Bidders vie for bits of the Ted Williams legend

Beneath a mounted head of a Cape buffalo shot by Ted Williams (inset), Nick Peck of Nashua examined a photo. Beneath a mounted head of a Cape buffalo shot by Ted Williams (inset), Nick Peck of Nashua examined a photo. (Ellen Karasimowicz for The Boston Globe)
By Sarah M. Gantz
Globe Correspondent / November 24, 2008
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WEST SWANZEY, N.H. - Everyone wanted a piece of the Williamses.

One man wanted the greater kudu with corkscrew horns that was shot by the late Red Sox star Ted Williams, also known as the Splendid Splinter, while on a safari. A woman bought two stone Inuit statues with the former baseball star's name carved underneath them.

A zebra pelt, a mahogany baby grand piano, and a hand-woven Navajo rug were among the antiques and furnishings owned by Dolores Wettach Williams, 73, the third wife of Williams, that were auctioned off yesterday at the Gallery at Knotty Pine Auction Service. A second auction in the spring will feature more personal items, including Ted's signed baseball memorabilia.

The event drew acquaintances of the Williamses from their years in Vermont, antique lovers, and, of course, lifelong fans of the ballplayer.

Nick Peck already had a cherished souvenir, the Winchester rifle Ted Williams used to kill a Cape buffalo ( its mounted head sold for $550). Peck said he bought the gun in the 1970s from Williams through a mutual friend "because it was Ted's."

Peck, who lives in Nashua, said he was disappointed at the time that he could afford only one of six guns Williams was selling, but has treasured the Winchester. Peck met Williams only once, when he bought the gun from him, but watched him play ball on television and yesterday spoke of him as if he were a lifelong pal.

Peck came to the auction to see if there might be a photograph of Williams holding the Winchester. There was a black-and-white snapshot of Ted hunched over the buffalo, with the Winchester.

Ted and Dolores Williams were married from 1967 to 1973 and had two children, John Henry and Claudia. Dolores lives in Florida, where she is recovering from a recent stroke. Ted died in July 2002.

Most of the items auctioned were from the house the couple shared in Putney, Vt. Many had belonged to Dolores's family, but a collection of mounted fish and African game heads had belonged to Ted, who loved to hunt and fish. A collection of prints of paintings by Les C. Kouba, known for his wildlife and landscape artwork, also had belonged to the ballplayer. One painting, a shadowy forest scene with a lone moose, was inscribed by the artist, "With best wishes to my good friend Ted."

Peter and Gail Beckett who came to the auction from Henniker, N.H., had no intention of bidding on the Williams estate. They were at the auction hoping to learn more about the couple who once owned their Winter Hill Farm property in Henniker and lived in the farmhouse beginning in 1970.

The Becketts purchased the 300-acre property nine years ago and committed it to conservation, "so that it will always be the Ted Williams farm," said Peter Beckett.

But it was not only the lefthanded-hitting Red Sox legend whose name drew a crowd of more than 150 to the auction. Dolores Williams gained fame through a modeling and acting career prior to marrying Ted and was named Miss Vermont in 1956.

Shorty Forrett owned a hardware store on Main Street in Brattleboro, close to Putney, and for a time Dolores had dropped by every few weeks for oil and chainsaw parts. Once, he said, she participated in a chainsaw safety class Forrett instructed at his shop.

"She was a very active person," Forrett said. "When it came to maintenance, she would always do it herself."

Once Ted had accompanied his wife to the shop, but Forrett didn't want to impose by asking for an autograph. Instead, he held on to the signed warrantee slip for the grass trimmer Ted purchased that day.

Forrett wasn't bidding yesterday, either. He said he came "just to see her little truck," a cherry-red 1962 Willys Jeep pick-up. A Ted Williams truck sold at the auction.

A 1987 GMC tailgate Suburban with a baseball hood ornament went to Larry Guerette, of Nashua, who said he had visited Williams's New Brunswick camp, where the ballplayer liked to fish.

"It's a little bit of history," Guerette said.

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