Baseball Movie Monday Wraps up by Hitting the Bull

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season, we have featured baseball movies every Monday for the past three months. Today we reach the end of our journey of baseball on the Silver Screen with the ultimate baseball movie.

After three months of counting we have reached the ninth inning and can reveal the final movie on our countdown to Opening Day. That movie is Bull Durham.

While Bull Durham enjoyed modest success during its theatrical run, it gained wider popularity in the years following to the point that celebrating the quarter century mark since it was released is kind of a big deal.

Our last stop on the cinematic countdown to Opening Day is Bull Durham. Photo R. Anderson
Our last stop on the cinematic countdown to Opening Day is Bull Durham.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the sides of the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle are good in their own ways, and each were ranked on our countdown (For Love of the Game #8, and Field of Dreams #2) I have always identified more with the comedy infused Durham.

I suppose Bull Durham resonates with me so well because while I was never a Minor League Baseball player I was very much a Minor League Baseball fan and was attending games around the same time that the movie came out.

So the movie showed me the parts of Minor League life that I didn’t see from my view in the stands.

The movie also provided several concepts that I use even today as part of my daily life.

The concept of creating your own rain delay when the grind gets to tough and you just need a day to catch your breath is a theme that I have embraced from the movie. While I have never turned on the sprinklers in the office I have certainly found ways to give everyone a rain day here and there.

The movie also provided many timeless quotes with some of them being appropriate for repeating and some best left to the professionals.

In that respect, last year members of the Durham Bulls, the real-life team that inspired the team in the movie, made a hilarious video reenacting some of the crazier lines from the film to honor the 25th anniversary of the movie’s release. What makes the video of the players recreating the lines so funny, and perhaps makes the rest of us feel a little old, is the fact that many of the players were not alive when the movie first came out.

Another interesting aspect of the real life Durham Bulls is that they serve as the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays who were 10 years away from existing at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of trivia the Bulls were a Single-A affiliate at the time the movie was made and were owned by one of the filmmakers.

But enough about things that weren’t around when the movie came out. It is time to focus on something highlighted in the movie that is no longer around.

In the movie, and in real life, Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball. For over 50 years Patkin went to Minor League ballparks across the country and Canada performing his baseball clown act.

I was fortunate enough to see Patkin perform during an Orlando Sun Rays game at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL. Patkin’s act was shown in several scenes and Patkin himself got to dance with the leading lady later in the movie.

While it was clear that Patkin was closer to the end of his performing career than the beginning by the time Bull Durham came out it, to this day when I watch his performance scenes it is like I am right there watching him in person and trying to avoid getting sprayed by his water trick.

Although he died in 1999 Patkin will forever live on in his scenes from Bull Durham. That is both a testament to the man himself and to the filmmakers for recognizing the important role he played in conveying the essence of Minor League Baseball.

Another staple of both the movie and Minor League Baseball in general is road trips on a bus. Unlike the Major League players who travel in first class chartered planes, the Minor League players arrive by bus for all of their road trips.

When Michael Jordan tried to make it as a baseball player in the late 80′s he bought a luxury bus for the Birmingham Barons to use. Still despite the “luxury” bus features it is hard to picture Air Jordan traveling through the cities of the Southern League in a bus.

As for the bus that was used in the movie, that was purchased by a man named Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is someone who knows a thing or two about motorized vehicles.

While Bull Durham has stood the test of time for over 25 years, every once in a while a rumor surfaces about a potential sequel being made. Sequels can certainly be tricky business as few ever really are as good as the first or meet the lofty expectations set for them.

But, even with all of that being said I would still watch a sequel to Bull Durham. Do I think it could ever be as good as the first movie? Probably not. But, it does not have to be as good as the first movie. It just needs to help show where the characters ended up some 25 years after we left them on the porch and field.

I have my own ideas about what happened to the characters so if a sequel is never made I will still carry on my version of the story in my head. But it would be nice to see the cast get back together for one more trip around the bases.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to swing for the fences and see if I can hit the bull to win a steak. And remember “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Baseball Movie Monday Enters a Field of Dreams This Week

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season, we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today’s choice of silver screen Baseball goodness asks the question of whether they really will come if you build it.

