One Hit From Home (2012, dir. by Johnny Meier and David Aaron Stone)

The MLB regular season has come to an end and right now, I’m so thankful for the Orioles.

Why?  Because I’m a Rangers fan and the Orioles 52-110 record is the only thing keeping my Rangers from havin the worst record in the American League.  This season, the Rangers went 60-102.  In all of major league baseball, only the Orioles and the Diamondbacks managed to do worse.  The Rangers will not be going to the World Series this season.  We won’t be anywhere close.  The Astros might make it.  They’re playing White Sox later today.

I’m a true baseball fan, though.  True baseball fans have faith.  It’s been a long since the Rangers had a winning season and many of my favorite players have been traded to other teams.  (I’m still crying about Elvis playing for the Athetlics.  ELVIS!)  We’ve been struggling for a while but next season, we’ll turn things around.  I have faith.

Faith is also the main theme of One Hit From Home, a baseball movie that I watched last night.  One Hit From Home is about Jimmy Easton (David Aaron Stone), a baseball player who was the best curve ball hitter in the league until career was cut short by a knee injury.  When Jimmy gets into a bar fight, he’s given two options.  He can either go to jail or he can coach a college baseball team.  Deciding to coach, Jimmy returns to his hometown, hooks up with his ex-girlfriend, mentors a troubled a player, deals with his part, and does a lot of praying.

One Hit From Home was really predictable and, because it was a Pureflix film, more into religion than baseball.  I don’t mind religious films but it bothered me that One Hit From Home didn’t even seem to care much about the game.  There was no strategy or talk about teamwork or anything else that makes baseball special.  Jimmy never told anyone to bunt or to hit a sacrifice fly to bring another player home.  After a rough start, the team goes on a winning streak but the movie never shows how Jimmy adjusted his coaching style or what he taught the players.  Instead, Jimmy helps his star player get along better with his father and, after one of the movie’s many tragic car accidents, Jimmy goes to church.  I watched One Hit From Home because I wanted to see a baseball movie and I felt cheated.

The worst part of the movie was when Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend stopped by to welcome him back to town and she got offended when she discovered that Jimmy had spent the night with another woman, despite the fact that she was the one who dropped by the house unannounced and it had been years since she and Jimmy had even seen each other.  That made her seem very judgmental and hypocritical but the movie acted like Jimmy was the one who should apologize.

One Hit From Home wasn’t what I was looking for but it won’t make me give up on baseball movies.  I have faith in them, just like I have fath in my Rangers.

I Watched The Field Of Dreams Game

When I first heard that the Yankees and the White Sox were going to be playing a game in a stadium built next to the field that was used in Field of Dreams, my first thought was that it sounded really corny.

“Is Kevin Costner going to come walking out of the corn field?” I thought.

That’s exactly what happened.  At the start of tonight’s game, Kevin Costner emerged from the cornfield surrounding the stadium and walked out to the mound.  He was followed by the members of the Yankees and the White Sox.  They all emerged from the cornfields and took their positions, just like in the movie.

And it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  I may have thought it was going to be corny and maybe it was but when it actually happened, it was impossible not to get swept up in it.  As I watched the players emerge like wandering spirits who had finally found their home and as I listened to the crowd cheer, I thought to myself, “This is what baseball is all about!”

I may have started off with some doubts and neither the White Sox nor the Yankees are my team (I’m an AL West girl) but the Field of Dreams Game was still one of the best games that I’ve ever seen.  From the minute the first home run disappeared over the fence and into the cornfield, the Field of Dreams Game captured my imagination and it didn’t let go for the next three and a half hours.  This game reminded me of why I fell in love with baseball in the first place.  There were no big bands or fancy scoreboard or anything else that we associate with modern sports.  Instead, there were just two teams, playing in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd.  It was perfect Americana, a present to all of us baseball fans on Baseball Fan Day.  After watching this game, I now think every stadium should be redesigned to look like it’s sitting in cornfield.  It’s just how baseball was meant to be played!

(Of course, you may have to be a baseball fan to really get it.  My sister was in the room when one home run was hit and she interrupted my cheering by making a joke about the Children of the Corn.)

It was a good game too.  The White Sox won by one run in the ninth inning.  I was cheering for the Yankees but the White Sox played a good game and I can’t complain about their victory.

This was a great game and exactly what I needed tonight!  I hope this is an annual event because I can’t wait for the next Field of Dreams Game!

Artwork of the Day: Rookie Routs Ruffing, Yanks (by Graig Kriendler)

by Graig Kriendler

Today is Baseball Fans Day!

I’m a baseball fan so today is my day.  I’m still a fan even though my Rangers are currently at the bottom of the ranks.  40-73.  I’m still a fan even though we’re not going to anywhere near the World Series this year.  I’ll continue to be fan and, every season, I will continue to say that this is going to be the year that we’re going to do it!  I love baseball, I love my team, and I love my fellow baseball fans.  Even those of you who cheer for the Angels!

Today’s artwork of the day is from 2008.  No one captures the excitement of baseball like Graig Kriendler!

Mr. Baseball (1992, dir. by Fred Schepisi)

I watched Mr. Baseball last night because I was feeling depressed over the Rangers 25-42 record and I thought that watching a movie about baseball (it’s right there in title!) might cheer me up.

Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliott, an aging first baseman player who was once the MVP of the New York Yankees but whose best days are behind him.  Everyone realizes it but him.  Looking to sign a hotshot rookie, the Yankees put Jack on the trading block.  However, the only team that’s interesting in signing an arrogant veteran with a bad knee is a Japanese team, the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons.

Though he’s not happy about the trade, Jack move to Japan and takes his place as a member of the Dragons.  In Japan, he’s nicknamed “Mr. Baseball” and is told by the team’s owner that he’s expected to hit 54 home runs during the season.  However, Jack manages to alienate the team with his boorish attitude and his lack of understanding of Japanese culture.  With the help of another American player (Dennis Haysbert) and his girlfriend (Aya Takanashi), Jack finally sets aside his resentment, becomes a part of the team, and leads the Dragons into a pennant race.  He also learns how to improve his swing.

When Jack first arrived in Japan, I was worried that Mr. Baseball was going to be a culturally insensitive comedy, all about Jack teaching the Japanese players how to play baseball like the Americans.  I was dreading the thought of watching a movie full of stereotypes and cheap jokes about the way people talk.  Instead, Mr. Baseball actually treated Japanese baseball with respect and the emphasis was on Jack learning the importance of setting aside his ego, playing as a member of the team, and listening to the team’s manager, Uchimaya (Ken Takakurya).  Even though most of the film’s humor does come from the culture clash between the American Jack and his Japanese teammates, Mr. Baseball doesn’t really take any cheap shots at anyone and I appreciated that.  Instead, the theme of the film was that, cultural differences aside, everyone on the team loved the game of baseball.

Other than the fact that it was taking place in Japan, Mr. Baseball was a typical baseball film.  The plot did not hold many surprises.  Jack starts off as a star player, goes into a slump once he lets his ego get the better of him, and manages to come out of it just in time for the pennant race.  It’s predictable but Tom Selleck and Dennis Haysbert were convincing baseball players and I liked the film’s look at the culture surrounding baseball in Japan.  Mr. Baseball is hardly the greatest baseball movie ever made but it did cheer up this Rangers fan.

Scenes That I Love: The Worst Play In Baseball History

Not all scene that we love come from the movies. Some of them come from real life!

Behold, from a Cubs/Pirates game, the worst play in the history of baseball!

It’s the top of the third. There’s a runner on second base. There are already two outs. All the Pirates have to do is get one more out and the inning ends. So, what happens? When Javy Baez gets a hit, the shortstop scoops up the ball and throws it to first baseman Will Craig. Instead of simply going back a few steps and stepping on first, Craig runs after Baez, trying to tag him with the ball. This gives the baserunner time to run from second base all the way to home., which he crosses safely because Craig is so busy chases Baez that he doesn’t throw the ball to the catcher in time. The catcher then makes a bad throw of his own that gives Baez time to then make it to the first base and then all the way around to second. (At first, it looked like he might even have been able make it to third.) That’s a run and a double on what should have been an easy out! At the end of the clip, you can see that not even Baez can believe that he’s actually safe on second.

It’s all so amazing that it is easy to overlook that Will Craig is not the only person who made a mistake. If second baseman Adam Frazier had gone over to cover first while Craig inexplicable took off after Baez, he would have been in a position to make the play when the catch threw the ball back to first.

It’s wild moments like this that make me love baseball!

The Bingo Longo Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976, dir. by John Badham)

Up until 1947, Major League Baseball was segregated. Though there was no written rule barring blacks from playing on major league teams, there was an agreement among the team owners that no blacks would be signed to a major or minor league contract. Instead, starting in the 1920s, black players could only play for the teams in the Negro League. It was in the Negro Leagues that future greats like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays got their start. Josh Gibson, who spent his entire career playing in the Negro Leagues, is believed to have hit more home runs in a season than Babe Ruth ever did. For that reason, many baseball fans believe that any MLB records set before 1947 should come with an asterisk included. How can you determine who was the best when many of the best players in the game were never allowed to compete against each other?

The Bingo Longo Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings is a comedy that pays tribute to those players. Billy Dee Williams plays Bingo Longo, a charismatic pitcher who plays in the Negro Leagues but who, frustrated with the money that he’s earning and the owner’s callous attitude towards the players, breaks away and forms his own independent, barnstorming baseball team, the All-Stars Among the players that he recruits are catcher and power hitter Leon Carter (James Earl Jones) and Charlie Snow (Richard Pryor), who is constantly changing his name and lying about his background in an attempt to get signed to the major leagues. Bingo also steals a player named Esquire Joe (Stan Shaw) away from one of the teams that the All-Stars defeat.

Going across the country and playing other teams, the Bingo Longo Traveling All-Stars make a name for themselves as both players and showmen. Though Leon just wants to concentrate on playing the game, Bingo understands that importance of putting on a show for the people in the stands. They start out playing other independent black teams but soon, they’re even playing against amateur white teams. The games against the white teams are tense, as the All-Stars ever know how the people in the stands are going to react when the All-Stars win. The All-Stars usually do win, though. They’re the best and they’re not going to let the people watching forget it.

The Bing Longo Traveling All-Stars is a good film, especially if you’re interested in the history of baseball. It’s an episodic comedy with the emphasis on the various situations that the members of the All-Stars find themselves in as they travel from town to town but there’s also a serious subtext. The All-Stars are proving to a League that refuses to let them play that they are the best. At the same time, no matter how many games they win, the All-Stars still have to deal with living a society that treats them like second-class citizens. Even though they win on the field, they still have a hard time finding a hotel to stay at. It’s a movie that will make you laugh but it also makes you think. Billy Dee Williams is perfect in the role of Bingo Longo and James Earl Jones is the type of player that anyone would want on their team. The Bingo Longo Traveling All-Star & Motor Kings is a good film for both baseball fans and people who have never even heard of the designated hitter rule.

The Babe (1992, dir. by Arthur Hiller)

John Goodman. He’s a good actor but not a very convincing baseball player.

Last night, I watched The Babe, which starred John Goodman as Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth was one of the greatest baseball players of all time, the first of the great sluggers, and the holder of the career home run record from 1935 to 1974. He was the type of player that I wish The Rangers had right now because we’ve got a 22-27 records right now and the only bright spot is that we’re doing better than the Angels.

The Babe starts in 1902, with George Herman Ruth getting dropped off at reform school and learning how play baseball from Brother Matthias (James Cromwell) and then follows Ruth through his career, his first failed marriage, his attempts to become a manager, and his eventual retirement from the game. At first, everyone makes fun of the Babe because he’s not very sophisticated and all he wants to do is hit the ball. Then he shuts them all up by knocking ball after ball out of the park. Babe Ruth was a big man, like John Goodman. But he was also a great athlete. Goodman looked like he was in pain every time he had to swing the bat. Maybe that explains why Goodman plays the Babe as if he never actually enjoyed one minute of playing baseball.

