BASEBALL UPSTAGED its own All-Star game Tuesday night by gathering a couple of dozen of the century's best ballplayers at Fenway Park for a nostalgic presentation that brought forth great affection and a little regret. The regret was for all the things in the game that are going, going . . . gone, as symbolized by the men -- some still playing, others aging -- who stood spaced around the diamond receiving the cheers in Boston.
Among the things that are going is Fenway itself, still perhaps the best place to watch a ball game but too small, too old and too lacking in the modern amenities to support a major league payroll anymore. Pretty much gone by now are the sort of ties to one team, one city, that existed for much of the century and that kept a Musial, Spahn, Brooks Robinson or Willie Mays with the same franchise (at considerable cost to their own financial well-being) through most or all of their careers.
But definitely not gone, happily enough, was Ted Williams, still as recognizable as he was 58 years ago, when he was the last batter to hit over .400. The All-Star players who spontaneously gathered around him on the field as he set up to throw the ceremonial first pitch showed a sense of baseball history. Ted Williams was a type who, the high-salaried young players must have sensed, is being paid in a coin they will never receive -- respected both for his 4 1/2 years as a fighter pilot in two wars and his standing as the most uncompromising perfectionist in the history of hitting a baseball.
Mr. Williams was both proud and prideful in his relations with Boston's difficult fans, but by the time he came to this city in 1969 to manage our Senators, the rough edges had worn off and what we had here, in the last, lamented years of Washington baseball, was one of the game's greatest enthusiasts leading the Senators to some uncharacteristically good seasons. May he return here someday soon to throw out another opening pitch.