Doak Ewing is baseball's biggest private film archivist

(CBS News) It's a great honor to throw out the first pitch on opening day.

At Wrigley Field in Chicago on Thursday, Bill Murray put his own spin on tradition by first running the bases. Most fans love opening day because every team gets a new beginning, even the Cubs.

CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that are some still immersed in baseball's past.

Outside Chicago, the man with the largest private collection of baseball films in the country couldn't care less that it's opening day.

"I don't follow baseball like I used to," says Doak Ewing. "I couldn't tell you the starting line up of the Cubs."

To grab Doak's attention these days, the baseball game has to be at least a half-century old, say the Cubs from the 1935 World Series.

"I like the way the game used to be. I like to show people the way it used to be," Doak says.

Doak's love affair with baseball movies started when he was a kid in the 1950s.

"My mother thought TV was evil, so we never had TV...but we did have movies. So I couldn't watch baseball on TV and I loved baseball and I got to see it through these movies over and over," Doak says.

In 1980, working for the Atlanta Braves, he found a dumpster full of old films the club was about to toss. A collector was born.

Mickey Mantle
A still image from the video of Mickey Mantle's first at-bat, before he began wearing his iconic number "7"
CBS News/Rare Sports Films

He's now got 1,500 films, rarities like the only known broadcast of Don Larsen's perfect game in the '56 World Series, or a 1947 Boston Braves promo film - one of the first in color. He's got one of Mickey Mantle's first at-bat, with Mick wearing number "6" instead of the "7" he later made famous.

When Ken Burns needed footage of the scandalous 1919 Chicago White Sox, the team that threw the World Series, he went to Doak.

"I didn't charge him a cent," Doak says. "He got off a very good deal."

Doak Ewing makes a comfortable living selling videos of these films. But for him, there's an even greater value.

"Films remind us old guys of how things used to be simple. Maybe it was better in the old days that we didn't know all the stuff we know now," Doak says.

It's a simpler world; a trip made possible by an old projector and two magic words: play ball.

Don Larsen
A still image from the video of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series
CBS News/Rare Sports Films
  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.