You’ve got to like a baseball movie that can, at the most crucial situation depicted in the film, have the audience hoping for a walk.

Not to mention any movie in which the very first image depicted on screen is that of Johnny Damon. (Unfortunately, he’s only in the movie via archive footage and as a topic of conversation, so we don’t know who would have played him. Instead, we know Stephen Bishop as David Justice and Chris Pratt as catcher-turned-first-baseman Scott Hatteberg.)

Jonah Hill seems particularly good — or maybe it’s just surprising to see him acting dramatic in a drama. Of course, the only reason he’s in this movie is because Paul DePodesta and his Harvard economics degree wouldn’t sign off on the use of his name and likeness, so instead

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they created a completely different character: one with an economics degree from Yale. (Wikipedia claims that Paul DePodesta would have been played by Demetri Martin, who you may note has a slightly different body type than Jonah Hill.)

Since I remember 2002 fairly well, I was of course on the lookout for anachronisms, and the only one I remember seeing was the current logo of KICU being used, although I’m sure there were some uniform details that were wrong, and they’ll probably get brought up soon on Uni Watch. (Something that did correctly make it in to the movie was the ad on the outfield wall at the Coliseum for “Fox Sports Net/Cable Channel 40.”) I also heard a huge anachronism, but I’ll leave that out of this post to avoid spoiling it for future nitpickers.

A very good baseball movie, and it also has plenty of Brad Pitt displaying emotion for people who don’t like baseball. If you don’t like either of those things, well, too bad for you.

At last, baseball research of real importance

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Larry Granillo has figured out

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the date of the Cubs-Braves game that’s featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: June 5, 1985. And the follow-up from Al Yellon at SB Nation: through the magic of film editing, Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, and Alan Ruck weren’t actually in the stands that day; they and some extras were there on an off day, probably in September or early October 1985. (Which would have been my guess anyway. My college degree is in That Sort of Thing. And I knew that the “Danke Schoen”/”Twist and Shout” scene was filmed at the actual Chicago Von Steuben Day parade in September 1985.) As noted, Ferris Bueller catches a foul ball in the actual movie, but Principal Rooney isn’t looking at the TV at the crucial moment. In

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the MAD satire (“Fearless Buller’s Day Off”), Rooney later tells his secretary Grace that he knows Ferris is at the Cubs game

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because “they announced his name when he came in to pinch hit.” This paragraph was written from memory.

Wrigley Field has been around a long time

From YouTube, via the Uni Watch blog, here’s six and a half minutes of home movie footage shot at Wrigley Field. It starts off with 1930 Flag Day ceremonies prior to a game against the Boston Braves, including the raising of a 1929 NL championship pennant,

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and then switches to 1929 World Series action against the Philadelphia A’s (either Game 1 or Game 2, both of which were Cubs losses).


Way back when we were in Detroit, Levi made a joke on this very blog about the Garfield movie, which was the film being promoted by the “LodgeNet” card on top of the hotel room TV.

The HBO channels are free this weekend on DirecTV, and in looking through the listings, I discovered that “Garfield: The Movie” was showing on MoreMax, so out of curiosity, I set the TiVo.

As it turns out, this movie is worse than you can possibly imagine. I couldn’t get past 10 minutes, which means I didn’t even see Jennifer Love Hewitt. What is in the first 10 minutes is Breckin Meyer as Jon Arbuckle microwaving a round plastic container of “Hash in a Dash” for breakfast — a container and a food that are pretty much indistinguishable from Garfield’s liver-flavored cat food, so I’m sure you can imagine the hilarity that is supposed to have ensued. Then Garfield goes outside and has some wacky misadventures with Nermal, who is a Siamese cat in the movie but the “world’s cutest kitten,” a gray tabby, in the comic strip. Now, cats that are a mixture of Siamese and gray tabby tend to be as cute as can be, but surely the filmmakers didn’t set out to specifically remind everyone of my cat; obviously, the problem was that they couldn’t get their hands on a well-trained gray tabby, just a well-trained Siamese. This is because while Garfield is completely a CGI creation so that he can look vaguely like he does in the comic strip, all the other animals in the film only have CGI applied to their faces when they’re talking, so it’s completely creepy and strange.

Then we are led to believe that there is a dairy that delivers old-fashioned bottles of milk to homes that are within sight of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, and Garfield uses Nermal as a pawn as part of a Rube Goldbergian scheme to get some of that milk. After his drink, Garfield is none the worse for wear — he doesn’t start throwing up everywhere, unlike real cats.

Fortunately, “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!)” appeared on HBO Family a little later — it has a few problems of its own, but it managed to get the bad taste of “Garfield” out of my mouth.

What’s with the Carrot League baseball today?

Levi claims to be busy with work, but figuring that I’d have plenty of time on my hands now that I’ve been unemployed for almost four months, he asked me to pass this along: “Bugs Bunny, Greatest Banned Player Ever,” a scholarly analysis of the 1946 Warner Bros. Friz Freleng/Michael Maltese cartoon “Baseball Bugs.” It places the game depicted — apparently an exhibition game at the Polo Grounds — into historical perspective, and even provides some explanations for the “cartoon physics” on display. It’s definitely worth a read if you’ve got more time than Levi does.

Since I supposedly have so much time on my hands, perhaps I should work on analyzing my other favorite baseball cartoon, Tex Avery’s “Batty Baseball” (1944). Unfortunately, it’s a series of vignettes and blackout gags, rather than the complete game depicted in “Baseball Bugs,” and probably defies analysis.

I’ve got the fever

As you may recall from a post here a few weeks ago, I wanted to hate the new movie “Fever Pitch.” You can’t truly hate what you don’t know, so I went to the theater today, grumbling through the euphemistically-named “pre-show countdown,” grumbling through the trailer for a Hilary Duff movie, grumbling through the trailer for a movie about girls sharing pants, really grumbling through the trailer for “Titanic” in space, and returning to a normal level of grumbling during the unexplained and unexplainable short promoting “American Dad.” Then the actual movie started.

Oh, wow, it’s just so downright charming, it’s impossible to hate. And it’s about baseball! Johnny Damon is in several scenes! The words “Devil Rays” come out of Jimmy Fallon’s mouth! I didn’t even mind Tim McCarver’s brief appearance! It made me forget all about that other movie called “Fever Pitch” with Colin what’s-his-name.

Seriously, Levi, I highly recommend that you and Stacey see it. If nothing else, it made me want to go see another game at Fenway Park, or fall in love with Drew Barrymore (or someone similarly cute), or preferably both.

Not quite a baseball movie

Tonight I finally watched a movie that had been sitting on my TiVo since October: “The Cameraman,” from 1928, starring Buster Keaton. This is relevant to this blog because there is a 5-minute sequence filmed in the then-brand-new Yankee Stadium in which Buster’s character pantomimes a baseball game. (Well, of course he pantomimes it, it’s a silent film.) He does so because the plot of the film is that he’s attempting to impress a girl by becoming a newsreel photographer, and his attempts to film some sports action are thwarted by the fact that the Yankees are playing in St. Louis, so he sets his movie camera next to the pitcher’s mound and makes his own action. Presumably, he didn’t capture any of that action, because — that’s right — he was too busy playing fake baseball to crank the camera.

Anyway, it’s not as long, nor as pivotal to the film, as the baseball sequence in “The Naked Gun” (to name another non-baseball movie), but it is certainly fun, and funny.

Now it’s time for real baseball. Last year, I didn’t watch the Sunday night opener, and had to live vicariously through Levi’s tales of Johnny Damon. I’m not making that mistake this year; I’ve got the TiVo set.

And then comes Monday, and once again, I’m planning to watch Opening Day baseball all day, courtesy of the fact that the MLB Extra Innings package is free for the first week of the season, at least on DirecTV. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but it looks like there are fewer Opening Day Monday games this year than there were last year (although there’s a game not shown on that schedule because it’s on ESPN 2 Monday evening, Cubs at Diamondbacks). For example, neither the Dodgers nor Angels start until Tuesday…although that means I won’t have to switch to a non-blacked-out channel at any point on Monday.

Baseball movies are watched every spring

I have a baseball movie to report on as well: since I had a cold and called in sick to work today, I took advantage of the extra time at home to watch “It Happens Every Spring,” which had been sitting on my TiVo since Fox Movie Channel ran it on December 15th. (Why would Fox Movie Channel run a baseball movie on December 15th, you ask? I have no evidence that Fox even realizes that Fox Movie Channel exists, much less pays any attention to their programming, so they just pull random Fox movies off the shelf and put them on TV.)

