Saturday, April 5, 2008

Let's Play Two!

Meteorologically, today is the nicest day we have had in Chicago since a freakish 65-degree sunny day came and went in early January. The calendar says spring, but the Cubs played their first home game last Monday in a 45 degree mist. With the exception of today it still seems like spring is a ways off. However, today's nice weather got me thinking about baseball and more specifically baseball films.

Baseball pictures by and large stink. I like Field of Dreams and Bull Durham and a lot of The Natural. Eight Men Out is great, but that is more historical than anything else- plus who can resist John Sayles and our friend Studs Terkel as the writers Ring Lardner and Hugh Fullerton. But more often than not baseball films are garbage- especially if you are a baseball fan. William Bendix as Babe Ruth? Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig? The worst is Anthony Perkins as Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out. Trust me Perkins is scarier as a ball player than as a motel keeper in Psycho.

A problem I have with baseball films is that even the best baseball film is not better than the experience I have going to an average mid-season major league game. (Major League, the film is not a great movie, either.) And going to a minor league game is even better. It's just a blast and so much less commercial and more "joy of the game" than Big League ball-and way better than a bad baseball movie.

The best baseball film I have seen is a documentary HBO did years ago called When It Was a Game. They used home movies from fans from the 1930s- 1960s and voice over of real ball players to describe the experience. Some highlights include 16mm color film from the 1938 World Series between the Cubs and Yankees- color footage of Lou Gehrig. Take that Gary Cooper! Also, ball players like Enos Slaughter talk about how they played for the love of the game. They even had to bring their own sandwiches to eat between games of doubleheaders.

For you youngsters doubleheaders are what teams used to play on holidays and most Sundays so they could take the next day for travel. The owners wised up and realized they could maximize profits by playing 81 home dates, hence the opening days on in snowy March and a World Series that bumps into Halloween.

But of course you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.


p.s. I know that is a photo of Jackie Robinson and not Ernie Banks-the source of "Let's Play Two." Robinson is the most important player in baseball history- he is emblematic of the idea of when it was a game. His picture deserves to be here- just as it is a good thing that his number 42 has been retired by all major league teams.


Guhn said...

See Please Here

Anonymous said...

The stratton story with jimmy stewart
and my favorite the pride of St Louis
with Dan Dailey. But you are too young to have seen them.

trwilkinson79 said...

Billy Crystal's movie *61 was pretty enjoyable for me - but not being a baseball fan I'm sure I've a different take, but you can tell that Crystal is a fanatic (and I mean that in a GOOD way)