This Doc Uncovers How ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’ Hid His Mexican Roots From MLB

Lead Photo: Courtesy of PBS/Getty Images
Courtesy of PBS/Getty Images
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Baseball fans will know the name Ted Williams. They also will surely know his nickname: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.” To this day the San Diego-born player remains the last Major League Baseball player to bat over .400 in a season (Williams posted a .406 batting average back in 1941). Highly seen as one of the best players of the twentieth century, there’s no shortage of awards and accolades that celebrated his storied baseball career. It’s no surprise PBS’ American Masters series has premiered a documentary that looks into this sports icon. Nick Davis’s American Masters – Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” hopes to give audiences a comprehensive look at the life of an undisputed sports hero.

And for those who know little else about the famed hitter, the documentary will delve into one key aspect of the player’s life that he wrestled with and hid for most of his life: Williams was Mexican-American. As Ben Bradlee, Jr., author of The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams and a talking head in Davis’ doc, told AP’s Russell Contreras, Williams “was born to Samuel Stuart Williams, a white photographer and pickle salesman, and May Venzor, a Mexican-American Salvation Army devotee who often volunteered in Tijuana, Mexico, leaving Williams and his brother to fend for themselves with their alcoholic father.” The family ended up in San Diego in 1910 just before the Mexican Revolution began. Ashamed of his family, and perhaps fearing the kind of discrimination he saw happening in his own club (the Boston Red Sox was the last major league team to integrate its team in 1956), Williams kept his Mexican lineage a secret for much of his life.

“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, which co-produced the doc. Not content with merely creating a loving tribute to the hitter, Davis’ doc is a probing look at the many issues and contradictions that riddled Williams’ life — and even his death (the fact that his remains were frozen cryonically led to many ugly legal fights within his surviving family members). Which is to say, there’s little reason to miss out on learning more about this sports icon.

American Masters “Ted Williams: ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’” is available to stream for free until August 20, 2018.