Ted Williams and Arthur Griffin

The Swing

The Swing, 1939 © Arthur Griffin

Ted Williams and Arthur Griffin met in 1939; Ted was about to seize the role of Rookie of the Year, and Eastman Kodak wanted Griffin to test its new color film. Griffin was at Fenway Park with his usual assortment of equipment, working on a story, in black and white, for the Boston Globe. He also carried with him his 4˝ x 5˝ view camera and Kodak’s new color film made specifically for these view cameras.

Their careers rising simultaneously, these two men connected that historic day when Williams eagerly posed for two hours. The resulting photos, the first color images ever taken of Williams, provide a unique and exceptional collection of photographs of Williams early in his career.

At age 19, Ted Williams was not yet soured by carping sports columnists or feuds with management and fans, so he gladly agreed to pose. Griffin experimented for himself and Kodak that summer day; the color film was slow and not good for action shots, but Williams, exhibiting his batting stance and swing, was so engaging a figure that Griffin was determined to catch him.

At the time, the Globe printed only in black and white, and Griffin filed away the striking color photographs of “The Splendid Splinter.” By the time color photography became more widely used in the press, Williams’ amiability had diminished, and he had no time to pose for new photographs. This undeveloped film of Williams was discovered 50 years later, and the images are now part of his and Griffin’s legacies in both baseball and photographic history.

Arthur Griffin was a pioneer in the use of both color film and the 35-millimeter camera and published six books. Considered New England’s “photographer laureate,” he spent 60 years as a photographic journalist on assignments that took him around the world and into the company of the renowned.

This collection of photographs of Ted Williams made on that fateful day in 1939 is a unique tribute to this late baseball legend and has been widely praised as some of the finest baseball photographs taken. The images represent not only baseball history but also photographic history. It’s a great story and one that needs to be shared with the public.

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