September 21, 2011
The Lineup Card
9 Baseball Movies That Should Be Made
1) The Greatest Game Ever
Alas, the Yankees silenced the crowd by scoring twice in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9. Then Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth by belting a home run over the left-field wall and into Schenley Park off Ralph Terry to give the Pirates their first world championship since beating the great Walter Johnson in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series. Mazeroski's blast remains the only walk-off home run in a Game 7 of the World Series. If all that weren't enough, consider that there no strikeouts in the game that lasted just 2:39 despite the 19 runs scored. Capping it all off was the first recorded instance of trash talking in pro sports when Pirates outfielder Gino Cimoli looked into the NBC camera during the television post-game show and said, "The Yankees broke all the records and we won the most games." Great theatre, indeed. —John Perrotto
2) Dr. K and His Royal Curve
3) Veeck as in Wreck
4) Neugebauer and Neighborgall
Jason Neighborgall and Nick Neugebauer meet in front of the milk bottle game at the North Carolina state fair. Neighborgall is exasperatingly hurling baseballs toward the pyramid of bottles in an attempt to win a stuffed hippopotamus for his significant other, but each throw drifts further away from the target than its predecessor. Neugebauer approaches, calmly places his hand on Neighborgall's shoulder, and offers some mechanical tips. Neighborgall and Neugebauer form a tight friendship and the elder Neugebauer offers steadfast encouragement and support as Neighborgall initiates a comeback and attempts to pitch in the major leagues.
The film concludes with Neighborgall reaching the majors as a September call-up with the Atlanta Braves. He strikes out the first two batters he faces in his debut but suffers a career-ending shoulder injury when reaching back to put away the third batter on a 3-2 count. The Braves go on to win the World Series and Neighborgall is invited to Atlanta's home opener the following April where he receives his championship ring and finally finds peace with his baseball career being finished. —Bradley Ankrom
5) Big Stick
The camera zooms to the photograph, which dissolves into a live shot of Moriyami in 1891, striding past the Yokohama docks in his baseball uniform. A student at the Ichiko prep school, Moriyami looks wistfully at the American warships anchored in the harbor, since the American team at the Yokohama Country Athletic Club has refused to play the upstart Ichiko team—in fact, no Japanese were even allowed on the YCAC grounds. Instead, Moriyami and his Ichiko teammates are on their way to play a team sponsored by a Christian missionary school, Meiji Gakuin. We see the Ichiko squad beaten badly by the missionary school team, whose American coach insults and inflames the Ichiko players—an allegory, one might say, of Japan’s relationship with the West.
In response to this humiliating defeat, we watch dumbfounded as the Ichiko team undertakes an unbelievably rigorous training regime, during which players are not allowed to express pain in any way other than to occasionally say “kayui”: it itches. Time passes, Ichiko’s brutal baseball boot camp continues, and eventually YCAC agrees to a game. In a montage of wonderfully retributive moments, Ichiko crushes the overconfident Americans, then wins a quick rematch. A climactic third game occurs after YCAC recruits more talented players from the American warships in the harbor; in front of thousands of cheering fans, Ichiko wins again. Moriyami and his teammates become legends, conquering warriors who have demonstrated that Japan can be the equal of any Western nation, and a living validation of the Empire’s military ethos.
Cut back to the Japanese pilot in his Kate. He smiles, and the camera follows his eyes to a torpedo churning through the water towards an American warship. Fade to black.
6) Pizza Pizza! The Rise of Caesar: The Mike Ilitch Story
Ilitch left Detroit to fight for his country; he joined the United States Marine Corps, and in doing so left his aspirations of professional baseball behind. Were this the end of the story, his family would’ve been proud… but it wasn’t. He would come home to a $5,000 offer from the Detroit Tigers, for whom he would play three years in the minor leagues before injury would halt this dream once and for all. Once again, if the story ended here, it would have been good enough, but Ilitch wasn’t done.
In 1959 with the help and support of his wife, Ilitch would open the first Little Caesars store; this moment on May 8 of that year would be the first step in amassing a fortune that is estimated to exceed $1.7 billion dollars. It would be this pizza business, started in 1959, that would, in 1992, allow Ilitch to purchase his beloved Tigers. Success would not be overnight for Ilitch’s Tigers, though, as they would not reach the playoffs until 2006 and now again in 2011. There was, however, never a question that Ilitch was a Tiger and that the spacious Comerica Park was his house, built with his money, for his team. This small town boy lived the dream and continues to pursue his dream of wearing a World Series ring. The end of this story has not been written, but there is no better ending to this American story than to have the Detroit Tigers win the World Series and have commissioner Bud Selig hand the Championship Trophy to Michael Ilievski. —Adam W. Tower
7) The Mouth of the South
Thanks to daily cable TV exposure from Turner Broadcasting, his Braves became a national brand. Turner’s tenure as owner of the club featured a one-game stint as the team’s field manager, poker games with his players, hunting trips with Fidel Castro, and clashes with commissioners, league presidents, and most of his fellow owners.
“If I only had a little humility,” Turner observed aloud when asked to describe himself, “I’d be perfect.” But it was not until he entrusted Bobby Cox and then John Schuerholz with the job of running his club that the team flourished. Actor Aaron Eckhart gets the role of “Captain Outrageous” with Bridget Fonda playing her aunt Jane, Turner’s third wife. —Jeff Euston
8) 1998: An Enhanced Summer
Storylines abounded aside from the home run chase. Kerry Wood’s dominating rookie season was punctuated by a 20 K performance. Roger Clemens won the pitching triple crown en route to a Cy Young in Toronto. Alex Rodriguez joined the 40-40 club. Roy Halladay nearly threw a no-hitter in his major league debut. These were mere footnotes compared to the other events in 1998, but each player would continue to be big stories for years to come.
On a larger scale, the Braves dominated the NL East once again but were upended by Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, and Sterling Hitchcock’s Padres in an exciting NLCS. The Yankees set the regular season win record with 114, and when it came to the playoffs, it was Cuban import Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez who evened the ALCS at 2 games apiece with a shutout performance. David Wells, who threw a perfect game earlier in the season, would be named ALCS MVP, and it was the juggernaut Yankees taking on the Padres for the title. Of course, it ended up in a Yankees sweep to cap a 125-win season, but the series was not without drama. Tino Martinez’s grand slam capped a 7 run rally in Game 1, and in Game 3 the unhittable Trevor Hoffman was beaten by unlikely hero and eventual World Series MVP Scott Brosius (played, of course, by Brad Pitt). The ’98 home run chase might not seem as pure now as it did then, and the Yankees’ championship was only the first of a trilogy, but the year stands out as one of the more memorable ones in recent memory and would certainly be a hit at the box office. Feel free to add suggestions for actor/player combinations in the comments. (Credit for the title goes to fellow BP Intern Adam Tower) —Sam Tydings
9) Wild Kicks: The Dontrelle Willis Tale
But just as soon as Willis had achieved success, the foundations began to crumble. His control over his pitches and his world began to slip. The change was innocuous the following year, but in 2007 it could not be avoided. He was part of what would later become an ignominious trade, but he became the biggest disaster of the move. He had lost all control and was sent to the dregs of the minor leagues.
The best part about this story is that we may not have seen the end of it, despite how clear the end seemed just a season ago. If Willis continues to be just a mediocre, back-end starter for the rest of his career, he will have overcome seemingly unbeatable odds and personal demons to return to being a productive player in the big leagues; what more can a movie ask for in a happy ending? —Michael Jong