There were some good baseball flicks in the ’40s and ’50s.
“Pride of the Yankees”, is the true story of the Yankees’ legendary first baseman, Lou Gehrig, who is struck down by Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Nerve cells break down, which reduces functionality in the muscles they supply. The cause is unknown, and there is no known cure. The disease was named after him.
Gehrig had played in 2,130 consecutive games before being stricken. The streak stood until Sept. 6, 1995, when Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed Gehrig.
The movie’s producers didn’t have to go far to find someone to play Gehrig, because actor Gary Cooper bore an uncanny likeness to Gehrig.
“The Jackie Robinson Story,” is about how the Brooklyn Dodgers star became the first African-American played in the Major Leagues in 1947. The movie was made in 1950, with Robinson as the star.
“It Happens Every Spring” is a 1949 flick about a fictional college professor, Vernon K. Stephens, who accidentally discovers a formula for repelling wood when a baseball flies through his window and spills chemicals he is working with. He takes the substance — which he doesn’t know how to duplicate — and goes to St. Louis to become a pitcher named King Kelly, who gets batters out until the liquid is gone. But he leads the team to win the World Series.
Jimmy Stewart stars in 1949’s “The Monty Stratton Story” about the White Sox pitcher who continued to pitch with a wooden leg after his leg had to be amputated after a hunting accident. His wife was played by June Allyson, who also played Stewart’s wife in “The Glenn Miller Story” about the big band-era bandleader killed in World War II.
“Fear Strikes Out” is the real-life story of Jimmy Piersall, the Boston Red Sox player who suffers a nervous breakdown on the field. Piersall was played by “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins, and his father by “Streets of San Francisco” star Karl Malden, who suffers a heart attack when young Piersall violates rules, goes ice skating, and breaks his leg.
In the movie, they show Piersall meeting his wife, who is a nurse at a Scranton hospital, because Piersall played for the Red Sox minor league team in Scranton. The former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons got their name, half from the Wilkes-Barre Barons, and the other half from the Scranton Red Sox minor league teams.
“The Babe Ruth Story” is the story of the legendary Yankees slugger filmed in 1948 with William Bendix playing a great role.
A movie about the Babe was also made in 1992, with “Roseanne” star John Goodman as the Babe, and Kelly McGillis as Ruth’s wife. Claire.
In the 1990s, 1992’s “A League of Their Own,” is the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The league was formed in the Midwest of four teams of 16 players each during World War II. The star-studded Rockford Peaches have on their roster centerfielder Madonna, third base-woman Rosie O’Donnell and leftfielder Ann Cusack — whose brother John acted in “Eight Men Out” — and their star player, catcher Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis. They are managed by former slugger Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, who, at first, thinks the idea of a girls’ baseball team is a joke, but believes in them at the end, when, in response to Dottie Hinson saying “it got too hard,” said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anybody could do it. Being hard is what makes it great.” I think that ideal applies to life in general, don’t you?
There are some funny moments, like when one of the players starts crying, and Dugan starts yelling, “There’s no crying in baseball!”, or when Stillwell, the young son of one of the players who is in the dugout with the team, teasing and taunting them, gets hit with a ball, and falls over, to the roaring laughter of Dugan.
There are some serious moments, like when a grown-up Stillwell travels to the Baseball Hall of Fame to see the exhibit about the league, and talks to Dottie Hinson. He tells her his mother had passed, but he came because he felt he owed it to her to be there.’
There are a few more ’90s movies of note.
“Rookie of the Year” was the 1993 film about the owner of the Minnesota Twins, played by Jason Robards, who dies and leaves the team to his 12 year-old grandson — who appoints himself manager, which the players think is a joke at first, but come to respect him. “Beverly Hills Cop” star John Ashton has a key role in this one, too.
In the 1994 film “Angels in the Outfield”, when a boy prays for a chance to have a family if the California Angels win the pennant, angels are assigned to make that happen. It stars “Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover, “Back to the Future” and “Taxi” star Christopher Lloyd, and fellow “Taxi” star Tony Danza.
“For The Love of the Game” is the 1999 film that stars Kevin Costner as a pitcher near the end of his career who has to put it all on the line.
Don’t forget the 1994 biopic “Cobb” starring Tommy Lee Jones as the Detroit Tigers legend.
Since 2000, there have also been some good baseball flicks.
In 2001, “61” chronicled New York Yankees teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as they chased Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.
2013’s “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in all sports, and encountered much racism doing it.
2002’s “The Rookie” is the true story of Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris, who was coaching a high school baseball team after he retired, but was throwing so hard his players convinced him to make a comeback.
In 2012’s “Trouble With the Curve”, Clint Eastwood plays an aging, but legendary scout who rightfully predicts a home run phenom could not hit a curveball — even though his vision is failing, because he can hear it — and recommends another player be drafted. Skilled actress Amy Adams plays his daughter, who tries to remedy her dysfunctional relationship with her dad by helping him on what could be his last recruiting trip.
2011’s “Moneyball” is the film based on the book about Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane who championed a different way to assess baseball talent. Actress Robin Wright. “Jenny” from “Forrest Gump” is in this one.
You can also find “TV’s Greatest Hits” on accessnepa.com, under “Featured Content” and “Screen Time.”
Next: “Batman”, “The Green Hornet” and sci-fi.
TRIVIA QUESTIONS FROM LAST TIME:
It bothered me for a long time where I had seen Margaret Whitton before “Major League”. She starred in another film not too long before portraying Rachel Phelps. What movie did she star in?
ANSWER: Margaret Whitton played the wife of an executive who seduces Michael J. Fox’s character in 1987’s “The Secret to My Success” just two years before “Major League”.
Q. What former Major Leaguers appeared in “Major League”?
A. Coach Duke Temple is former L.A. Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager, and Yankee slugger Clu Haywood is actually former Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher and Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Pete Vukovich.
Q. Where were the spring training scenes shot in the second “Major League”?
A. The former Riverside Stadium, now known as FNB Field, in Harrisburg. The stadium is the home to the Harrisburg Senators, the AA Eastern League franchise of the Washington Nationals.
Q. Actor James Gammon, who played Lou Brown, starred in two other major films in the 1980s and a TV series in the ’90s. Can you name them?
A. Gammon was the bartender in “Any Which Way You Can”, the second ape movie with Clint Eastwood in 1980, and in the same year, ran the mechanical bull at Gilley’s in “Urban Cowboy”. He was also Nick Bridges, Nash Bridges’ father in the Don Johnson cop show set in San Francisco – despite the fact that Gammon is just nine years older than his son, played by “Miami Vice” star Don Johnson.
Q. In “Major League II”, Michelle Burke is the actress who plays Rick Vaughn’s first girlfriend, the school teacher. What other notable film does she appear in?
A. Burke plays Connie Conehead, the daughter of the Coneheads Beldar (Dan Aykwoyd) and his wife Prymatt (Jane Curtin). That movie was a “Saturday Night Live” family reunion, with bits parts played by SNL alums Adam Sandler, David Spade, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon, Tim Meadows, and Jon Lovitz. Throw in Aykroyd’s then-three year-old daughter Dainelle and his producer brother Peter, and Drew Carey, Michael McKean — Lenny, of Lenny and Squiggy fame — Sinbad, Jason Alexander from “Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Thomas and Tom Arnold. Who was Connie Conehead’s auto mechanic boyfriend? Chris Farley.
Q. David Straithairn, who played aging pitcher Ed Cicotte, starred in another baseball movie in the 1990s. What was the movie?
A. Straithairn portrayed Ira Lowenstein, the man who ran the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) in “A League of Their Own”.
TRIVIA QUESTIONS THIS TIME:
Q. What famous pop singer appeared in “Trouble With the Curve?” What other famous actors had parts?
Q. Two notable actors played in “42”. Who were they?