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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gwynn-Williams moment stole the show at 1999 MLB All Star Game

Alan Greenwood

There was never a collection of greater knowledge on the science of hitting a baseball than that which stood just in front of the pitchers mound a little before 8 p.m. on July 13, 1999.

Ted Williams, ailing from the maladies that claimed his life a few days less than three years later, needed help to rise from a golf cart and make the ceremonial first pitch. Tony Gwynn, the second greatest hitter of all time who hailed from San Diego, gently guided Williams to his feet and in finding home plate. Williams’ vision, once said to be 20/10, could barely see. ...

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There was never a collection of greater knowledge on the science of hitting a baseball than that which stood just in front of the pitchers mound a little before 8 p.m. on July 13, 1999.

Ted Williams, ailing from the maladies that claimed his life a few days less than three years later, needed help to rise from a golf cart and make the ceremonial first pitch. Tony Gwynn, the second greatest hitter of all time who hailed from San Diego, gently guided Williams to his feet and in finding home plate. Williams’ vision, once said to be 20/10, could barely see.

The two men became friends when Williams was celebrated in his hometown during Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career for the Padres. They stayed in touch the rest of Williams’ life, the Einstein and Edison of hitting, discussing their shared passion.

Everyone at Fenway Park for the All Star Game were gifted several lifetime memories. Mark McGwire launched moonshots during the Home Run Derby (albeit with baseballs that, reportedly, were little more than golf balls wrapped in cowhide), Pedro Martinez fanning five of the first hitters he faced (and, some say, damaging his arm for the duration of his career), and the historic meeting of hitting geniuses.

On this day, the latter is in the spotlight. Gwynn died Monday of cancer, at the age of 54. He was robbed of longevity, just as he was robbed in 1994 of a chance to become the first .400 hitter since Williams’ .406 in 1941. The players’ strike ended the 1994 season on Aug. 12, with Gwynn hitting .394.

They did, however, co-star in one of baseball’s greatest scenes, if only for a moment.

THANKS, KAWHI LEONARD:
When the San Antonio Spurs make their annual appearance in Boston, the Garden fans should treat the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals with a lusty ovation.

In one of the more amazing performances in any recent NBA playoff series, he brought tears of joy to his team’s venerable leader, Tim Duncan, and made His Highness, the Miami Heat’s leading representative on the NBA’s All-Time, All-Me team, into a blubbering fool.

They say the Heat may be seeing the window close on their so-called Big Three, a few championships short of what His Highness promised after rising on a smokey stage to celebrate His arrival in South Beach. Free agency and contractual options may end their reign this summer.

It is a slam dunk that His Highness will make his next career decision based solely on what is best for Him.

ANOTHER HUMBLING
REMINDER: A colleague here offered a pointed observation on why soccer, the most popular sport worldwide by those who refer to it as football, eternally fails to gain that status in the United States:

“They keep saying that more kids are playing soccer in the United States than any other sport, so why aren’t we ever any good at the World Cup?”

The question is without any single answer, but its asking seems unlikely to end any time soon.

Alan Greenwood can be reached at 594-6427 or agreenwood@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Greenwood on Twitter (@Telegraph_AlanG).