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Red Sox, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu

From Associated Press

Nine white doves took flight from home plate toward Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster, soaring over the outfield where Ted Williams once roamed before turning and climbing over the Red Sox dugout and out of the ballpark.

Then, one by one, current and former Red Sox players took their positions on the field--leaving left field empty except for a garland of white carnations in the shape of a “9.”

With a wave from shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, they all headed to Williams’ former domain to say goodbye.

The Hub bid the Kid adieu a final time Monday, as Red Sox fans came by the thousands to pay their respects to the team’s greatest player at two events honoring the baseball and war hero.

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About 12,000 people came to the ballpark in the morning to meander around the warning track past mementos of Williams’ Hall of Fame career. At night, those artifacts came to life in the form of Red Sox greats from Carl Yastrzemski to Garciaparra and dignitaries such as John Glenn, the former senator and astronaut and Williams’ squadron leader in Korea.

“Just saying his name means excellence in baseball,” said Glenn, who flew more than a dozen missions with Williams. “For me, Ted also stood for excellence in a setting far removed from baseball and for which he is less well-known.... He never held back.”

About 20,500 people bought tickets for the star-studded service to remember Williams, who died July 5, and forget the fight among his children over whether to have his remains cremated or preserved in cryonic ice. (Williams’ three children declined an invitation to attend.)

The subject was broached only by former teammate and longtime friend Dom DiMaggio, who drew a standing ovation when he broke from the program with an impassioned plea to scatter Williams’ ashes over his favorite fishing spot, the Gulf of Mexico.

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Williams’ life was celebrated, with nine “innings” dedicated to No. 9, touching on his life as a rookie who proclaimed his goal to be known as “the greatest hitter who ever lived”; a veteran of two wars; a tireless charity fund-raiser and an elder statesman who was inducted into the baseball and fishing halls of fame.

Fans entering the ballpark for the evening tribute were given a folder with Williams’ stats, a postcard of his Cooperstown plaque and a copy of John Updike’s New Yorker story, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

The park was decorated with memories of Williams’ life and career. Banners covered the Green Monster to illustrate three of his passions: hitting, serving in the Marines and talking to kids with cancer. Proceeds of the evening event were donated to the Jimmy Fund, Williams’ favorite charity.

Stenciled in the infield dirt were the numbers .406, Williams’ batting average in 1941; 521, his home run total and “USMC.” Williams spent five years fighting in two wars.

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For five hours in the morning, a steady stream of fans and even Red Sox first baseman Brian Daubach filed in under a blazing sun to walk along the warning track and see artifacts of Williams’ career.

Williams’ Hall of Fame plaque was affixed to the left-field wall, which also featured a picture gallery of Williams’ career. The scoreboard video screen played highlights of Williams’ career and testimonials from friends and colleagues.

The Red Sox chose to finish the program with broadcaster Curt Gowdy’s description of Williams’ final at-bats Sept. 28, 1960. With former Oriole pitcher Jack Fisher on the mound, Gowdy called Williams’ final homer.

“What a way to go out.”

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