Williams Says He's Feeling Good

Sunday, September 30th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Ted Williams has been through ``hell'' in the past four years but thinks he may be getting stronger, the Hall of Famer said in his first published interview since having open heart surgery.

``I'm feeling pretty good,'' the former Red Sox great told The Boston Sunday Globe from his Hernando, Fla., home. ``But my whole life has been knocked out of joint. Oh, boy. I've never been through years like I've been through in the last four years. There's nothing I can compare it to in my life. I really have been through hell.''

Last November, Williams was admitted to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida, and a pacemaker was placed in his chest to regulate his heartbeat.

The problems continued, however, and Williams had open-heart surgery in January. A month later, he was moved to a hospital in San Diego to rehabilitate. He had several setbacks after the surgery, including kidney failure, infections and the need to return to a respirator.

In June, he took a cross-country flight in a medical airplane so he could continue his rehabilitation closer to home.

Williams, 83, sounded tired, weak, and often lost his train of thought, the newspaper reported. But his words were upbeat.

``I think I might be getting a little stronger,'' he said.

Williams gets around in a wheelchair and is limited to a few steps a day. He has three hours of physical therapy per day, kidney dialysis in his home and he still has a tracheotomy.

He gets outdoors a couple of hours a day and has a healthy appetite, said his son, John Henry Williams, who has been with him every day since the surgery.

Williams' son said the family has been shielding him from the Red Sox latest late-season swoon, but Williams still lamented the state of the modern game.

``It is a terrible situation,'' he said. ``I think our game's been destroyed and we've really been hurt. I'm just nuts about it all, but it's changed and for the worse.''

Williams did not sound surprised when told that Barry Bonds was closing in on Mark McGwire's home run record. ``Well, he's a powerhouse,'' Williams said.

Williams played his entire 19-year career with the Red Sox, and was the last man to bat over .400 for a season, hitting .406 in 1941. Friday was the 60th anniversary of the day he went 6-for-8 in a doubleheader to finish at .406.

After playing 1 1/2 seasons of minor league ball with San Diego, Williams was obtained by the Red Sox in 1937 for $25,000 and five players. After a year in Minneapolis, he went to the major leagues in 1939.

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