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AMERICAN MASTERS: Ted Williams: ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’

Airs Monday, April 1, 2019 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Ted Williams at Lane Field, bat over shoulder. (a former baseball stadium loc...

Credit: Courtesy of Bill Swank, Baseball Historian

Above: Ted Williams at Lane Field, bat over shoulder. (a former baseball stadium located in San Diego, Calif.) (1936-1937)

Features Exclusive Footage of Williams’ Final Game

Narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winner Jon Hamm, documentary features exclusive never-before-seen footage of Williams’ final game and includes new interviews with Bob Costas, Wade Boggs, Ben Bradlee Jr. and Joey Votto.

During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams earned many nicknames - The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame, but the only nickname that he wanted was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

In that pursuit, he combined his preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball and in the process elevated the science of hitting in ways still emulated today.

The new documentary explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s remarkable on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with his family, teammates, press, fans and himself.

AMERICAN MASTERS "Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” premiered on PBS in honor of Williams’ centennial (Aug. 30, 1918 – July 5, 2002), and marks the first baseball subject in the series’ 32-year history.

Ted Williams - Trailer

In honor of the centennial of Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, AMERICAN MASTERS presents a new biography of the Boston Red Sox player who may have been the greatest hitter who ever lived.

Through never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angell and award-winning broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg, the documentary demonstrates the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished.

The Mythology of Ted Williams

Joey Votto, Wade Boggs and Bob Costas describe how Ted Williams was a baseball god, and how he was obsessed with the perfect swing.

Lesser-known topics explored in the film include Williams’ Mexican-American background, his experiences serving during World War II and the Korean War, and his deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother.

Ted Williams in Korea

In 1952, Ted Williams took a short break from his famed baseball career with the Boston Red Sox to serve in the Korean War as a fighter pilot for the Marines. His incredible crash landing of his plane in February 1953 shows the daily danger he faced during his service.

This film also looks at the legendary player’s impact on the game of baseball and his relevance in the almost 60 years since his retirement, highlighted by Williams’ iconic achievement — he is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406.

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams' Friendship (Outtake)

In 1941, Ted Williams played the greatest baseball of his life. It was also the year that would forever link him to another baseball icon: Joe DiMaggio.

Former players including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat, and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto share how Williams’ philosophy, commitment to greatness and approach to hitting influenced them in the film.

“Ted Williams was a fascinating, complicated man and this film really covers all the issues he was dealing with on top of baseball,” said David Ortiz, the recently retired Boston Red Sox 10-time All-Star and executive producer for Big Papi Productions. “Mr. Williams is such a part of baseball and Boston even today. This is a great project that really looked at his whole life and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Ted Williams' Heart of Gold

When he wasn't playing baseball, Ted Williams was busy helping raise money to support adult and pediatric cancer care and research for the Jimmy Fund out of Boston.

Watch On Your Schedule:

This film is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Discussion:

AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook, Instagram, tumblr, and you can follow @PBSAmerMasters on Twitter. #AmericanMastersPBS #TedWilliams


An Albert M. Tapper Production in association with Nick Davis Productions, Major League Baseball, Big Papi Productions, and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s AMERICAN MASTERS for WNET. Nick Davis is director and producer. Michael Kantor and Albert M. Tapper are executive producers. David Ortiz is executive producer for Big Papi Productions. Nick Trotta is executive producer for Major League Baseball.


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