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.

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.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers For Winning The 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas!


Tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers won Game 6 of the World Series and another MLB post-season came to a close.  The last time the Dodgers won the World Series was in 1988.  It’s been a long and difficult road since then but this season, they played strong and they earned the victory.  Even though I was cheering for the Rays because they were the AL team, I’m very happy for both the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles.  Here’s hoping that, next year, my Rangers will finally get their act together.

Of course, the real winner tonight was Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.  With the pandemic changing everything this year, the city of Arlington and the state of Texas stepped up and hosted the entire World Series and they did a great job.  No matter what the world looks like next year, every future World Series should be played at Globe Life Field.

Congratulations on a job well done, Arlington!

 

The Nationals Have Won the World Series


It took seven games but the Washington Nationals have won the 2019 World Series.  Being a Texan, I was cheering for the Astros the whole time but Nationals earned the victory and no one can take it away from them.

Congratulations to Washington for showing what can done with some talent and a lot of luck and also to the Nationals for not only going to the World Series for the first time but winning too!  My Rangers have gone twice and they still haven’t won.

(I’m not bitter at all, by the way.  If anyone needs me, I’ll be in a corner, crying and watching that clip of Rougned Odor punching Jose Bautista’s sunglasses off of his face.)

Here’s hoping that the rest of Washington D.C. follows their baseball team’s example, gets their act together, and concentrates on winning a victory for America.

And now, it’s time to start counting down the days until the start of the 2020 regular season!

I Watched The Phenom


The Phenom is a movie that really took me by surprise.

It’s about a pitcher named Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons), a kid just out of high school who has a 100 mile fastball and a big future in major league baseball.  However, after a promising start, Hopper is struggling.  He has control issues.  He’s throwing wild pitches.  He’s losing games.  The team finally sends Hopper to see Dr. Mobley (Paul Giamatti), a sports psychologist who say that he can help Hopper regain his focus.

Hopper has a lot to deal with.  He’s still just a teenager but he feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He promised his mom that he’d buy her a new house and, at the same time, the press is constantly hounding him and demanding that he give them a good quote every time that he loses a game.  Meanwhile, Hopper’s father (Ethan Hawke), who has always put tremendous pressure on his son, is failed ball player himself and a drug dealer.  Hopper finds himself torn between two philosophies, his father’s belief that winning is the only thing that matter and Dr. Mobley’s more gentle approach to the game.  The problem is that, with everyone wanting someone from him, Hopper doesn’t know who he can trust.

The Phenom is a baseball movie and the main character is a pitcher but hardly any of the action takes place on the mound.  Instead, most of the movie takes place in either Dr. Mobley’s office or in Hopper’s head.  The Phenom does a good job of showing the type of daily pressure that Hopper is living under.  All of his life, everyone has told Hopper that he has a special gift and now, he’s so scared of not living up to his potential that he can’t get the ball across the plate.  At the same time, the film is also critical about the the emphasis that society puts on celebrities and professional athletes.  While Hopper goes into the major leagues straight out of high school, his valedictorian girlfriend struggles to pay for college.  Because Hopper can throw a fastball, no one has ever cared about whether or not he actually got an education.  But what’s going to become of Hopper and all the professional athletes like him when they can no longer play the game?  Hopper is a kid who was always told that he would never have to grow up and now, he’s expected to make adult decisions about the rest of his life.

Johnny Simmons does a really good job playing Hopper and the film really makes you think about the pressure that society puts on professional athletes to constantly win.  Most people can get away with having a bad day but, if a pitcher or a quarterback does it, the whole world wants their head.  The next time I want to yell at whoever’s pitching for the Rangers, I’m going to remember Hopper and this movie.

The Phenom was directed and written by Noah Buschel and it is currently streaming on Netflix.

It’s Opening Day!


Today is the day that I look forward to every year.  It’s the opening day of the 2018 MLB season!  For nearly 150 years, baseball has been America’s pastime.  Long before Andre Beltre and Mike Trout thrilled baseball fans with every swing of the bat, there were players like Hardy Richardson.

From 1875 until he retired in 1892, Hardy Richardson was one of the best players in major league baseball.  He played for 14 seasons and for 6 different teams.  When he was playing for Detroit, he led the team to victory in the 1887 World Series.  He played every single position and his stats would make any player proud.  Richardson appeared in 1,331 major league games, compiled a .299 batting average and .435 slugging percentage, and totaled 1,120 runs scored, 1,688 hits, 303 doubles, 126 triples, 70 home runs, 822 RBIs, and 377 bases on balls.

Richardson was also one of the first players known to have appeared on a baseball card.  In 1887, if you bought a pack of Old Judge cigarettes, you could also get a baseball card celebrating the career of Hardy Richardson.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

It’s been over a hundred years since Hardy Richardson last swung a bat or stole a base but both his legacy and the legacy of everyone else who has ever played the game will continue today as the teams hit the field for the first time.  Good luck to all the players on Opening Day!

GO RANGERS!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HOUSTON ASTROS: 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HOUSTON ASTROS, THE 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!

It wasn’t always an easy journey.  When the Astros made the switch from the National League to the American League, it was not always a smooth transition.  But this season, the Astros have again and again proved themselves to be the best team in the American League.

And tonight, they are the best team in major league baseball.

It took them seven games to win.  The Los Angeles Dodgers proved to be a tough and worthy opponent.  Of all the World Series that I have watched, this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable  When the Astros lost Game 6 on Halloween, no one gave them much of chance to win Game 7.  They were playing in Los Angeles and everyone said that the Dodgers couldn’t be beaten at home.

Tonight, the Astros did the same thing that they did during the regular season.  They played good baseball and the proved the doubters wrong.  Tonight, the Astros won their first World Series.  For the first time, the World Series has been won by a team from Texas.

Just as people underestimated the Astros this year, people have also underestimated Houston.  When Hurricane Harvey flooded the city, it was said that Houston and the people who lived there would never recover.  Just like the Astros, both Houston and Texas are proving the doubters wrong.

Congratulations to the Houston Astros!  Tonight, the Astros showed the world what it means to be Houston Strong!

 

Spring Training Has Begun!


Football is over and Spring Training has begun!

I know that the Shattered Lens isn’t a sports site but I love the Rangers and I can’t wait to see how they do this season.  I can’t wait for more memories like this one:

odor-punch

The season officially starts on April 2nd! Good luck to my Rangers and to every other team (even the Blue Jays)!

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals: 2015 World Series Champions!


ROYALS

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals!

Tonight, after 12 innings and scoring 7 runs, the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series!  It took them 5 games to defeat the New York Mets but their victory was never in doubt.  From the moment they defeated the Blue Jays for the AL Championship, the Royals had the momentum.  The Mets are a good team and put up a good effort but, from game one, it felt as if the Royals were unbeatable.  After spending 8 innings of Game 5 trailing 0-2, the Royals tied the game in the 9th inning and then scored 5 runs in the 12th.

I didn’t start as a Royals fan.  I love my Texas Rangers and I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that wishes they could have been the ones winning tonight.  And my Rangers had a good season.  After being dismissed by everyone, they came on strong during the second half of the regular season and they won the AL West.  I’m proud of what they accomplished this season and I can’t wait to see what they do next season.

But tonight belongs to the Royals!  Congratulations, Kansas City, on a great team, a great series, and a great victory!  This is the 2nd World Series victory for the Royals and their first since 1985.  They earned it.

See you in April!

What I Played Today: Majesty 2 and MLB 2K11


MLB 2K11

I bought MLB 2K11 on the first day of its release… and, having played hours upon hours of it, I’ve been dying to review it ever since. The core problem, however, is that there’s really not that much to say about a sports game. Especially a baseball game. Especially a baseball game that doesn’t really boast any new features over its predecessor from the year before. It’s the tightest baseball simulation with the best graphics that I’ve seen. You know, since last year. It still uses the one-touch control system that basically lets you play the entire game with only single presses (or maneuvers of the thumbsticks. Whatever.) to take any action. I would say the ease with which the game can be played is its best feature by far…

And it’s hard to criticize the game, since they’ve culled the irritating features over the years, until the tight baseball simulation is basically all that remains.

It’s worth noting that unlike other sports offerings (Madden, I’m looking at you!) MLB 2k11 does a fantastic job of keeping up with the big league rosters if you’re playing in an online format, or if you just hop straight in and want to play a game of baseball.

As you would expect, the game has all of the modern game modes. Many of the big achievements revolve around the My Player mode, which is also one of the most fulfilling modes… depending on the position you prefer. I would say, tentatively, that I’ve spent more time in My Player than in Franchise or Play Ball this year. It really is kind of fun to work your way up from AA ball into the big leagues, and then to carve a name out for yourself from there. I like this mode in MLB far better than I ever have in Madden, and I really can’t recommend it any more strongly.

Oh, and it’s worth noting… out of all of the 2K Sports offerings for baseball, this one is easily the best. It runs mostly alike to the 2K10 effort, but as you would expect, it’s a little tighter, and a touch better looking… and, really, with not much else to improve on that’s the story of the game. If you like baseball, or you have some hankering to play it, this game is definitely for you. If you’re looking to gain 1000 GS then this game will disappoint you with the amount of time required to earn some of the achievements. If you’re *that sort*, I wouldn’t bother with this title.

Majesty 2

The self-described fantasy sim game, Majesty 2, makes its triumphant return on Steam. I bought the gold collection when it became available partially out of nostalgia, and partially because I desperately wanted a strategy game to play that I hadn’t worn out. I could always return to StarCraft II, but for some reason Majesty 2 caught hold of my imagination, and drew me back in.

The outstanding feature of Majesty 2 as opposed to your generic RTS game is that much of the action is not under your direct control. Your armed forces consist of guards, who will defend your town and your palace in a very automated, very uninspired, way… and heroes, who do their own thing, unless they’re being paid. You can throw out contracts of various types (examples include ‘destroy target’, or ‘explore region’) in the form of flags, for which you announce a bounty you’re willing to pay. In an ideal world, your heroes will help you out, and dash to the rescue. Of course, the interest level of your heroes and their personal gumption depends both on their hero type and their hero level. For example, the Rogues from the Thieves Guild are a bit on the cowardly side and flee at the first sign of real trouble, while the Rangers Guild and its heroes are particularly excited about exploring the wilderness and battling beasts.

You personally control the construction of town structures and fortifications, and choose the path through the single player campaign; a rich experience which takes its decent share of time. This experience can actually get a little repetitive; you’ll want the missions to end a bit quicker, at the very least, no later than halfway through the campaign. No doubt if you’re better at the game than me, this will never become a problem.

L.A. Noire

Strictly as a tease… I’ve been playing a great deal of this game lately. A full review from me is forthcoming.