Papi co-producing documentary on Williams

Papi co-producing documentary on Williams

BOSTON -- Ted Williams, the iconic Hall of Fame hitter, fighter pilot and fisherman, will have his life profiled in the renowned American Masters Documentary series on PBS in a documentary that will premiere in the summer of 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Splendid Splinter's birth.

And in a most fitting twist, David Ortiz's company -- Big Papi Productions -- is helping to co-produce the film along with Major League Baseball, Albert M. Tapper and Nick Davis Productions.

Ortiz belted 483 homers with the Red Sox, second only to the 521 clocked by Williams.

"I've always felt a great connection to Ted -- the people of Boston welcomed me into their hearts, but somehow you always knew there was only one Ted Williams," said Ortiz. "He was always the one you heard about in Boston. I can't think of a better way for Big Papi Productions to hit the national stage than with an American Masters about this American hero."

Big Papi was acquired by the Red Sox in 2003, one year after Williams died. Arguably the two most accomplished hitters in Red Sox history never crossed paths, but Ortiz will now gain a greater appreciation of the man who set the bar for all Boston sluggers.

"David has been very funny," said Nick Davis, the director of the film. "He said, 'Ted is the only guy in Red Sox history to hit more home runs for the team than me, so of course I have to be involved.'"

Though Ortiz won't be interviewed on camera for the documentary, he is providing support however he can.

"To his credit, David said that because they never met and he never saw him play, he wouldn't have much to say that would round out the actual portrait we're making," said Davis. "But David is being helpful in a myriad of other ways, such as reaching out to potential narrators and helping us publicize it. It's just great having his charm and his spirit involved in the process."

Several former MLB players will be interviewed for the documentary, including Wade Boggs, the Hall of Famer who won five batting titles while with the Red Sox and was raised on the "Science of Hitting," which was written by Williams.

The goal for Davis while directing this film is to bring Williams to life for fans of the more recent generations who never got to see him in the batter's box.

"The first thing you do is basically immerse yourself in the subject, which I've been doing for almost the last two years," said Davis. "I was first told about this project the day after the 2015 World Series ended. I immediately started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching all the video tape and all the old films. We're working with Major League Baseball, so they have generously opened their archives to us. ... The whole team is steeping themselves in everything having to do with Ted Williams."

Williams will be the first baseball player to be profiled with an American Masters documentary. The series started in 1986 and has won 28 Emmy Awards.

"This isn't just the baseball stuff," said Davis. "We'll look at him growing up in San Diego with a childhood I wouldn't wish on anyone. And obviously the wars he fought in, which took nearly five years out of his career. He was John Glenn's wingman in the Korean War. He fought 39 successful combat missions in Korea and is now in the aviation Hall of Fame. The other great passion of his life was fishing, and he is also in a fisherman's Hall of Fame."

As far as the baseball goes, the film will provide viewers a closer glimpse at the methods than the statistics.

"When he was a baseball player, hitting was all he thought about," said Davis. "There's all these stories. He went to sleep with his bat, he weighed his bats religiously, he had the Red Sox put his bats in the dryer to heat them and get off any condensation that might have made them heavier than he wanted them to be. He was just unbelievably meticulous and obsessive about hitting, to the exclusion of all else. It's been fascinating to get to know him through this experience.

"He was such a delightful presence to people who knew him. He was mean or closed to the press, because he felt he had been mistreated and they had been involved in his personal life, so he shut himself off them to them. But to his teammates and to the people who knew him, he was like a big, overgrown boy. As a friend and teammate, he was gregarious and fun -- he was The Kid."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.