Baseball is Life: The Book Was Better
Static Media invited me to rank fourteen baseball movies, then explain to me. I don’t know why the count was fourteen, no more no less, but that was the only rule the editor gave me. (Also, when he asked if I was available to write anything, he asked what topics I was interested in, then immediately followed that line with “Please, nothing about of star wars.” I don’t think he appreciated my earlier article suggestion which suggested a 7,000-word frame-by-frame analysis of Pedro Pascal and Ewan McGregor interviewing each other for Variety.)
The first thing to do here was to find fourteen; you won’t be surprised to learn that this was a list I needed to refine. I didn’t have to hunt for a second. It was not considered to include this weird version of Cincinnati Girls in Toyland in which Pete Rose gets a mention. I cheated a bit by including the documentary “Catching Hell,” but if you think I was going to pass up the opportunity to point the finger at Cubs fans at their worst possible moment, you don’t know me at all.
I filed, but lightly; I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to make moral distinctions between #9 and #11, and all that matters is the low and the high, anyway. If you are seriously offended that I favored major league a place more Bull Durhamplease believe me humbly when I say: Good.
What struck me while going through the list was how many films I needed to sift through; I didn’t even consider the odious Overexcitementor the subpar Take me to the ball game, but they were there if I wanted them. Despite our selection of horse racing and football movies, there can’t be an American sport listed so heavily on film.
In fact, to widen the subject to “sports films”, it is necessary to attract Cool racesall hockey movies (full list includes Slap shot and all available forms of mighty ducks), all basketball movies (space jamthe false Srhythm jamand Hoosiers) and some offers on gymnastics, figure skating and football. We’ll never run out of sports movies in this country because the structure of sports so easily fills the pattern: there’s an underdog, then the underdog wins.
But in baseball, that formula can be twisted and changed all over the place, even in the span of an inning. There is no actual clock. A game can last an hour or a day, span a front yard or a billion dollar stadium. Movies about baseball are, ultimately, movies about us. We’ll hold up the mirror again and again, because while the game may change, our feelings about her heart won’t.
So when my brother-in-law and godson lined up with their gloves on the grass at Great American Ball Park at a Family Catch event, the crowd of parents and offspring were naturally subdued at the final scene of field of dreams on the dashboard. It was a dirty trick on the part of the Reds, and well they knew it, because it worked. Standing in the concrete upper part of the stadium – I was on Hall of Fame duty – I saw the small faces and the staggering middle-aged faces gazing at the twinkling images of a father and son playing at wrestling. Before the scene was over, I grabbed a shitty towel from the concession stand. Without reason.
I asked my brother-in-law what the reaction was on the grass. ” He got really calm,” he said. It’s usually when we look in the mirror.