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Williams, Citrus had tight ties

His warm relationship with Citrus County began around 1950 and grew strong through the years.

By MIKE STEPHENSON, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 6, 2002

His warm relationship with Citrus County began around 1950 and grew strong through the years.

Ted Williams' relationship with Citrus County proved to be a big hit for half a century.

Williams, who died Friday, started visiting Citrus County around 1950, attracted to the fishing and other outdoor activities available.

In December 1982, Williams' relationship with Citrus became even more firm. He was named a marketing consultant for the Citrus Hills residential development, an ambitious plan that sparked the growth of the county.

Williams, who had been a pioneer in athlete endorsements through a long association with Sears, was attracted to the project by developer Samuel A. Tamposi, a part owner of the Boston Red Sox who owned large chunks of land in Citrus.

"Ted is here to bat 1.000 for Citrus Hills," Tamposi said in 1982.

Williams lent his name to the effort and attracted a host of New Englanders, who had followed his Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox.

"Florida will be easy to promote," Williams said at the time. "I came here (to Citrus) at about the same time as Mr. Tamposi, but I wasn't as smart as he was to buy up as much land. Look out there -- it's beautiful."

Williams soon moved to Citrus Hills and tried to help Tamposi attract spring training baseball to the area in the late 1980s and early '90s. Later, Tamposi and his partner, Gerald Nash, donated land and services to establish the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame. The museum opened in 1994 and the hall of fame a year later.

In a 1995 St. Petersburg Times story, Steve Tamposi said his father, Sam, didn't see the museum as a marketing tool for Citrus Hills but as a way to honor Williams. Though he agreed that the publicity was good for business, Tamposi said he couldn't attribute to the museum the sale of a single home.

"Just the stature of having ... Ted Williams reside here is one thing, but to have a museum in his honor ... has added tourism to the county," County Commissioner Gary Bartell said in the 1995 story.

The museum was built in the shape of a baseball diamond and designed to detail Williams' life from childhood through the majors to retirement. Television monitors show Williams highlights and interviews with other Hall of Famers, former presidents and Williams' fishing buddies, such as former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight. It quickly began attracting 50,000 visitors a year and had a star-studded induction ceremony each February.

Though he resisted the museum effort at first, Williams expressed his gratitude in a 1994 Times story shortly before its opening.

"This, all of this, has emphasized to me how important friends are, how lucky I am to have so damn many of them," he said. "This makes you realize some things as you go along, that you're pretty fortunate and you're pretty lucky."

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