The Fan


Thefanmovieposter

I first watched The Fan a few years ago, at the suggestion of a (now ex-) boyfriend. This weekend, I decided to sit down and take the movie in again. The Fan stars Wesley Snipes as Bobby Rayburn, an MLB star slugger, as well as Robert DeNiro as Gil Renard, a knife salesman and baseball fan who is absolutely obsessed with Rayburn.

Bobby Rayburn has just signed a $40 million contract with the San Francisco Giants — a development that has garnered a lot of scrutiny regarding whether Rayburn actually deserves such an exorbitant salary. Rayburn covets the jersey number 11, which is currently worn by teammate Juan Primo. However, Primo has his own long history wearing the number and is unwilling to give it up so Bobby can wear it. Rayburn’s performance as the season gets underway, meanwhile, is less than stellar, and fans grow critical of his contract.

Gil Renard, meanwhile, finds himself in conflict with his ex-wife, and when he leaves their son alone at a Giants game to attend a sales meeting, his ex obtains a restraining order against him. Shortly thereafter, Gil also gets fired from his job after threatening a client. These events send Gil into a tailspin, and his obsession with Bobby Rayburn intensifies. Gil begins stalking Bobby.

Believing that Rayburn’s struggles are due to not being able to wear his favorite jersey number, Gil decides to confront Primo himself. Primo shows Gil his shoulder, branded with the number 11, and says that it is his number. A struggle ensues, and Gil stabs Primo to death. Bobby Rayburn is suspected of the murder, at first. Nevertheless, his performance on the diamond improves, and Gil believes that what he did benefited Rayburn and the Giants.

While stalking Rayburn at his home on the beach, Gil rescues Rayburn’s son, Sean, from drowning. Bobby Rayburn, of course, is grateful to Gil and invites him into their home. Gil convinces Bobby to play catch with him on the beach, and in the conversation that follows, Bobby says he stopped caring about the game after Primo’s death, because he realized there were more important things in life. He also tells Gil that he has lost respect for the fans, remarking on their fickle nature. Gil takes offense to these comments, believing Bobby is ungrateful for the favor Gil has done for him in killing Primo.

Gil kidnaps Bobby’s son, Sean, and in a tense phone conversation between the two, Gil directs Bobby to his freezer, where Bobby discovers the patch of Primo’s skin with the number 11 brand. The movie climaxes in a showdown between the two men on the baseball diamond, in the midst of a downpour.

This film is definitely more appealing as a thriller than as just a baseball movie. I enjoy thrillers, so I find that I like this movie quite a bit. If that is also your cup of tea, then you might find The Fan an appealing option. If you’re looking for a true baseball movie, however, maybe skip this one.

A Little Inside

A Little Inside

A Little Inside is not a very well-known movie — or, at least, I only recently became aware of it, and the film was released in 1999. It features a number of lesser-known actors, plus a young Jared Padelecki and Jesse Eisenberg’s kid sister, Hallie.

The movie tells the story of Eddie Mills, a former minor league ballplayer who gives up the game upon his wife’s death to raise his daughter, Abby. Life as a single dad proves challenging for Eddie, who struggles to understand what little girls like or need. As much as Eddie wishes Abby would follow in his footsteps as a baseball player, Abby instead develops an interest in ballet.

Realizing that he misses the game, Eddie decides to return to baseball with the Columbus Clippers — after five years away. Eddie’s coaches are understandably hesitant about his return, but Abby, despite her lack of interest in playing the game, is excited about her father’s comeback. Unfortunately, his relationship with his daughter finds itself on the rocks when Eddie tells her she can’t go on the road with him until school is out. While Eddie is on the road, Abby stays with the Mills’ neighbor, Nancy.

Eddie’s teammates, all much younger than he is, are not too thrilled with the team’s newest addition. They mostly give him the cold shoulder, at least until he starts to see some playing time and proves his ability to contribute to the team’s success. Suddenly, Eddie finds himself getting called up to the Yankees.

Eddie gets the opportunity to play three innings for the Yankees, no doubt the highlight of his baseball career. However, the experience continues to prove hard on Eddie’s relationship with Abby, and Eddie gives up his baseball career for a second time.

This is definitely more of a feel-good movie than it is a true baseball movie — there is just enough baseball to keep a fan engaged, if you’re interested in checking it out. The flick won’t knock your socks off, by any means. As far as movies go, it’s honestly pretty mediocre and predictable. But it makes for a good family-night film, and sometimes, that can be kind of nice.

A Field of Dreams prequel series

This is some interesting news, particularly if you are a fan of the movie, Field of Dreams. A prequel series is in the works, slated to stream through Peacock in 2023. Information about the series is pretty limited at this point, as the news about it is still pretty new.

The upcoming show will film primarily in Iowa, just like the 1989 movie did, though not on the original movie’s baseball diamond in Dyersville. So far, there is no announcement about the cast, or even if Kevin Costner will be involved in the new series in any way. However, it does look like the show is seeking out production assistants:

It is said that the story in the show itself will be the back story of what happened before Ray Kinsella decided to plow up his cornfield and put a baseball diamond there. What that means, exactly, I haven’t been able to find any additional details on. But this does look like something worth keeping an eye out for as information becomes more available.

Baseball rituals and superstitions on Friday the 13th

A lot of people get anxious on Friday the 13th, in the same way they get anxious around black cats or freak out about a broken mirror. There’s even a name to describe this apprehension of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia (but don’t ask me to pronounce that).

Anyone who’s ever watched Major League knows that baseball players can be particularly superstitious. And while most ballplayers likely are not offering tributes to a Voodoo shrine, major league players do find more subtle ways to try to draw good fortune to their performance.

Major League (1989)

Some of the most common rituals include kissing religious necklaces, making the sign of the cross, pointing towards the sky after a home run, eating a particular meal before a game, or even not grooming (or, perhaps, grooming a particular way) on game day. When a team is behind, the rally cap has become a popular way among players and fans both to try to help their team rally to victory.

During a winning streak, some players will refuse to wash their hats, helmets, or uniforms — and some fans will do the same. Some players will abstain from sex on game day, or, in the spirit of Bull Durham, during a winning streak. If a particular bat or glove is deemed “lucky,” it will become a popular item among the players of a team.

And, of course, if a no-hitter or a perfect game is in progress, nobody should ever, ever talk about it.

Wade Boggs was known as a particularly superstitious player, even nicknamed the “Chicken Man,” due to his routine of eating copious amounts of chicken every day. According to Boggs:

It started in ’77. I had a Minor League budget and a growing family to feed. Chicken was cheap and I really felt better eating lighter food rather than a lot of heavy meat and gravy. Then I noticed my batting average going up. Ever since I’ve been a `chicketarian.’

Sporting News

In addition, Boggs would write the Hebrew symbol for life, “Chai,” in the batter’s box before every at-bat, and he also made sure to take 117 ground balls (some places report the number was 150) during every practice. Something about Boggs’s routine definitely worked for him, considering his five batting titles, 12 All-Star Games, and induction into the Hall of Fame.

Other famous players with superstitious rituals included Joe DiMaggio, who would always run from the outfield and touch second base before going into the dugout. Pitcher Tim Wakefield would eat a pound of spaghetti before any game he started, and Justin Verlander is said to eat tacos before every start. Mark McGwire used to wear the same cup from his high school playing days — at least, until it was stolen.

There’s not much information specific to Friday the 13th superstitions among baseball players, but no doubt, they exist. When the upcoming date was brought up with Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Thursday, May 12th, 2016, Mackanin responded, “I wish you didn’t tell me that.”

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Take Me Out to the Ball Game movie

Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a movie musical released in 1949, starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. Sinatra plays Dennis “Denny” Ryan, while Kelly plays Eddie O’Brien, and the two play second base and shortstop respectively for the Chicago Wolves. Denny and Eddie are also vaudevillians, performing on stage during the off season and breaking out into song at intervals throughout the film.

