BOSTON – He was a skilled fisherman, a veteran of two wars and an accomplished hunter. Oh, and Ted Williams also played baseball.
Fans seeking to buy items once owned by the legendary Red Sox slugger will flock to Boston's Fenway Park beginning Wednesday for a preview of the first major auction of sports, military and personal memorabilia documenting Williams' life.
The preview, open to the public, is set to last through Friday at the world's oldest baseball park and home field of the only team that Williams played for during his 1939-1960 major league career. The auction will be Saturday and some of the proceeds will benefit The Jimmy Fund, a charity affiliated with Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for which the slugger helped raise money during his lifetime.
Williams, the last major league hitter to bat .400 — posting a .406 average in 1941 — enjoyed a diverse life, including as a U.S. Marine in World War II and the Korean War, a member of the fishing hall of fame and a skilled and accomplished hunter. He flew 39 combat missions in Korea and took enemy fire three times, including during an encounter that forced him to land his stricken jet on its belly.
"There're not many elements of his life that did not exude the same excellence as he did on the baseball field," said David Hunt, whose firm, Hunt Auctions Inc., is selling the memorabilia on behalf of Williams' daughter, Claudia Williams of Hernando, Fla. "And that is really unique ... He's sort of like the John Wayne of baseball and sports of that time period and I think that's evidenced by all these artifacts that documents his life."
Among the nearly 800 items up for auction is a baseball in pristine condition that Babe Ruth autographed for Williams with the inscription "To my pal Ted Williams, From Babe Ruth." That unique ball is expected to go for between $100,000 and $200,000, Hunt said.
The ball, which was stolen from the family's Florida home in the 1970s and not recovered until 2005, had a special place in Ted Williams' heart, his daughter said.
"Of course, the one item in the sale which meant so much to him as a baseball fan was the personalized baseball given to him by Babe Ruth," Claudia Williams said in an email to The Associated Press. "It influenced his personalizations to so many kids in the future, as he always loved the way Mr. Ruth signed the ball, 'Your pal.'"
Others items include Williams' 1949 American League Most Valuable Player award valued between $150,000 and $250,000, a silver bat for winning the American League batting championship in 1957 valued between $100,000 and $200,000, as well as bats and jerseys that the slugger used, Hunt said as workers unpacked the memorabilia for display at a luxury suite at Fenway Park.
"These objects really just chronicle this man's life and, I think, show how great he was, not just as a baseball player," Hunt said.
Claudia Williams says her dad's intent was always to auction the items for charity.
"I'm rather certain, in his last year with the Red Sox, he earned less than $100,000," she said. "So, my dad was always amazed at the sale prices garnered from sales of sports memorabilia.
"It is dearly important to me to include The Jimmy Fund in this event as it was at the center of my father's heart for so many years."
Hunt said the auction caps a process that began nearly six years ago when his firm did some appraisals for her.
Williams' daughter, Hunt said, had discussed selling some of the items with her father and brother, who both supported the idea. That occurred before Williams died in 2002, followed by his son in 2004.
The 10-year anniversary of Williams' death at age 83 and Fenway Park's ongoing 100th anniversary celebrations provided an ideal timing for the auction, Hunt said.
"Claudia kept things that are important to her, donated things to museums ... Why not do this in celebration of his life, benefit the charity that he loved and make it a positive thing for everybody," Hunt said.
Claudia Williams said: "I am incredibly proud of my father. My father lived a wonderful life, and did all he could for his fans, his country, and his family."
Rodrique Ngowi can be reached at www.twitter.com/ngowi