Unfrozen in Time

Ben Bradlee Jr. pens the ultimate Ted Williams biography.

By | Boston Magazine |
ted-williams-book-the-kid

Photograph by Scott M. Lacey

Despite Dozens of biographies about Ted Williams, the late baseball star remains an enigma: a Red Sox slugger who could be pals with the world one moment and a vicious blowhard the next, a womanizing and absent dad who became the Jimmy Fund’s biggest booster, and a crucial advocate for including Negro Leaguers in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Out this month, The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams spends more than 800 pages trying to parse the complex life of this major-league athlete.

Digging deeper than his predecessors, author Ben Bradlee Jr. (a former Globe editor) interviewed more than 600 people, including teammates, fellow war vets, fishing buddies, and all of Williams’s surviving children, ex-wives, and ex-girlfriends. Some of these interviews took years to acquire. “You get a lot of doors slammed in your face,” Bradlee says. “After a while, maybe they take pity on you, as in, ‘This guy keeps coming around.’” Williams’s younger daughter Claudia even gave Bradlee access to her father’s house, where the writer spent days examining address books, family videos, and papers, including letters from Nixon and John Updike. “It was a biographer’s dream,” Bradlee says.

Accordingly, The Kid shines with its vast wealth of personal history—from Williams’s negligent Depression-era parents to his own son’s controversial use of cryogenics on his remains. The result is the most deeply reported—and most incisive—coverage of a real, yet complicated, Boston legend.

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, by Ben Bradlee Jr., comes out on 12/3, published by Little, Brown. Bradlee will talk about the book at the Hotel Commonwealth on 12/5, as part of the Great Fenway Park Writers Series, and at the Boston Athenaeum on 12/9.