Last weeks Movie Monday selection, Major League, was about humor pure and simple. Today as we inch closer to Opening Day we switch from humor back to more serious subject matter with an added hint of the supernatural rolled in with Field of Dreams the story about an Iowa corn field and what happens when “you build it.”

Field of Dreams was Kevin Costner’s second baseball related movie and celebrated its 25th anniversary on April 21, last year.

Field of Dreams asks viewers to go the distance in a charming baseball fantasy. Photo R. Anderson
Field of Dreams asks viewers to go the distance in a charming baseball fantasy.
Photo R. Anderson

Following the exploits of an Iowa farmer who hears voices that tell him to plow over his crop of corn and build a baseball diamond to allow the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his friends to play on it, the movie deals with second chances and following one’s heart which is a central theme of many of the movies on our countdown.

With superb performances from James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, and Ray Liotta rounding out the cast, the film delves into topics of faith and belief in both a simpler time in baseball as well as each of us.

There are of course elements in the movie that could never happen in real life regardless of how many voices we hear in the corn fields of life but the belief that things like the ones depicted in the movie could happen somewhere are part of what make the movie one of the all-time bests.

Each of our inner children want to believe that somewhere there is a “field of dreams” where we can relive our happiest experiences and perhaps avoid some of the sadder times in life.

For some that field is a baseball diamond. For others the field might be somewhere where we can spend a little more time with a loved one who is no longer with us.

The movie tackles each of those elements perfectly and never really spends too much time explaining the supernatural elements of the film and they never seem too over the top.

It just feels natural that there could be a cornfield in Iowa that is cosmically linked somehow to allow ballplayers to be young once more and enjoy the simple joy of “having a catch.”

There are certainly plenty of emotional moments in the movie and despite Tom Hanks’ proclamation in A League of Their Own that “there is no crying in baseball” there are still certain scenes in Field of Dreams that get me a little watery eyed each time that I see them.

That of course is the mark of a good movie that even after seeing it countless times over the past quarter century the emotional elements still run true and can elicit a reaction despite knowing what is coming.

And of course coming is a central theme of the movie with the whole “build it and he will come approach.”

Or to put it in the words of James Earl Jones’ character, “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Perhaps no other sport is as linked with feelings of nostalgia as baseball is and Field of Dreams taps into that nostalgia in a way that is not over the top or judgmental. It just feels as comforting as a worn glove when the leather is broken in at just the right amount or perhaps like a baseball cap where the bill is curved at just the right angle to keep the glare of the sun at bay.

If you have not already done so, you should “go the distance” and add Field of Dreams to your movie viewing habits.

As for the actual field used in the movie, it is still set up for visitors. Plans were even announced to have a professional baseball team play at the complex.

There are questions as to whether that will happen but regardless of whether or not professional baseball comes to the Iowa corn field, fans of the movie will continue to make their way to the hallowed ground from the film that sparked their memories of summer days gone by.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

The Day When Even the Infield Grass Seems Greener

For those of you living under a rock, or perhaps more appropriately under a blarney stone, yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is named after Saint Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland. The actual origin story and legends surrounding St. Patrick are varied and tend to depend greatly on the source material one looks at.

There is of course the legend about St. Patrick driving all of the snakes out of Ireland. However, most scholars and scientists agree that there is no evidence in the historic or fossil record of snakes ever being in Ireland to begin with so the likelihood of a single man driving them all off of the island is highly improbable.

Before he was Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery was chasing after pots of gold in a movie that has become a much see around St. Patrick's Day. Photo R. Anderson
Before he was Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery was chasing after pots of gold in a movie that has become a much see around St. Patrick’s Day.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess now is also a good time to mention that despite Walt Disney’s assurances and “documentary” techniques King Brian and Darby O’Gill also didn’t really exist despite assertions to the contrary made in Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

What is agreed upon is that St. Patrick was born in England in the late 4th century A.D. and was kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland.

He escaped his captors after six years and returned to Ireland as a missionary combining Irish pagan beliefs with Christian sacrament while devising the Celtic Cross.

In the centuries that have followed St. Patrick’s Day has been less about the man and more about green clothes, green beer, green hats and pretty much anything else green.

Rivers and lakes around the globe turn green not from algae but from food coloring poured in by the gallon full as a celebration of the holiday.

Massive amounts of corned beef and cabbage will also be consumed as a way to celebrate the day.

