I’m sure a lot of folks remember Mo’ne Davis, who, in 2014 became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series and was also the first African-American girl to play in the LLWS. “Throw like a girl” memes exploded, except now, the phrase was a compliment. Davis went on to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, she won the Best Breakthrough Athlete ESPY, and Time magazine named her one of The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014, among other honors.
— Little League (@LittleLeague) December 1, 2014
Fast forward six years, and it turns out that Mo’ne Davis is still playing ball. This spring, Davis is a freshman at Hampton University, making her NCAA Division I softball debut on February 8, 2020. She’s not pitching anymore, but rather has become a middle infielder. In her debut, Davis started at second base and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs.
As of this post, Davis has a .333 batting average with 8 RBIs and 5 stolen bases through nineteen games.
Davis’s decision to attend Hampton, an historically black school, comes in part due to the aftermath of her LLWS successes. Following the tournament, Davis had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Then in 2015, she took a twenty-three-day Civil Rights barnstorming trip to the South with her Philadelphia youth baseball team, the Anderson Monarchs. The team had the opportunity to travel in a 1947 black-and-white Flxible Clipper bus, the same type of vehicle Negro League players traveled in. They also met with civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, who had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. After attending predominantly white schools from elementary through high schools, Davis decided to take the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of African-Americans who went before her.
I don’t know how it is that I’d never heard of this movie before, but I stumbled upon it at the library last week, and I’m glad I did. Based on a true story, The Perfect Game is about a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico who became the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series in 1957.
The movie begins when César Faz moves to Monterrey, Mexico after being let go by the St. Louis Cardinals from his job as a clubhouse attendant. César seems content to drink the rest of his life away, but then he meets a boy named Ángel Macías, a wannabe pitcher who is crazy about baseball. Ángel convinces César to first play catch with him, then later convinces him to help recruit and coach Monterrey’s first-ever Little League team.
The Monterrey Industrials become an impressive team, and before long, they find themselves traveling to Texas to play on the competitive stage. Upon their arrival in the United States, they are met with racism, a language barrier, and visa troubles. Even though they are physically smaller than any of the American teams, the Industrials pull off a series of victories that endear them to the media and to fans. With some outside help and support from a sports reporter, a groundskeeper, friends and family back home, and some other unexpected sources, the team wins its way to the Little League World Series championship game.
I could go into more detail about the plot, but with this particular film, I feel more inclined to discuss what I like about it. Throughout the movie, the boys who make up the Monterrey Industrials are complete reverent about baseball. They consider it to be a gift from God himself, and when Ángel stumbles upon the first real baseball he’s ever held, he is convinced it was dropped from the sky by God. Ángel, who has a rough relationship with his father, is even willing to put up with his father’s shame in order to pursue his passion for the game.
In spite of how his career with the St. Louis Cardinals ended, César Faz also continues to show a love for the game. Twice he accidentally stands up a girl who has invited him for dinner. César is deeply interested in the girl, but he gets so caught up in coaching the team that he constantly loses track of time.
Beyond baseball, and sometimes even on the diamond, the movie tackles the issue of racism in the United States, against Hispanics and African-Americans both. It also highlights the kindness of people, even in the midst of a turbulent time. We see everyone from a diner waitress to the Secretary of State stepping in on this team’s behalf to help them on their journey through Little League baseball.
Overall, the movie has moments that are just so real. We see struggles with alcoholism, a strained father-son relationship, a death in a family, a clash of cultural differences, a love interest, harsh working conditions, and the juxtaposition of leading a practical life versus chasing one’s passions. I wouldn’t call The Perfect Game the best baseball movie I’ve seen (I hesitate to go that far with any movie, really), but it ranks pretty high on the list.
Here’s an amusing graphic I found with some convincing steps to prevent overage kids from participating in the Little League World Series. I particularly like the bit about the grizzly bear.
Here is a phenomenal Op-Ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni:
In the column, Bruni discusses the success of Mo’Ne Davis, the Little League World Series pitcher who made headlines for being a dominant presence in the Series. Normally, this kind of performance in the Series doesn’t warrant as much attention, but in a country that continues to struggle with race and gender inequalities, this performance coming from a 13-year-old black girl has turned some heads. The column also tells us about Steve Bandura, the man who gave Davis, and many other inner-city kids like her, a chance to do something more with their lives. He not only brought them baseball, he also taught them discipline, sportsmanship, and a variety of other life lessons to take with them after baseball.