Ted, Williams hit near homers in his two previous trips to the plate. In the third inning, he belted a high fly to deep center, 20 feet short of the wall; in the fifth, Baltimore rightfielder Al Pilarcik backed against the bullpen fence to grab another Williams bid.
In the eighth inning with one out and the Sox behind 4 to 2, Ted lined a perfect fast ball over the right field bullpen.
Boston partisans went wild, but lanky Number 9--the rugged individualist as he was described in pre-game ceremonies--characteristically refused to tip his hat. Ted reappeared in left field at the top of the ninth, but was replaced immediately and trotted off the field to a loud, stand- ing ovation.
In the brief ceremony beforehand ("Ted wanted it this way," said master of ceremonies Curt Gowdy), Williams restlessly toed the turf before him, and gased out to the left field stands while Boston dignitaries praised him.
"Despite the many disagreeable things said about me by the 'knights of the keyboard'," Williams said, nodding to the press box--"and I can't help thinking about them--despite these things, my stay in Boston has been the most wonderful thing in my life."
As Ted fidgeted with his cap, the president of the Boston Chamber of Commerce presented an inscribed Paul Revere bowl to him, and Gowdy, Red Sox announcer, called the Splinter the greatest hitter in baseball--"simply a champion."
After the opening ceremonies the Red Sox announced that Number 9 would be retired--the first Boston uniform to be so honored. The day was all Ted's. Near the end of the sloppy contest, as Ted trotted in from left field to appear no more, even the skies almost cried for him