David Marlin’s donation documents one of baseball’s most memorable home runs
The longtime Massachusetts-based cameraman, whose acclaim came during a nearly three-decade stint covering the major New England events for CBS News, generously donated one of his beloved cameras to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2015.
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But this camera was special, as it not only was used to preserve numerous history-making moments, both athletic and not, but it also captured the famed Ted Williams homer swatted in his final big league plate appearance.
On Sept. 28, 1960, 42-year-old “Teddy Ballgame” came to the plate with one out and the bases empty in the bottom of the eighth inning. With the 10,454 Fenway Park fans giving their hero a standing ovation, the lefty-swinging outfielder swatted a 1-1 pitch off Baltimore righty Jack Fisher 420-feet over the center field wall.
“Baseball has been the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me,” said Williams that day, “and if I could do it all over again I would want to play for the best owner in the business, Tom Yawkey, and the greatest fans in America.”
Boston would go on to win the 1960 home finale, 5-4, a rare triumphant moment during a challenging 65-89 season. But it was the unforgettable 29th homer of the season and 521st of his career for Williams that was the story. The Splendid Splinter, who had earlier in the season announced the ’60 campaign would be his last, said after the game that he would skip his team’s final three contests of the year to be played in New York.
When Marlin and his wife, Elaine, traveled from their Sudbury, Mass., home and visited the Hall of Fame for the first time this past May, he made sure a reunion with the camera was part of the Cooperstown trip.
“I kept the camera all those years. This is almost 60 years later,” Marlin said. “It was 2015 and I said, ‘What am I going to do with this?’ I wrote a letter to Sue Mackay (Hall of Fame director of collections) saying that I know you’re not a photographic history museum, but this is the camera that filmed Ted Williams’ last home run and would you have any interest in the camera. She told me they’d like to have it. I packed it up and sent it off. I could have sold it, but nobody’s shooting film anymore.
“I covered a lot of big stories – the Andrea Doria sinking off Nantucket, Edmund Muskie crying during the 1972 presidential primaries, and Ted Williams’ last home run. People always ask more about Williams than anything.”
“I used that particular camera to cover baseball, basketball, hockey, and other sports, fast action, where you needed a Sports Finder. I even once covered a submarine firing a missile where we knew where it was going to come up and I was able to follow the missile for a bit with it,” he added. “This was the workhorse for covering local and network television news from about 1948 through the 1960s.”
Marlin, a Massachusetts native, came up as a still photographer, receiving additional training with a motion picture camera in the Army Signal Corps during the Korean War-era, eventually transitioning into shooting local TV news stories before getting his job with CBS in the early 1960s. His footage of Williams was shot for United Press Movietone.
“In the early 1960s, we had all these newsreel companies like Pathé, Universal and Paramount, where people would see the newsreel before a movie,” he said. “But then along came television and the newsreels were only made up two days a week – Monday and Thursday. With television, it was today’s news today and suddenly newsreels were out of favor. One by one they went of business.
“He could either mesmerize you or tell you off. He never called me by my name – it was always ‘Bush.’ Everyone to Ted Williams was ‘Bush.’ If he used it in a derogatory manner, you were a ‘bush leaguer.’”
Marlin eventually had to make an important transition when camera technology evolved.
“I bought a video camera – I was basically a freelance cameraman – in order to stay in business when the business changed from film to video. It was either hope for documentaries as a film cameraman or go out and buy a video camera. So we did buy it,” he said. “We went to the bank and said we wanted to buy a video camera. The bank said, ‘Okay. How much?’ It was $50,000. He then picked himself off the floor. That’s what it cost initially for the camera, the recorder, the lenses, the whole package. To stay in business that’s what it cost me.
“As a matter of fact, I left the video camera in the trunk of my car for a year. I didn’t trust the video camera. I knew what I was doing with the film cameras.”
And in a sense, it was Marlin’s skill with a camera instead of a bat that eventually led him to a place in Cooperstown.
“I find that amazing. I was a sandlot outfielder who couldn’t hit and here I am at the Hall of Fame with Ted Williams and all the great ballplayers,” he said with a broad smile. “But not in the same way … it’s just a camera. It just happens to be the camera that filmed a historic event and I thought it belonged here.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum