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Welcome to the second annual Short Relief Memorial Day extravaganza. Last year, we took the holiday as an opportunity to discuss our favorite baseball commercials. This year, our focus moves to the big screen: mostly films, with the occasional television show thrown in.

There’s no shortage of material, both published and slurred drunkenly on a Saturday night, about which is the best baseball movie of all time. It’s a fine debate, insofar as there are only about ten actual baseball movies in the public consciousness, and another dozen that are baseball-tangential. What the staff at BP would like to do today, instead, is talk about our favorite baseball scenes from non-baseball movies, and how the national pastime blends (or fails to blend) into popular culture. Whether it’s the cringeworthy attempt by non-sports people to represent the game, or the subtle use of baseball in a grander metaphor, it’s interesting to watch how baseball and cinema collide.

So get some coffee, find those headphones, and enjoy.


A Night at the Opera

I can’t remember who said that the difference between classical and popular music is that the former is to be played note-for-note as written, while the latter is to be interpreted by the performer. It’s true; nobody ever made a successful cover of Handel’s Messiah. This scene, from the Marx Brothers classic Night at the Opera, takes advantage of that difference. The Brothers are sabotaging the opening night of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, beginning with the overture, as they’ve inserted a different piece in the middle of each orchestra member’s music. And the musicians, true to their training, play every note in front of them.

Yes, it’s a stretch to call it a baseball scene, but as somebody who wrote 1,400 words about the song in question, it works for me. (Rob Mains)


Rocky Horror Picture Show

If you’ve been to a wedding reception in the last 30 years, you’ve heard Meat Loaf’s staple “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. The song contains an interlude in which Phil Rizzuto is narrating an encounter between Mr. Loaf and his female companion. In the “game”, the “batter” hits a ball into center field and after the center fielder bobbles it, takes second. The protagonist then steals third, and then despite the fact that there are two outs in the ninth inning, the batter bunts (?) and instead of going to first, the fielder opts for the close play at the plate (???). This is the part where the bridesmaids yell “STOP RIGHT THERE!!!”

To this day, the best use of baseball’s vast dataset that I’ve ever seen came from researcher Ted Turocy who looked into whether the Meat Loaf series of events had ever happened in real life. He found a couple of close matches, but the closest was Rich Amaral in a 1995 Twins/Mariners game who doubled to left in the ninth inning and eventually won the game for the Mariners. Turocy ended his report with a cryptic statement. In all of the near-matching cases, the runner was safe at the plate. Not sure what he meant by that. (Russell Carleton)


Wag the Dog

The 1997 film Wag the Dog was about a movie producer and a White House strategist diverting attention from a presidential sex scandal by hiring a movie producer to stage a war against Albania to improve election numbers. In the film one of the producer’s associates is played by Denis Leary, whose character is known as “the Fad King,” basically the branding expert among political hustlers.

In one scene, the Fad King is asked if he would vote for the current president. His response is that he doesn’t vote, because “When Major League Baseball started the fans voting, I voted Boog Powell on first base. He didn’t get in, and it disappointed me. It’s futile.”

Here’s the rub: in the first year of fan voting in 1970, Powell was voted as the starting American League first baseman. He was the MVP that year. He also won the vote in 1971 though missed the game to injury. It’s only fair to assume that Powell really did not get in either year, but the Fad King and his associates somehow fudged the voting totals and to this day have been selecting every All-Star lineup since. (Matt Sussman)


Twilight

The Twilight vampires play baseball.

The film knows baseball for vampires does not make sense. Bella is incredulous, asking, “Since when do vampires play baseball?” The only explanation we are offered is Edward’s answer: “It’s America’s pastime,” which feels cheap, as everyone knows vampires are patriotic, but why not go beyond the 4th of July Vampire stereotype?

We see four pitches. They are all annihilated, some are caught anyway, and one is not. There’s a play at the plate. We don’t really know what the teams are. There are only five or so vampires playing and intermittently posing in cringeworthy ways, celebrating outs by throwing their arms out in a “safe” motion, dressing in non-identifiable turn of the century style baseball garb, taking turns blasting balls into the woods. I suppose I’d seek out the diversion of sports if I were an immortal superbeing.

Ultimately, this is a schlocky romance film about vampires. Yet, in order to get their characters into a field so they can fight some werewolves, they use baseball, much the same way the later Step Up films use dancing to defeat gentrification and commercial real estate transactions. This is by far the most ambitious, arbitrary, and uncomfortable shoehorning of baseball into a film of all time, and, therefore, clearly the greatest. (Nick Schaefer)


Captain America: The First Avenger

It’s hard to resist the seductive idea that pre-WWII America was a more innocent time. It’s why Captain America has always been my favorite superhero. He symbolized a culture of service and sacrifice that stood up to bullies and defended the underdog. Cap prized this as his duty and privilege. It feels good to believe that we once aspired to this.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, baseball carries a heavy weight. On the one hand, it’s emblematic of our wishful thinking about the past. On the other hand, it’s a lie used to mask a dystopian present. It’s Cap’s signal that something is wrong. Not understanding its full meaning, he runs to Times Square where he whirls in shock, engulfed in flashing ads and state surveillance; a place where the quiet sounds of a leisurely game don’t belong. He missed a date with his girl, and the world he fought to protect is gone. (Beth Davies-Stofka)


Life

“Can’t Get Right,” a mute and presumably learning disabled inmate portrayed by Bokeem Woodbine in the uneven 1999 Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence comedy Life is the greatest baseball player ever represented on film.

