This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 5, 2002, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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BOB SELLERS, GUEST HOST: A baseball legend, Ted Williams, the last man to bat over .400, died today at the age of 83.
Joining us on the phone to talk about what the splendid splinter meant to baseball is former baseball player and sportscaster Joe Garagiola.
Joe, thanks for joining us.
Was Ted Williams the greatest hitter of all time?
JOE GARAGIOLA, FORMER SPORTSCASTER: Well, he had the purest swing of any player I ever saw. The only other name that's ever mentioned in that context would be Stan Musial, but Stan got some infield hits that Ted Williams would never have gotten and never did get. So when you talk about a pure swing, I'd have to say Ted Williams, because he controlled that strike zone like nobody I ever saw.
SELLERS: Something that did strike me — we just saw a little footage before from the '99 All-Star game in Boston. One thing about Ted Williams [is that] there was a period of his life where the fans weren't crazy about [him], but other players — professional ballplayers — really appreciated his ability, didn't they?
GARAGIOLA: Oh, did they appreciate it. I mean, I'll put myself in that category. You almost adored that kind of ability.
That '99 conference on the mound — let's call it that — when Williams was driven out to the mound, and all the greats were around the infield, and then the modern players tried to get to see him, it was something to behold.
And it was ironic that here was Mike Piazza, one of the big stars of today, with the camera in his hand, kind of circling around to try to sneak in to get a good look at this guy, Ted Williams, and take a picture of him.
I tell you, from the stands, you were clapping and you were crying because it was such a scene.
SELLERS: It was a scene, and they even tried to get the players to get off the field so they could start the game, and nobody wanted to because it was almost like a god coming on the field. When it comes to baseball, he kind of was. This was a guy that hit 521 home runs, hit .406… in '41. The lifetime average — I think, was .344, and he missed five seasons because of service in the military.
GARAGIOLA: … But I think that the thing that most players really admired about him was that last day when he did hit .400 when Joe Cronin, his manager, went to him and said, you know, "You're hitting over .400. The game doesn't mean that much. You could sit down and be the guy that hits .400." "No way," he said…
SELLERS: … about the military service, even the president had something to say today… "Ted gave baseball some of its best seasons, and he gave his own best seasons to his country. He will be greatly missed."
GARAGIOLA: Yes, he will.
SELLERS: What do you think the legacy is?
GARAGIOLA: Well, I think that those of us who were fortunate enough to know him — we believed what he said as almost a young player when he said, "I want to be remembered as the greatest hitter who ever lived," and he will be remembered for that.
But I would like to think that his legacy would not be what they write about him or say about him, his relationship with the sportswriters and the media but what he did for the Jimmy fund, how much money and how much he gave of himself on the QT, not a whole lot of fanfare, to raise money for youngsters who were really in deep trouble.
SELLERS: Thank you, Joe.
SELLERS: Joe Garagiola.
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