People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws: Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and Mathematics cuts straight through that. Billy, of the twenty thousand notable players for us to consider, I believe that there’s a championship team of twenty five people that we can afford. Because everyone else in baseball undervalues them – like an island of misfit toys.
~Peter Brand, Moneyball
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.
I have finally gotten around to watching Fever Pitch, the 2005 flick starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore.
When the movie starts, seven-year-old Ben Wrightman is going to a Red Sox game with his Uncle Carl, and he quickly becomes a hardcore Red Sox fan. After Carl dies from cancer, Ben inherits his season tickets and for 23 years he remains a loyal, game-attending Sox fan.
When thirty-year-old Ben starts dating Lindsay Meeks, things go very well at first. But, of course, it is the off season when they start dating, so Lindsay doesn’t have a full perspective on how deep Ben’s baseball obsession runs — she just knows that everything in his apartment has a Red Sox logo on it. Lindsay agrees to go to Opening Day with Ben, but as the season progresses, it becomes evident how little Lindsay knows about baseball or the Red Sox. Lindsay tries hard to understand and accept Ben’s passion, but her determination to earn a promotion in her job, which means working long hours, causes friction in the face of Ben’s determination to attend every game.
Things come to a head when Lindsay invites Ben to join her on a work-related trip to Paris, but Ben declines because the Sox are in the midst of a heated playoff race. The relationship ends up in serious trouble, though the resolution proves both amusing and touching — fitting for a romantic comedy.
This is the first time I’ve watched a Jimmy Fallon performance as an actor, and I have to admit that I was impressed. This movie is definitely more rom-com than baseball movie, but it does have enough baseball in it to keep a fan interested. It doesn’t make me want to become a Sox fan anytime soon, but it does make me wonder if I might be able to find some Minnesota Twins toilet paper.
For anyone who is going to be in the Washington, D.C. area in the near future, this looks like a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Library of Congress’s baseball collections. The LoC currently has a Baseball Americana exhibit featuring items from their collections and from their partners as they relate to the game’s history. You can find information about the exhibit and some of the online collections on their website.
Then on Friday, July 13th, the LoC is teaming up with JSTOR labs, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Wikimedia for an event that appears to be a sort of mini conference featuring not only the collections, but also a panel on baseball, data, and American culture. The poster for the event is below, and more information can be found through Eventbrite here.
These are just a couple events associated with the exhibit. More information regarding additional events can be found here. It’s one of those things that makes me wish I had a bit more flexibility for travel, because I’d totally go to check some of this stuff out if I could. If anyone reading any of this happens to attend any (or all!) of these, please report back here!
Add this one to the list of movies that I watched multiple times as a kid. I didn’t watch it as many times as I watched Angels in the Outfield, mostly because we didn’t own a copy, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Rookie of the Year enough to give it more than one viewing.
Rookie of the Year revolves around twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner, who, while he is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, lacks the talent to be much more than a benchwarmer on his little league baseball team. However, one day, Henry steps on a baseball while at a dead run, causing his to trip and break his arm. After spending much of the summer in a cast, Henry discovers that his tendons have healed a little too tightly, turning his arm into a sort of biological catapult that allows him to throw a speeds around a hundred miles per hour.
Before long, Henry finds himself signed by the struggling Cubs, and he almost-single-handedly saves the Chicago team from its financial struggles by drawing sellout crowds to Wrigley Field for the rest of the season. He gets to learn from his hero, Chet “Rocket” Steadman, gets signed to sponsorship deals, and experiences the highs and lows that come with overnight fame. Henry’s mother’s boyfriend, Jack, serves as Henry’s manager, but it quickly becomes apparent that he merely wishes to use Henry as means through which to pad his own bank account.
The Cubs make it all the way to the Division Championship game (which, in this flick, is apparently just the one game). Chet Steadman starts and puts in some solid work before throwing out his arm and opening the opportunity for Henry to pitch. Leading by one going into the final inning, the Cubs run out to take the field, and Henry once again steps on a baseball, causing him to trip. He falls on his arm in the same manner as when he first broke it, but rather than breaking the arm again, Henry finds that his ability to catapult a 100-mph fastball has vanished. The Cubs as a team then have to get creative on how they will manage the final three outs of the game.
Watching this film again last night, for the first time since my childhood, I was able to catch on to some things that were totally over my head when I was younger. For example, the movie plays off the Cubs’ long World Series drought, which was still ongoing at the time of the movie’s release. As a kid, the biggest thing I got out of this movie was a twisted desire to somehow break my arm in hopes that I, too, would develop a slingshot that would turn me into a star ballplayer. As an adult, I just had to marvel at the willingness of some of the adults to exploit a child all in the name of making a buck.
There isn’t any actual new information on either page. Mostly I thought it would be nice to have a centralized location that I, and potentially others, can reference. I’m the kind of person who will occasionally do a web search for various lists of books or other sorts of media in order to get ideas, and I imagine there are others out there who must do the same. In the process of creating these lists, I’m noticed there are a number of movies that I’ve yet to write about here, so that’ll be a nice little project for me to get on.
Feel free to check the pages out, share them with others, or ignore them completely.
The other baseball-related activity from my New York trip was a viewing of the movie The Bad News Bears (1976 version), which, believe it or not, I had never seen before. I had heard of it, of course, though I really only had a vague notion of what the movie was about.
Walter Matthau (“Hey, Mr. Wilson!”) plays Morris Buttermaker, a former minor league ballplayer turned alcoholic who has been drafted to coach a team of misfit little leaguers. The season does not start out well for the Bears. In their first game against the appropriately-named Yankees, the Bears do not even record an out, and Buttermaker finally opts to forfeit on the team’s behalf.
Buttermaker eventually comes around and realizes he needs to do something more than just drink beer in order to help the team, and so he recruits 11-year-old girl pitcher Amanda as well as town bad boy Kelly Leak to play outfield. As is the case in any kids sports movie like this, the addition of these two players is exactly the boost the Bears need to start winning. Next thing we know, they are playing in the championship game.
Naturally, there are other hiccups along the way. Being the daughter of Buttermaker’s ex-girlfriend, Amanda drops hints continuously that she would like to see her mother and her coach get back together. Kelly’s reputation does little to earn him any friends, especially not when Buttermaker encourages him to become a ball hog to try to ensure the Bears make it to the championship. We even see some conflict on the opposing team’s side of the ball, as the Yankees pitcher finally decides he’s had enough of the pressure his coach and father has been putting on him.
The Bad News Bears is definitely a comedy, though not quite your typical kids movie comedy. It’s got an additional edge of profanity and crudeness to it that would make hardcore Disney parents freak out. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who wouldn’t be quite so appreciative of this aspect of it, and understandably so, if you’ve got small children. As an adult with a slightly twisted sense of humor and an appreciation for realism, however, I certainly enjoyed it.