Hung out with Ted Williams the other day. Pretty cool.
He's spending his time in a one-story cement building in a
warehouse district next to the Scottsdale, Ariz., airport,
frozen, upside down, waiting for science to bring him back from
"Uh, we don't say 'dead,'" says the voluptuous redhead giving the
tour here at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, America's largest
cryonics company. "We say 'the end of his first life cycle.'"
On the wall are photos of people hoping for a mulligan, with
little plaques underneath that read, for example, first life
cycle: 1925-1997. second life cycle: 1997-___. But there are no
pictures of Teddy Ballgame hitting for any cycle.
"We cannot verify if Mr. Williams is with us or not," says a
little bearded doctor named Jerry Lemler, a former Tennessee
psychiatrist who is the head of Alcor and looks exactly like the
late poet Allen Ginsberg. "We protect the anonymity of all
O.K., the greatest hitter who ever lived is here, according to
his daughter, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, and the former curator of the Ted
Williams Museum, Buzz Hamon. They're still upset that when
Williams didn't die of heart failure a year ago next week, at 83,
he was packed in a crate of ice and flown to Alcor, where Lemler
and his staff drilled holes in his skull to insert temperature
probes (that's gonna hurt later on) and started freezing him--
"Not 'freezing,'" interjects Lemler. "We put you in a glasslike
matrix." O.K., they put him in "a glasslike matrix," meaning they
replaced more than 60% of the water in his cells with a kind of
human antifreeze so his tissue became as rigid as glass (but
didn't actually freeze) while they gradually dropped his body
temperature to -196°C. Some old sportswriters will tell you that
is just a little warmer than Williams was with them. From there,
they carted him into a kind of stainless-steel morgue--
"Please," says Lemler, "we call it the 'patient care bay.' We
house 58 residents in our patient care bay." O.K., into the
"patient care bay" with the rest of the "residents," who were
having another in a string of very quiet days. Anyway, they
tucked him in a waterproof sleeping bag, opened up one of the
10-foot-tall stainless-steel cylindrical tanks filled with liquid
nitrogen and lowered him in. There are seven of these babies, and
they look like giant thermoses, except they burp and hiss with
the liquid nitrogen, which keeps Williams a Boston Blue Sox.
Friends and relatives lay flowers at the base of the tanks, which
makes the whole place look like a cemetery built by KitchenAid.
What's even creepier is that they hang the bodies upside
down--"in case there's ever a leak, the brain would be the last
exposed," explains Lemler. How's that for irony? Williams, one of
the greatest big-game fishermen ever, is hanging upside down
until his next life cycle begins. Somewhere a whole lot of marlin
Worse, the Hall of Famer shares his tank here at Coolerstown with
at least two other bodies and probably eight severed heads--
"Not severed heads," interrupts Lemler. "Neuros."
All right, he shares his tank with eight "neuros," which are
bodiless people who hope science will be able to grow back
everything below the neck, hopefully in the shape of Pamela
Anderson or Tyrese. Either way, it's going to be a bit of a shock
to Williams if he suddenly wakes up in there.
Is this what Williams wanted, to be the most famous "cryonaut" in
history, living with eight or 10 tankmates in an overgrown
martini shaker? Doesn't matter now. Ferrell sued her brother,
John Henry Williams, to get her father's body back and cremate it
(talk about a climate change!) but settled for $215,000. So Ted
Williams will live in suspense until either a) science thaws him
out or b) Lemler runs out of cash and sells the whole shop to
some unwitting buyer.
Honey, are you sure there's Creamsicles in these things?
And what happens if Williams pulls a Lazarus--
"Reanimates," says the redhead.
Oh, God. O.K., what happens when the poor bastard "reanimates"
and finds that all his friends are dead and Eminem's grandkid is
president and all his stuff has been auctioned off on eBay? And
who's going to be the one to tell him that the Red Sox still
haven't won a World Series?
Plus, what's he going to do for money? True, Alcor stores the
stuff the "residents" want for the second time around in a
one-cubic-foot box one mile under a Hutchinson, Kans., salt mine.
You know: CDs, photos, stuff like that. No cash, though, so the
undead better have some Microsoft stock hidden in there with
their Billy Joel CDs.
Still, if in, say, the year 2500 scientists could reanimate
Williams (hey, they already do it with embryos and sperm),
reverse the aging process and get him back to, say, 20, his age
during his first year in Boston, then a world we can't imagine
would suddenly have a gift from us: one of the greatest athletes
of our time. Now that would be a comeback--
"Well, not really a comeback in the sense--"
Oh, shut up.
B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER
If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
Is this what Ted Williams wanted, to live with eight or 10
tankmates in an overgrown martini shaker?