Boston Red Sox

For nearly 60 years, the only footage the public had ever seen of Ted Williams’ final game and his last at-bat home run was in black-and-white.

That changed Monday night, when a new documentary premiered on PBS. Watch the trailer for American Masters – Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” above.

The doc included film shot by a then-19-year-old art student, Bill Murphy, who brought his color 8mm camera to Fenway Park for Williams’ last game in 1960.

Murphy, who was one of only about 10,000 people in attendance that day, moved around the little bandbox of a ballpark, recording Williams in the field, hitting, and jogging the bases after hitting a home run in his last major league at-bat.

Murphy captured Teddy Ballgame’s final swing from the stands on the third base side and recorded Williams rounding the bases for the 521st and final time, hurriedly, unsmiling, with his head down, just as John Updike wrote.

He famously did not tip his cap to the crowd. Gods do not answer letters.

The footage was developed a few days after Williams’ farewell, but only a few friends and family members of Murphy had seen it up until this point. The film spent most of the last 58 years in Murphy’s desk drawer and attic.

Ted Williams, circa 1955. Photo: Getty Images

Murphy told the New York Times, where you can see his original footage, that he once approached the Red Sox about the recording. But the team did not ask to see it. He also spoke with an ESPN associate producer years ago, but little interest was shown in the tape.

But when Murphy read that American Masters, the award-winning PBS series, was working on a project about Williams, he reached out to the documentary’s director, Nick Davis, about the long-hidden color tape of Williams’ epic goodbye to baseball.

Davis, in an interview with the Times, called the newly unearthed footage “the holy grail.”

The hour-long documentary covers Williams’ life, playing career, and military service and was released to mark the 100th anniversary of The Kid’s birth. It was produced in partnership with Major League Baseball and a production company with the backing of David Ortiz and can be watched in its entirety on the PBS website.

Updike said that immortality is nontransferable, but now, for the first time, the Splendid Splinter’s final game will live on in vibrant color.

— By Matt McCarthy,

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.