The movie opens with Denny and Eddie performing Jack Norworth’s “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on stage, and immediately upon the end of the performance, they have to quickly hop a train to head to spring training. Upon their arrival, they learn that the team has a new owner: K.C. Higgins. The Wolves are stunned to discover that “K.C.” stands for Katherine Catherine, and their new owner is a woman.

Katherine, it turns out, knows her baseball, and it doesn’t take long for Denny and Eddie to both fall in love with her. Meanwhile, Wolves fan Shirley Delwyn develops a crush on Denny, and she is relentless in her pursuit of his affections. Shirley invites the entire Wolves team to a clambake, and at the party, Eddie’s dancing and singing draws the attention of Joe Lorgan, a gambler.

Lorgan offers Eddie a job performing nights at a new café he is opening up, which Eddie accepts against his better judgment. Due to the lack of sleep from sneaking out nights, Eddie’s performance on the diamond suffers, and the Wolves’ chances at winning the pennant start looking bleak. Realizing he’s affecting the team as a whole, Eddie tells Lorgan that he’s quitting the nighttime gig.

Meanwhile, having no knowledge of Eddie’s late-night activities, Katherine believes his issues on the field stem from a lack of fun. In an effort to get the team back on track, Katherine offers to date Eddie. When Lorgan shows up to confront Eddie and finds him with Katherine, he reveals to her that Eddie had been singing and dancing nights with a team of girls. Katherine benches Eddie, and Eddie realizes that Lorgan was deliberately trying to make the Wolves lose so that he could win a bet he had placed against the team.

While I don’t want to give away the ending to any future viewers, after a series of events involving a bean ball and a couple of fake doctors, things work out in the end for the Wolves and for our two heroes.

As for me, I found this movie highly entertaining. Comedy and energy permeate the plot, and the tunes have a way of sticking with you even after the movie is over. It’s lighthearted and fun and a worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes of your day.

Major League

Major League movie

Here’s a movie I watched as a kid, but not since then — until last night. I finally had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the 1989 comedy classic, Major League, this time as an adult. I was young enough the first time I watched this movie that I couldn’t really remember the core plot line. Perhaps the thing I remembered most from that first viewing was singing along to “Wild Thing” when Ricky Vaughn took the mound in the division championship game.

My memory did get jogged with regards to some other details. Pedro Cerrano shaving his own head with a massive knife (or a small sword?) had me nodding in recognition. Not to mention the snakes and the almost-chicken-sacrifice. And Willie Mays Hayes dropping to do pushups at the plate during spring training also brought a reminiscent chuckle to my lips.

One thing I did not recall, likely because I was too young to understand it the first time around, was how the new team owner deliberately sought to screw the team over. But, as with any great sports movie, how could I ever forget the Indians’ miraculous winning performance as the season progressed? I definitely appreciated this movie so much more this time. Understanding what is going on can make such an impact.

As for final thoughts, I certainly would not mind enjoying this clip during the seventh inning stretch of the next ballgame I attend, whenever that might be:

Bull Durham

I re-watched Bull Durham last night, and while I’ve made reference to the movie a number of times in this blog, I am a bit stunned that I have not yet devoted a post to it. I watched The Shawshank Redemption a few weeks ago, which got me thinking about the younger Tim Robbins’s performance in this classic baseball flick. It had been a while since I last watched Bull Durham, and it’s a bit stunning to see the younger Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, as well.

While the semi-pornographic nature of the film is a bit of a turnoff for some folks (pun intended), one can’t deny that this movie is chock full of some pretty fantastic baseball speeches. Some make one nostalgic about the game:

Others amuse the hell out of me:

Grand speeches aside, I also really enjoy the individual dialogues a lot of the characters have with themselves: Crash talking to himself at bat, Nuke talking to himself on the mound, and Annie’s narration over the entire movie. The film romanticizes the experience of minor league baseball a little too much, I think, but really, it’s just a fun film to take in as a baseball fan.