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.
God, I love baseball.
~ from The Natural
I have been listening to a biography of Elon Musk on audiobook, and it certainly caught my attention when the audiobook mentioned that Musk had sponsored a documentary called Baseball in the Time of Cholera. I don’t know whether Musk actually has any interest in baseball, but apparently he had visited the area of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, bringing with him gifts for an orphanage. The documentary was made shortly after.
I managed to find the documentary on YouTube. It’s only about half-an-hour long and certainly worth the watch. The cholera outbreak in Haiti began in 2010, and from what I’ve been able to tell online, continued until May 2017. I do have to caution, this documentary is a bit grim (the baseball helps to lighten things up slightly). Nonetheless, things like this are important to be aware of in our world.
I was a teenager when I first watched this movie and came across a copy while browsing around the library this weekend. Feeling like I was overdue to re-watch it, I decided to check it out.
The Pride of the Yankees was released in 1942 and is subtitled “The Life of Lou Gehrig.” Starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig, Teresa Wright as his wife Eleanor, and Babe Ruth as himself, it chronicles events of Gehrig’s life, from boyhood to his iconic speech at Yankee Stadium at the end of his career. The movie is much more touchy-feely and relationship-focused than it is a baseball biography. There is certainly baseball in the movie — after all, how could there not be? — but emphasis falls more on Gehrig’s relationships with his parents and with his wife.
The complete turnaround in Gehrig’s mother’s attitude towards baseball is certainly one of my favorite aspects of the plot. In the beginning, Mrs. Gehrig is determined that her son will become an engineer, only wishing for him a better life than she had. When Gehrig signs with the Yankees out of Columbia, she is naturally disappointed. However, Gehrig’s solid play and eventual stardom win her over, and by the end, she insists that anybody can be an engineer, but there is only one Lou Gehrig.
Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, both the original and the movie version, is so moving that anybody with a heart can’t help but be moved to tears. The movie as a whole revolves around the pulling of heart strings, from Gehrig’s too-good-to-be-true relationship with Eleanor, to the story of hitting two home runs for little Billy in the hospital, to the speech at the end. Certainly it was intended much more as a feel-good tale than a baseball movie. The movie ran a bit longer than I remembered it going (a little over two hours), but as a whole, was definitely worth watching once again.