The Babe is like a highlight reel of famous anecdotes. Babe Ruth hits his first home run in the Big Leagues. Babe Ruth promises a sick child that he’ll hit two home runs. Babe Ruth calls his shot. Babe Ruth hits three homers during his final game. In real life, Babe Ruth retired after he injured his knee. In the movie, he retires after he hears an owner talking about how having Babe on the team is only good for selling tickets to the rubes. All the famous Babe Ruth stories are here, along with all of the drinking and the womanizing. The movie never digs too deep into what made Babe tick or what it was like to be the most famous and popular athlete in America. It never even really explores how Babe Ruth changed the sport of baseball. Watching The Babe, you would never know that home runs weren’t even considered to be an important part of the game until Ruth established himself as someone who could hit one ball after another out of the park. The best baseball movies make you feel like you’re either out on the field with the player or you’re in the stands with the fans and they make you want to stand-up and cheer with every hit and every run across home plate. The Babe never does that. There’s no love of the game in The Babe.

It Happened In Flatbush (1942, dir. by Ray McCarey)

It’s not easy being a Rangers fan.

I start every season feeling so optimistic and hopeful that this will be the season that the team will finally get itself together and return to the World Series. Every season, that feeling lasts for a game or two and then it’s back to just taking my victories where I can get them. This season, we’re already in last place in the AL West and my favorite Ranger, Elvis Andrus, is now playing for Oakland. However, as bad as things are here at the start, we’ve still won more games than the Yankees, The Twins, and the Tigers. That’s my little victory. The great thing about baseball is that if you get enough of those little victories, there’s a chance that they’ll eventually turn into a big victory.

Earlier today, I watched an old, black-and-white movie called It Happened In Flatbush. It’s about a baseball team that no one is giving much of a chance. Even though the team isn’t given a name in the film, the film takes place in Brooklyn and, in the 1942, the Dodgers were Brooklyn’s team. The owner of the team, Mrs. McAcvoy (Sara Allgood), has promised all of the team’s fans that the team is going to reward their loyalty by eventually making it to the World Series. Looking for a new manager, she sets her eyes on Frank Maguire (Lloyd Nolan). Maguire used to play for the team until he committed an error that led to a crucial defeat. Now, Frank is managing a minor league team in Texas and everyone thinks that he’s washed up. Mrs. McAvoy knows that Frank has something to prove and she hires him to be her new manager.

Just like the team, no one gives Frank much of a chance but he proves them wrong. He wins over the people of Brooklyn when he stands up for a fan who lived out every baseball lover’s dream of punching an umpire. When Mrs. McAcoy dies and the team is inherited by her daughter (Carole Landis), Frank teaches her all about baseball and Brooklyn and the two of them fall in love. With his team sometimes grumbling about his tough coaching style, Frank tries to lead both the team and an untried pitcher into the race for the pennant.

It Happened in Flatbush is an old movie but I liked it. Of course, I also love baseball so that probably helped because the move loves baseball too. I especially liked the courtroom scene where Frank stood up for every fan who has ever gone overboard supporting their team. He talks about what the team means to the people of Brooklyn and how a victory for the team is a victory for the entire borough. Even today, any baseball fan will be able to relate to what Frank’s saying. I also liked that the movie included a lot of footage of actual baseball games from the 40s.

Mostly, I appreciated the movie because it was a classic underdog story. No one gives the team much of a chance but they prove them wrong. It reminded me that, in baseball, anything can happen and just because your team is struggling now, that doesn’t mean that they can’t make a comeback. Watching It Happened in Flatbush made me realize that there’s hope for my team yet!

It Happened in Flatbush is a movie for those of us who love baseball. It isn’t available on any streaming services but it does sometimes air on the Fox Movie Channel.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014, dir. by Chapman Way and Maclain Way)

If you’re like me and you’re already missing baseball, I recommend watching a documentary called The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

In 1972, Portland, Oregon lost their minor league baseball team when the Portland Beavers abandoned the city in order to become the Spokane Indians.  At the same time, actor Bing Russell, a former minor leaguer and the father of Kurt Russell, had grown tired of Hollywood and was looking to get back into baseball.  Relocating to Portland, Russell announced that he was going to start his own independent minor league team, the Portland Mavericks.

