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.