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A Tribute to Ted Williams

Facts about Ted Williams and The Jimmy Fund

Photo of Ted Williams with children

Ted Williams was the single most influential person in helping to raise funds for the Children's Cancer Research Foundation (now Dana-Farber Cancer Institute).

He was an important aid to Institute founder Dr. Sidney Farber, spreading word of Farber's research to help save children (and later adults) from the scourge of cancer.

"Ted signed on for life to the Jimmy Fund, helping make it the best-loved charity in New England," says Mike Andrews, chairman of the Jimmy Fund.

Ted Williams' visits to the Jimmy Fund Clinic

Throughout his career as a player and beyond, Ted made countless unheralded (and, at his request, unreported) visits to children being treated for cancer at the Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Tales abound of kids waking up to find the "Splendid Splinter" standing over them, or parents learning at check-out time that "Mr. Williams has taken care of your bill."

When asked about his visits once by a reporter, Ted snapped back that he didn't discuss the subject and stated: "What I do for the Jimmy Fund, I do for the kids."

  • While it is well-documented that Williams hit a home run in his final major league at-bat in 1960, a far lesser-known story is that after the previous day's game, he went to visit a sick boy at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, then drove to Rhode Island for four separate Jimmy Fund appearances. The boy died a few days later, but not before giving Ted a belt he had made for him.
  • Ted's final trip to Dana-Farber was just days before his triumphant appearance to throw out the first ball at the 1999 Major League All-Star game at Fenway Park. It was then he finally met Einar "Jimmy" Gustafson, who by appearing on a live nationwide radio program as a 12-year-old cancer patient in 1948 had helped launch the charity.

"Of all my memories of Ted," says Mike Andrews, chairman of the Jimmy Fund until 2009 and former Red Sox second baseman, "the one that stands out the most is that last visit. When he came in and saw the new [Jimmy Fund] Clinic and said in his booming voice, 'Where's that Jimmy?,' it was just incredible. He had the biggest smile I think I've ever seen him have.

"The kids still reacted with awe to him," Andrews added. "It was like he was Santa Claus, and he still had that charismatic atmosphere surrounding him even though he had trouble moving around. The kids were as excited to meet him as they were 50 years before."

Theater trailers for the Jimmy Fund

Williams appeared in at least three movie trailers (one with Bing Crosby) to raise research and treatment as part of the Jimmy Fund/Variety Club Theatre Collections.

Run each summer since 1949, the program consists of movie houses showing a short film about the Jimmy Fund before the main feature, then having ushers or volunteers pass around canisters into which audience members can put coins and bills to support the cause.

In addition to appearing in several trailers through the years, Ted helped assure that canisters were filled by actually going to the theaters and drive-ins and speaking to audiences himself.

Ted Williams fundraising efforts for the Jimmy Fund

  • 1953 — When Williams returned from Marine duty in Korea, he insisted that guests at a "Welcome Home, Ted" dinner pay $100 a head – with all proceeds benefiting the Jimmy Fund. (nearly $130,000)
  • 1966 — When Ted was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, friends and admirers made record contributions to the charity. ($262,000)
  • 1988 — An "Evening with Ted Williams, No. 9 and Friends," a 70th-birthday celebration for the Splendid Splinter, was held at Boston's Wang Center. ($180,000)
  • 1995-2000 — The inaugural "406 Club" gala and subsequent membership drives raise funds for a "Ted Williams Senior Investigator" to conduct research at Dana-Farber. ($2 million)

Little known facts about Ted and the Jimmy Fund

  • When Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey died in July 1976, Ted sent word from a fishing trip on the Miramichi River in deepest Canada that he'd like one excerpt from his condolence message repeated: "I honestly think that the greatest tribute that can be paid to Mr. Yawkey and his favorite charity at this time is for everyone to join en masse from all over the baseball world and make a contribution to the Jimmy Fund in his honor."
  • For years, Williams encouraged people who wanted his autograph to make out checks to "Ted Williams for the Jimmy Fund." Ted would then endorse the check and send it to the charity. The Jimmy Fund would get the donation, and the check-writers would get valuable Ted Williams autographs on the back of their cancelled checks.
  • When the Ted Williams Tunnel was inaugurated in Boston during 1995, Ted told legendary sports broadcaster Curt Gowdy: "That tunnel is something they needed when I first went up there 55 years ago. I hope that every time they drive through it they'll think of me — hopefully good thoughts. When they do, maybe they'll send a contribution to the Jimmy Fund."
  • "Ted will do anything for the Jimmy Fund," said Bill Koster, Jimmy Fund's chairman for the charity's first 30 years of existence, in 1971, "and he's never refused."

Summary

Ted Williams was the Red Sox' biggest star when the Jimmy Fund was founded in 1948. He had a special love for children, and was always willing to visit them in the hospital with no fanfare.

He also continuously took part in Jimmy Fund fundraising efforts on behalf of the Red Sox organization, going to Little League games, American Legion banquets, temples and churches, movie houses, department stores for autograph sessions, even cookouts on Boston Common.

It is estimated that Williams is personally responsible for raising millions of dollars in the fight against cancer, AIDS, and other related diseases.

His support, along with the help of people throughout New England, has helped the Jimmy Fund become what it is today — a fundraising arm of one of the world's leading cancer research and treatment centers for both children and adults.

When the Jimmy Fund was started in 1948, childhood cancer was almost universally fatal. Today, the recovery rate for some forms of the disease is as high as 90 percent, thanks in large part to discoveries made at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute supported by the Jimmy Fund.