At first, no one took the Mavericks seriously.  Because they weren’t affiliated with a major league team, the Mavericks roster was largely made up of misfits and rulebreakers, many of whom had been released from other organizations and who had been blacklisted from the major leagues.  On average, most of the Mavericks players were older than the average major leaguer.  Many of them were players who were looking for one last shot at glory and Bing refused to cut any of them because he felt that that they deserved that chance.  When the skeptical media asked Bing what the Mavericks were going to offer that other baseball teams couldn’t, he replied, “Fun.”

And he delivered.  From 1973 to 1977, the Mavericks played exciting baseball, won divisional and league titles, and, most importantly, they put on a good show.  Playing mostly for the love of the game (because Russell never had much money to spend on salaries), the Mavericks reminded people of what baseball was all about.  They pulled off amazing plays on the field while their off-field antics were legendary.  The Mavericks played baseball the way that people wanted to see baseball played, with one manager living every fan’s dream by punching an umpire.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball tells the story of the Mavericks and Bing Russell.  It features archival footage of the Mavericks at play, along with interviews with people like Kurt Russell, who briefly played for the Mavericks and then served as one of their vice presidents.   The documentary pays tribute to the players who never gave up, the fans who eventually welcomed them to a new town, and most of all to the vision and determination of Bing Russell.  Even while Bing was bringing the fun back to baseball, he was also breaking down other barriers by hiring professional baseball’s first female general manager, as well as the first Asian American general manager.

Most importantly, though, The Battered Bastards of Baseball reminds us of why people love baseball in the first place.  It celebrates the game, the players, and most of all the fans.  It’s a documentary that will just leave you in a good mood.  That’s something we all could use!

Kurt Russell as a Maverick

For Love of the Game (1999, dir. by Sam Raimi)

Last week, the Dodgers won the World Series and brought the 2020 MLB season to a close.  For me, it was a disappointing season because the Rangers ended up with the worst record in the American League and came nowhere close to the playoffs.  I should be used to that by now but it still hurts every season.

If only we could have had a pitcher like Billy Chapel, who Kevin Costner plays in For Love of the Game.  Billy Chapel is a forty year-old veteran who has been playing baseball his entire life and who has spent his entire major league career as a member of the Tigers.  Before the start of the team’s final game against the Yankees (the Yankees have already clinched the playoff berth while the Tigers are at the bottom of their division, kind of like my Rangers), Billy is told that the Tigers have been sold and that Billy is going to be traded to the Giants.  Will Billy go to San Francisco or will he retire and go to London with the woman he loves, Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston)?

That’s the decision that Billy is going to have to make.  But first, Billy’s going to throw a perfect game against the New York Yankees.

While Billy is pitching the game, he’s also thinking about Jane and having flashbacks to how they first met and fell for each other.  Billy loves Jane but he also loves playing baseball and it keeps the two of them apart.  Jane doesn’t want to be a baseball groupie and she needs a man who she knows is going to be there for her and her daughter, instead of spending most of the year traveling around the country.  Billy, meanwhile, doesn’t want to give up the game that’s defined his life.  As Billy throws his perfect game, he has to decide whether or not to keep playing until he can no longer get the ball across the plate or whether to start a new chapter with Jane.  Meanwhile, Jane is stuck in an airport, watching Billy play the game of his life.

For Love Of The Game is a good love story but it’s a great baseball movie.  I loved the scenes of Billy standing out on the mound, carefully evaluating each batter while blocking out all of the noise around him.  (The only villains in this movie are the New Yorkers who won’t stop yelling at Billy during the game.)  I enjoyed the interplay between Billy and the catcher (John C. Reilly) and I especially appreciated the way that the movie showed that it takes more than a good pitcher to have a perfect game.  It takes teamwork and focus.  It’s not just Billy’s perfect game.  It’s the entire team’s perfect game.

For Love of the Game may be a romantic drama but it’s also a celebration of everything that makes baseball great.  It’s America’s pastime and this movie shows why.  Watching Billy Chapel get his perfect game made me look forward to seeing what will happen next year.  Who knows?  Maybe the Rangers will even shock everyone and make the postseason.  If Billy Chapel can throw a perfect game while playing the Yankees in New York City, then anything can happen!