Over the past couple of years the green movement has moved to the fields of Major League Baseball as well.

No, I am not talking about the grass on the fields.

I am not even talking about the number of teams who are now encouraging recycling and other “green initiatives” inside their ballparks.

What I am talking about is the green that is popping up on the players.

For the past few years the Spring Training games on St. Patrick’s Day have included teams wearing green uniforms and hats.

Spring Training games will be a bit greener today as various teams get in the spirit with green hats and uniforms for St. Patrick's Day. Photo R. Anderson
Spring Training games will be a bit greener today as various teams get in the spirit with green hats and uniforms for St. Patrick’s Day.
Photo R. Anderson

The first team that I recall, going green was the Boston Red Sox.

The green uniforms and hats seemed an obvious choice based on the amount of Irish American fans in the Boston area.

Other teams followed the green trend and soon it became a league wide tradition as part of the day where everyone can claim to be a little Irish.

The teams that go green each year vary with some teams forgoing the green for their more traditional colors.

The first time I saw a televised game with the Red Sox wearing the green uniforms I actually thought there was something wrong with my televisions set since the sight of teams in colors other than their normal ones can take some getting used to.

The full circle marketing of St. Patrick’s Day to include green items for the fans was just a matter of time since Major League Baseball, like most successful businesses, has made a habit of capitalizing on every opportunity to make money.

While the green gear is popular with the fans it also allows the players to try something new in Spring Training.

There are special uniform nights throughout the season but green uniform day is the only one that falls during Spring Training.

So as a public service announcement next time March 17th rolls around do not adjust your set when you are watching that Spring Training game.

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you and the players really are wearing green.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about green things has me in the mood for some green eggs and ham.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Baseball Movie Monday is Winning this Week

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season, we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today’s choice of silver screen Baseball goodness is a Major League triple play.

Sometimes a baseball movie should just be about pure unadulterated humor. Yes, baseball is big business but it is also still a game and games are meant to be fun.

This week our focus turns to Major League the story of a rag tag group of players uniting for a common goal against a common enemy in the form of their team owner.

Baseball Monday has a triple play of Major League starring Charlie Sheen. Photo R. Anderson
Baseball Monday has a triple play of Major League starring Charlie Sheen.
Photo R. Anderson

For the strict humor baseball movies it is hard to top Major League. Add to the equation that Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen did all of his own pitching in the film and you have the makings of a cinematic classic.

The movie follows the Cleveland Indians as they are in rebuilding mode following the death of their long-time owner.

The late owner’s widow has a plan to move the team from Cleveland to Miami. The catch in that plan is that they have to be the worst team in baseball in order to get out of their stadium lease.

To accomplish this goal the owner invites the worst players she can find to the team thinking that it will be a slam dunk to be so bad that a move to Miami can occur.

Of course at the time that the move came out the Marlins and Rays were not yet playing so the idea of moving a team to Florida was somewhat new and in the years that followed several teams used a move to Florida as a bargaining chip to get a better stadium deal back home.

In the end the players learn of the plot and in true underdog fashion they find a way to make it to the playoffs despite the strong odds against them.

In addition to Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn the movie includes performances by Dennis “That Allstate Insurance guy” Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, Rene Russo, Tom Berenger, and most notably Bob “Just a bit outside” Uecker.

Uecker’s performance as the Indians play by play announcer, Harry Doyle, introduced so many quotable moments that they are forever etched in the lexicon of many fans of both the movie and baseball.

It is hard to watch a wild pitch to this day without uttering the phrase, “Just a bit outside.”

Of course a particularly rough outing from a pitcher with control issues can lead to uttering, “ball eight,” as well.

While I am sure that Uecker’s real life calls of the Milwaukee Brewers are not quite as over the top as his performance in Major League I have often wanted to hear him call a Brewers game just to be sure.

Baseball movies throughout the years have included great performances by real announcers that are able to let loose and play a slightly funnier version of themselves and Uecker definitely used every second of screen time to his advantage.

Major League begat two sequels that while not quite as funny as the original are certainly worth viewing as well.

There are even some rumors floating around of another sequel with the original cast returning but one really wonders how much comedic gas they could have left in the tank although I certainly could go for some more calls from Harry Doyle and am also curious to see if Charlie Sheen can still bring the heat.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson