THIRTEEN’s American Masters series announced a new documentary about Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, co-produced with Major League Baseball, Albert M. Tapper, David Ortiz‘ Big Papi Productions, and Nick Davis Productions. The film is slated to premiere summer 2018 on PBS in honor of Williams’ centennial (August 30, 1918 – July 5, 2002). This is the first time American Masters has profiled a baseball player.
“A major American cultural figure whose story has never been properly told, Ted Williams is a fitting first,” said Michael Kantor, American Masters series executive producer. “This film will reveal the man behind the legendary .406 batting average: complex, misunderstood and profoundly human.”
To fans, the Boston Red Sox player was baseball’s Peter Pan: the eternal ‘Kid’ who combined preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. Serving as a flight instructor in World War II and a decorated combat pilot in the Korean War, Williams was also a fly-fishing expert.
Lesser known was how he was driven by shame over his Mexican-American background, humiliation over his father’s weakness, and a deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother. American Masters: Ted Williams (w.t.) will reveal the star player’s complicated relationships with his family, teammates, press, fans and himself. Through in-depth interviews with those who knew him best, the documentary will demonstrate the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished.
American Masters: Ted Williams (w.t.) will also look at the impact the iconic hitter has had on the current generation of stars in Major League Baseball. Superstars like Kris Bryant, Daniel Murphy and Josh Donaldson have credited Williams’ methods to hitting as guides in their own approach today.
“To me, Ted is an Homeric hero. Like Achilles, he was perfect, but vulnerable, extraordinary, yet flawed,” said executive producer Albert M. Tapper (Great Performances: Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, Broadway: The Golden Age). “I discovered him when I was four-years-old and met him when I was 44. No one has ever had as much impact on my life. Whatever success I have had in my life, I owe it to him.”
“Only one man ever hit more home runs for the Red Sox than I did — and that’s Ted Williams. What an honor to help tell his story for American Masters and PBS,” said David Ortiz, the recently retired Boston Red Sox 10-time All-Star and executive producer for Big Papi Productions. “Boston fans are the absolute best, and I’ve loved learning about how challenging a time Ted had with them; this guy used to spit at the fans and flip them off! Man, I hate to think what would’ve happened if he’d been around for Twitter!”
“Ted Williams’ legacy and accomplishments continue to impact our great game to this day,” said Chris Tully, Executive Vice President of Media, Major League Baseball. “Having a series like American Masters examine the story of one of baseball’s most historic and iconic figures, and his impact on our young stars in the game today almost 60 years after he stopped playing, is an exciting journey that Major League Baseball is proud to be a part of.”
“Ted Williams is the perfect subject for a filmmaker. Guileless and kid-like, profoundly talented and obsessively driven, he was also profane, quick-witted, patriotic, brilliant, and sensitive – a man of immense complication and contrasts,” said director and producer Nick Davis (Jack: The Last Kennedy Film; Blood, Sweat + Gears; 1999). “I look forward to telling his story on the country’s premier outlet for biographical filmmaking.”
Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series’ 31st season on PBS features new documentaries about filmmaker Richard Linklater(September 1), artist Tyrus Wong (September 8), writer Edgar Allan Poe (October 30), and entertainer Bob Hope(December 29). To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, the American Masters website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive: previously unreleased interviews of luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.
American Masters: Ted Williams (w.t.) is a co-production of Albert M. Tapper and Nick Davis Productions in association with 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.
Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Judith and Burton Resnick, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, and public television viewers. Support for American Masters: Ted Williams (w.t.) is provided by the Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation.