each Grapefruit and Cactus League game inches us closer to Opening Day, I’ve
looked back at some of the most beloved cinematic salutes to our national
pastime…except this week, of course.
Seriously, folks, they can’t all be winners. So, today I look back with all the crankiness
of a Nick Hornby novel at one of the most overcooked of all cinematic baseball
turkeys – Fever Pitch.
not talking about the funny 1997 Colin Firth vehicle about a long, suffering
soccer fan. I’m talking about the
terrible 2005 American version, starring the woeful Jimmy Fallon, as a long,
suffering baseball fan. Oh! So
that’s what makes it American…baseball. What? Does Soccer not transfer from English to English?
If I didn’t spend $10 on the ticket and wasn’t the designated driver, I
would have walked out on this disaster 15 minutes in.
Fever Pitch (2005) was directed by the
Farrelly Brothers (Hall Pass) and
written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (A
League of their Own). The film
introduces us to Ben (Fallon) and Lindsey (Drew Barrymore). Opposites in everyway, they fall in
love. Everything is going great until
Opening Day reveals a deep secret about Ben – he’s a Red Sox Fan. Can their budding romance survive the
baseball season? Better yet, who cares?
not exaggerating when I say that I have
never sat through such a flawed movie in my life. It wasn’t even bad enough to be good. The Farrelly Brothers were so wrapped up in
location (with scenes actually shot at and around Fenway Park), authenticity
(cameos by actual Red Sox) and rewriting the ending that they forgot about a
little thing called, acting. (Note: I don’t want to give away too much about
the 2005 or 1997 movies, but when the Red Sox actually won the World Series, some major scenes had to be reshot.)
Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon as romantic leads on screen is as exciting as
watching paint dry. You know the
performances in the film are pathetic when ex-Red Sox, Johnny Damon, easily puts
in one of the more charming performances in the film. Stella Adler and Babe Ruth must be rolling over in their graves.
was never a Nick Hornby fan, but I always liked the novel, Fever Pitch. Because it’s
autobiographical, I feel like it speaks to some inherent truth in all of
us. If I could make a business card that
said “Trish Vignola – long, suffering sports fan”, I would. Seriously, Fever Pitch is not Hornby’s typical heaping helping of whinny men
suffering from “Peter Pan” complexes. It’s
the 1997 film worked so well because Hornby was actually involved in the
production, writing the screenplay.
Maybe the 2005 film failed so badly, because the Farrelly Brothers got
so wrapped up in Americanizing the film, they forgot about story or dynamic casting. Maybe a film that was less than 10 years old
at the time had no business being remade?
Thank god Hollywood learned its lesson with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Oh, wait! Too late.
we look at Disney’s The Rookie (2002). Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and written by Mike Rich (Secretariat),
The Rookie tells the story of
real-life Major League Pitcher, Jim Morris.
A High School Chemistry Teacher and Baseball Coach, Morris is looking for
a way to inspire his kids. He promises
his team that if they can win the
championship, he’ll go to the professional tryout they’ve been bugging him
about. The kids win and he reluctantly goes
to the tryout expecting to be cut immediately.
There’s only one problem. Morris
throws 12 consecutive pitches at 98 miles an hour and he’s signed by the then
Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Rookie follows Morris (played by the
exceptionally rugged Dennis Quaid) on his unconventional road from the
classroom to the majors and all of the challenges in between. He still has a family to take care for on a
Minor Leaguer’s salary, which for those of you keeping score is far from a Major Leaguer’s salary. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 35? If he gets injured once, it’s all over. If you don’t tear up when he sees his name
sewn onto his jersey at the Ballpark at Arlington for the first time, you have
no soul. (Please note: I teared up while
typing that sentence.)
real Morris lasted two seasons in the Major Leagues. He had a 4.80 ERA and struck out 42 guys in a
162-game career. That’s not Hall of Fame
numbers, but that’s still two more seasons than you or I ever pitched in the
Majors. Today, Morris is justifiably a
The Rookie employs all of the hackney
stereotypes of a Disney movie: sweeping shots, a swelling soundtrack and lighting
that always makes the female lead (Rachel Griffiths in this case) look amazing.
Nonetheless, in regards to this movie, I fall for all of it. Who wouldn’t?
Apparently you can still “wish upon a star”, even at the ripe old age of
hard to look on this movie with any cynicism.
At its core, it’s a beautiful story about making your dreams come true.
It’s got a strong cast, including the kid from Two and a Half Men (before
he was afraid to go to work) and most importantly… it’s a great excuse to watch of a montage of a sweaty Dennis Quaid
pitching in the rain.
the weather starts to warm (yes, I promise you it is), our thoughts
turn to all things Spring. For me,
nothing says spring more than baseball.
However, if it’s still a bit too cold to hit the batting cage and you
don’t have the cash to go to Arizona or Florida, a baseball movie does just as well.
we look at *61 (2001). Directed by Billy Crystal and produced by
HBO, *61 revisits the first serious attempt at breaking Babe Ruth’s
single-season home run record. It’s the
summer of 1961. New York Yankees’ Roger
Maris (Barry Pepper) and Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) are on pace to do it. You couldn’t write the storyline better. The torch is about to be passed from one
heroic Yankee to another. However,
there’s a problem.
only has room in its heart for one hero.
Babe Ruth was a God…a God who played in the age of Segregated Baseball,
but that’s a review for another day. Mantle was America’s Golden Boy. If he were to take the record that would be
fine, but Maris, American didn’t take so kind too. With Mantle as the hero,
Maris was forced to play the villain.
writers crucify him, pitting Maris against Mantle. Wherever Maris goes, he’s booed (even by
Yankees fans). Finally, when Mantle falls off the pace due to injury, the commissioner
announces that Ruth’s record stands unless it’s broken within 154 games. Any
record set after 154 games of the new 162-game schedule will have an asterisk,
thus minimizing Maris’ accomplishments. The film follows Mantle and Maris on as
well as off the field including their undocumented friendship, the stress on
Maris and his frustration with the negative attention. Maris wrestles with following his dreams or
just giving up and going home for the sake of his sanity.
not pretend that *61 was not a “Made-For-TV” movie. (Enjoy watching the balls from batting
practice fall through the third deck, added in post-production.) Nonetheless, *61 is at its core a well-written,
well-acted piece. Sure, Crystal is a Yankees fan from back in the day, so the
film gets a bit schmaltzy and nostalgic at times. If you can get passed the Barbara Walters
lighting and sweeping music at inappropriate times, you’ve got yourself a movie
that is tragic, almost Shakespearean, in tone.
grew up in an age where “the easy way out” became far too common in America’s
Game. It’s hard to imagine someone being villainized for simply wanting to go
to work and do what he actually does best.
So, if you have baseball on the brain, check out *61. You’ll enjoy Anthony Michael Hall as a pretty charming Whitey
Ford and will be amazed that Thomas Jane can actually carry a film. (Seriously, are you going to argue that Deep Blue Sea was better?)
My flight has been cancelled twice in as many days, so I need to keep myself busy. Who’s your favorite portrayal of a real-life ballplayer on the screen?
1. Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees”
2. John Turturro as Billy Martin in “The Bronx is Burning”
3. Ray Liotta as Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams”
4. Roger Clemens as Walter Johnson in “Cobb”
Thoughs? Hit me back. Seriously man. I’m snowed in. I’m bored.
This Christmas Eve, “Field of Dreams” was playing back to back with “Major League” on Versus. You know that cable channel that only plays hockey? Am I the only person who thought a relationship between the holiest day on the Christian calendar and Baseball was a little out of…Left Field? Regardless, I’m a big fan of the movie. Who isn’t? (If you aren’t, I apologize. You might want to have your Doctor check for a soul at your next check up.) I’ll even go as far as to say that “Field of Dreams” is one of those rare situations where the movie is better than the book.
Now, being the well-established girl that I am, I weep like a baby without fail every time the movie is on. But in reality, who doesn’t? (If you don’t, you might want to have your doctor check on that out too.) My tipping point is normally when Ray asks his dad to play catch. Without fail, since I was eleven, I’ve cried like clockwork. Watching this film is like running your hand over your mother’s quilt or an old chair in your Grandmother’s house. You know every nook and cranny, but what happens when you find something new?
Right as Doc Graham is walking back into the Cornfield, Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) stops him and says, “You were good.” It’s a super quiet moment. If you aren’t looking for it, you might very well miss it. However, it might be the most beautiful moment in film. Graham finally achieves his dream, not of getting the at bat, but of getting validation that he was (or would have been) a good ball player.
Graham is a tragic figure. His true talents were in helping people, but by fostering those talents, he lost out on his dream. He took the “right” path at life’s crossroad, but it came with so much pain. Yeesh, life can suck sometimes. Suddenly, “Field of Dreams” took on a new meaning. It’s a story about fear, fear of time passing you by. A little bit more of my childhood was deconstructed that night and I think adulthood might have got a little sadder.