College chemistry professor Ray Milland inadvertently discovers that a substance can be applied to baseballs — or any object, for that matter — that makes it completely avoid contact with wood. So in order to make money for his wedding (to the daughter of the college president, he takes a leave of absence from his professorship and secretly goes to St. Louis to become a pitcher for the — well, they don’t use any team names in this movie, but if Levi wants to pretend it’s the Cardinals, I guess that would work, since the opponents mentioned are all cities that had National League teams in 1949. The exterior shots of the stadiums show that they all have names like “St. Louis Stadium,” “Pittsburgh Stadium,” “Brooklyn Stadium,” and so on.

The movie is a little ridiculous in that, despite the obvious strange hops the ball is taking, no opposing player or manager ever demands to examine the glove, in which Milland has a rag soaked with the substance hidden so he can wipe it on the ball. Why, that’s even more blatant than steroid abuse! (Someone on IMDB already made the comparison, I see.) But it’s not supposed to be a serious sports movie, it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, so I guess we’re supposed to overlook that.

Interestingly enough, the crusty catcher who befriends Ray Milland is played by Paul Douglas — who, two years later, would play the crusty manager in the original version of “Angels in the Outfield,” another baseball movie in which the laws of physics are broken. And then he would have played another crusty baseball manager in a certain episode of “The Twilight Zone” if he hadn’t died during the filming. Talk about being typecast.

Bud, Mickey’s, Schlitz, Coors, PBR, High Life, Red Stripe

The headline is the brands of beer that alcoholic former minor-league pitcher Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) drinks in The Bad News Bears. Or at least, those are the ones I saw and remembered. It’s entirely possible that he drank more varieties, because he’s constantly drinking beer.

Luke, Sandy, Sarah, Stacey, and I watched The Bad News Bears Friday night, after I had read a couple of recommendations of it online from baseball fans who loved it as a baseball movie. And they were right. I had seen it when I was about three, but unlike another movie I saw when I was three, it didn’t leave very clear memories.

I feel like I shouldn’t say much about the details of the movie, because I think everyone who regularly reads this blog–all, what, eight of you?–would greatly enjoy it and should hie thee to the nearest video emporium, take its dusty box to the counter, and enjoy it in the company of a friendly six-pack. It’s funny, and it’s surprising, and it’s not hokey, and it’s utterly impossible to imagine being made in anything close to the same way today. (Don’t mention the remake. Unless Bill Murray’s got the Walter Matthau role, it’s going to suck.) I tend to be suspicious of aesthetic or artistic creeds–stifling little things, aren’t they–but if you were to pin me down, make me choose a style or tendency in movies (and, to some extent, in books), I’d pick works of art that mostly show–without making a pretense of being truly real–people going about their business in the world. A lot of my favorite films–Yi-Yi, Maborosi, George Washington–are a bit that way. And that’s what’s most surprising to me about The Bad News Bears: it’s a sports movie and a kid movie, and it fits more or less into the sports and kid movie patterns, but it has a rhythm and sensibility of its own that hew much more closely to real life than anyone would have expected.

And it loves baseball. The baseball scenes are great. The swearing is great. And the talk about baseball is great, and funny. Rent it while you wait for Sunday night’s game.

Original comments…

Toby: Unbelievable, Levi. This movie has been playing on HBO the last month and I have watched it about 10 or 15 times. Like you, I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid and, like you, I appreciate it so much more now than I could have then.

I think one of the things that’s so great about it is that everyone can identify with one (or more) of the Bears. At age 10, I had Timmy Lupus’ ability and Albert Ogilvie’s personality wrapped up in Mike Engleberg’s body. My best friend, Troy Nelson, was Kelly Leak to a “T.”

I would peg you for identifying with Ogilvie.

Plus, is there any better ending line for a baseball movie than “Just wait ’til next year…” (uttered by Lupus)

I’m also very hesitant to watch the remake (which will star Billy Bob Thornton and Greg Kinear) when it comes out…

I just downloaded the prelude to Bizet’s Carmen from iTunes (the theme used in the movie). This is a scary coincidence, Levi.

thatbob: So, any more thoughts about coaching a Little League team of your own? I understand there’s an opening at Cabrini-Green ever since Keanu had to go fight demons.