Produced by Nick Davis, ‘Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”’ was released on PBS on July 23, 2018. Depending on when you are reading this, that may be tonight, tomorrow, or even next week.
Starting the film off by discussing Ted Williams’ history and Mexican heritage, we are introduced to the fact that Ted Williams’ life was not ideal. Having a father who was a soldier, photographer, and pickle salesman who always on the road, and his mother being a foot soldier in the Salvation Army, Ted and his brother were the male figures in the house. Ted never wanted to be known for his Mexican descent that came from his mother, it was something that he never openly discussed for most of his life. Ted used the anger that was built up from his tough childhood and released it all on each pitch that was coming his way.
At the age of 17, Ted signed with AAA San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast league. There were many talents that made Ted who he is today. Being “the greatest hitter who ever lived” is certainly one of them, but he also was an incredible pilot when he served his country in both the Korean War and WWII. During his time in the war, Ted missed a total of five full seasons in the MLB. When he came back from war on July 29th, he made a visit to Fenway Park to see some old friends. Then owner of the Red Sox, Tom Yawkey asked him to go take some batting practice while at the field. A total of 456 days had passed since he last held a baseball bat, but it looked like he never missed a day. Ted continued to do what he was best at: hitting. One homerun after another, 13 pitches resulting in 13 straight homeruns during that one batting practice session. The word soon got around that “The Kid” was back in town. Ted was the type of hitter that would hit until his hands were bleeding, he attributed his success not to being born gifted, but to being born with the desire to be the best.
I obviously was not around when Teddy Ballgame was in his prime but hearing the stories of how the crowd went still, with a slight murmur when he stepped up to the plate, brings back memories of when I went to games during David Ortiz’s final season here in Boston. Except when Ortiz stepped to the plate, the whole crowd zoned in, not wanting to miss history. Except instead of a murmur, there was a roar. Gives me the chills listening to first hand experiences. David Ortiz is like the Ted Williams of my days. Now I know I will probably get a lot of pushback from that take but let me explain. I grew up loving the Red Sox, still do. I never was able to fully comprehend and appreciate Ted Williams talent until I grew up so all I knew was David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and how thrilling he was to watch. Ted was actually referred to as a godlike figure multiple times throughout the film, and that is how I looked at Big Papi. Wade Boggs described Ted’s game best, “his bat being the brush, and Fenway park being his canvas.”
We were introduced to another side of Ted. Many idolized him and thought that he was, as stated above, a god. Well the other side of Ted was an angry, stubborn, avid swearer who by growing up in a difficult situation, never seemed to fully understand how to treat others. Nobody is perfect, but Ted valued his success. He was very involved with the young fans and even with The Jimmy Fund. I believe that the reason people may view him as being a tough person is because he never liked having press follow him when doing such charitable things, thus leaving the people with only knowing the negative sides of him. My favorite story that appeared on the documentary was that when visiting a Jimmy Fund patient, the young boy would not let go of Ted’s finger, so Ted laid next to the boy as the boy fell asleep, still holding his finger. It seems as if often times, even in today’s world, even a few negative words about someone, can cause someone to totally overlook all of the good that that person has done.
Finally, in 1991, at the 50th anniversary of Ted’s .406 batting average season, he finally did what everyone had always waited for. He tipped his cap to all those who had supported him over the years. I will close this with a quote from the man himself, Teddy Ballgame, “I am Ted f*****g Williams and I am the greatest f*****g hitter who ever lived.”