LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees Fans: Forget the Mets, Watch a Baseball Movie Instead

Monday, October 26, 2015

Yankees Fans: Forget the Mets, Watch a Baseball Movie Instead

With the World Series beginning tomorrow, the off season for the Yankees is in full swing. They made a quick exit from the post season, but in fairness there were already 20 teams at their winter homes when the Yankees were eliminated. Now that the Fall Classic is set (Mets and Yankees, in case you didn't know), perhaps you're  not interested in watching any of it without the Yankees? That is understandable. You still want baseball? I've got just the thing for you.

Watch a baseball movie.

May I offer my services and provide you with my top ten baseball themed (sometimes Yankees themed) movies?  (Unlike today, there are so many mediums on which to find these movies. When I was young, there were only two. Either it was playing at a theater nearby or it was on television, on one of the few channels available.) There are countless ways to find the movie of your choice. So, here goes, and you're welcome.

10. The Sandlot
Just this spring. a group of Yankees players reenacted one of the movie's iconic scenes explaining who the Babe was and why using a baseball with his autograph for a sandlot game was such a bad idea. The movie came out during my kid's childhood but the characters lived in my childhood, free of any electronic devices and full of imagination. The Babe himself makes a cameo and the hero of the movie, played by James Earl Jones, even knew the Babe or "George" as he called him, which was the Babe's given name.  Wendy Peffercorn did get her man and "You're killing me, Smalls" became one of that era's most repeated sayings and those of us who lived in the 60's, followed baseball and got ourselves in at least a little trouble, were caught up in the nostalgia of the movie.

9. A League of their Own
The nostalgia was of a time before mine. It was based on a true story of Cub's owner Philip K. Wrigley starting a league of women baseball players during World War II in four small cities near Chicago. Eventually the league expanded to include my hometown of Peoria, but the league folded the year I was born. Although some baseball scenes were poorly displayed, the story line was a fun trip to a time when we discovered that girls can play ball.

8. Fear Strikes Out
Jimmy Piersall did not like this movie. There was more to his life than climbing backstops and running around the bases backwards. He was an accomplished centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Anthony Perkins, who a few years later would forever be remembered as Norman Bates in Psycho, portrayed Piersall in the movie. Jimmy's father was played by  Karl Malden. The movie was true in the sense that Piersall did suffer from mental illness and recovered. Again, the makers of this movie took liberties in some baseball scenes. Piersall would not have shook hands with the third base coach as the movie showed upon hitting a home run: it was an inside the park home run. Geesh!!

7.  The Babe
John Goodman was both a poor choice and a good choice to portray Babe Ruth. Bad because it seemed the Babe that Goodman played was always a fat oaf who could only hit long home runs. Truth be told, Ruth was an accomplished player and a great athlete, the best player that ever lived. Goodman could not show us that image, so he didn't even try. The good side of Goodman's acting was Ruth off the field, a fun loving and untamed adolescent whose childhood was lost inside the walls of an orphanage. The Babe did indeed burst on the scene in a spectacular way and the rest is history.

6.  42
Before Jackie Robinson arrived on the scene in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the perennial also ran, "Dem Bums," who rarely contended in the National League. In Robinson's first year the Dodgers won the pennant and would go on to win six pennants in Jackie's ten years. There were many heroes that made it all possible, Branch Rickey, Pee Wee Reese, Leo Durocher and Rachel Robinson among them, but none greater than Jackie Robinson himself. The  villains were countless including players, owners, managers and many fans. I probably shouldn't mention that Phillies manager , Ben Chapman, was a former Yankee. What a guy.  And those six world series in which Jackie played, were all against the Yankees, with the Dodgers winning only once, in 1955. Still, these series were played on the highest level, witnessed by the fact that four of them were decided in a final seventh game. The golden era of baseball, which started in 1947 was much the result of Mr. Robinson, and those who followed him and for whom the doors were finally opened.

Field of Dreams
I did not like this movie at first. It seemed hokey. A man hears voices in an Iowa corn field, plows under his crop and builds a baseball field. Then ghosts appear. Still not satisfied he hears more voices and, about to lose his home, takes a road trip to Boston, kidnaps a writer to take him to a baseball game--a Red Sox game, no less. So then they see something on the score board at Fenway that prompts a return to his Iowa farm with a detour to Minnesota. Well, you know the rest and yes, the movie did grow on me. Quite a bit, it grew on me over the last 25 years. Time to "have a catch."

Bull Durham
It was life in he bush leagues at its best. And did you catch the ending? She built a shrine to Yankees great Thurman Munson. Classic.

3. Major League
A cast of characters that brought us to the inside of the game better than anything since Jim Bouton wrote "Ball Four." Of course all the characters were "juuuust a bit outside" as Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) put it.

2, 61*
Billy Crystal recalling the idols of his childhood, the 61 Yankees. Mantle and Maris were well played by the actors, some of the others, not so well. Relive a pennant race with one of the greatest Yankees teams of all time.

1. Pride of the Yankees
The best baseball movie, ever. Yes, it was a sappy 40's style love story and they redid Gehrig's speech, which was fine the way it was, but all in all there was no better baseball flick, period, End of story.

Of course, there were other movies deserving mention, including those of recent vintage, Trouble With the Curve and Moneyball. There are countless oldies like The Winning Team with Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander, The Spirit of St Louis, and of course The Natural, which wasn't my favorite, but perhaps was yours.

When I saw 42 it took me back to a time when I saw the Jackie Robinson Story that starred Jackie as himself. A group of Yankees including Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris made cameos in A Touch of Mink starring Cary Grant and Doris Day. (I recall seeing Cary Grant at Yankee Stadium back in the '70's)

The best (really the worst) Yankees baseball movie might have been the 1962 classic Safe at Home with Mantle and Maris making appearances with a little boy who ran away from his home to the Yankees new Spring Training home in Ft. Lauderdale where he encounters his heroes. I seem to remember the little kid saying over and over "Mickey Mantle. Roger Maris," ad naseum. As I recall, that is all the kid said during the whole movie. Yes, if you haven't seen Safe at Home go ahead and watch it. Just promise you'll never speak of it again.

Happy viewing!!

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