We could explain why with a snippet of video from the film, where even playing against low-level Mississippi State Penitentiary competition, Can’t Get Right shows the ability to track and square up breaking balls, displays advanced feel for the barrel, and double-plus in-game power from a lean and projectible frame (he hit the ball over the damn tree line) despite at most a quiet and muted toe tap that promises to sacrifice very little contact as he progresses in his career.

Or we could explain why he’s the greatest baseball player ever represented on film by simply detailing that the plot calls for him–a black man in Mississippi in 1944–to get released from maximum security prison simply because he’s that good at baseball. (James Fegan)


An Autumn Afternoon

An Autumn Afternoon, the 54th and final film by the great Japanese humanist Yasujirō Ozu, isn’t a film about The End. You’d be excused for thinking so, though: this is the man who staged families and grandparents dead-set in front of a camera that refused to speak the language of the 180 degree rule, choosing instead to center its subjects dead-on, demanding the spectator not to imagine themselves sutured into the broader narrative but instead as themselves being looked at, even though each of them–us–are not on the screen in the first place.

The film itself is classic Ozu, and classic mid-century drama: a widowed patriarch (as a result of the US’ merciless 1945 bombing of Tokyo) realizes he needs to let his youngest daughter marry and leave his home, and in the process thinks back on his life as he enters the twilight. One night, he tries to invite a younger colleague out to meet his family, but he declines: drinks sound great, but what will happen to his beloved baseball team if he misses their impending doubleheader?

What we see next is precisely Ozu’s genius: rather than the game itself, infrastructure: metal scaffolding buttressing stadium lights advertising Sapporo beer. Next, we cut to the game on television, while our patriarch dines with his old friends, having given up on the night. What in lesser hands would be the end–perhaps a strikeout to mirror his greying hair, we get something much darker: a 1-2 count for a star player returning from injury. A cut, away from the television, and a question, unanswered: did they score a run? This is what it feels like, before the End. (Matt Ellis)


Dazed and Confused

For most people, Dazed and Confused is the movie where Matthew McConaughey delivers the line “I keep getting older, but they stay the same age.” For me, it’s one of the best movies to catch on a random Saturday afternoon, at any point in the flick, and watch to completion. It’s a good time.

All of this makes the baseball scene in the movie stand out a bit, because it is undeniably not a good time. Merely by being present at the game, our young friend Mitch (Wiley Wiggin, a young Tim Lincecum-looking thing) has confirmed his own demise. The older students and their personalized paddles will know he’s there, and there’s no escape in a wide open field.

With two strikes on the last batter, the catcher calls time (no word on if he’s charged a mound visit) to remind him that — hey, this isn’t gonna work out for you either way, so don’t sweat it. It’s a hell of a pep talk for a young nihilist but I think it’s lost on Mitch. The third baseman joins the conversation just as the catcher leaves (a second mound visit?) and asks Mitch, if he wouldn’t mind, to go get his beating elsewhere, so that no one else gets caught in the crossfire. A sacrifice butt, if you will.

We leave our nation’s pastime in Dazed and Confused with a slump-shouldered Mitch meeting his makers at the right field gate. There’s nothing but wide open expanse behind him, but nowhere to run. In striking out that last batter, he secured the victory and made certain defeat. (Craig Goldstein)


The Best Years of Our Lives

Early in William Wyler’s postwar classic The Best Years Of Our Lives three newly-discharged combat veterans share a cab in silence, nervously scanning the deceptively familiar cityscape. One of them spies the local ballpark and smiles.

“Say, how are the Beavers doin’ this season?”

“Meh, they’re in sixth place,” the driver answers.

“Yeah… still in the second division,” they all chuckle, finding the local nine’s struggles both familiar and strangely comforting.

The film then follows these three men, profoundly changed by their wartime experiences, as they try and often fail to reconnect to a community that has also changed. Wyler casts a sympathetic but unflinching eye on a long series of awkward interactions: the amputee and his family cannot deal frankly with his injuries; the banker struggles to adjust to his newly-independent wife and children; the bombardier and his war bride learn they are little more than strangers sharing a cheap apartment. The veterans’ wartime experience has been radically different from that of those on the home front; there’s no common frame of reference, no conversational on-ramps, at the dinner table or in the break room.

Except for baseball. The Beavers are still awful, and everyone can still talk about them breezily, just as everyone can still discuss the weather. That scene in the taxicab, bookended by moments where people try and fail to connect, has always spoken to me about the power inherent in baseball’s consistency and continuity, and how it’s unchanging nature and the shared experience it provides can help bind a community together even in the most difficult of times. (Ken Funck)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Raphael has always been my least favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Brash, impulsive, stubborn—much like Casey Jones, at least according to Steve Barron’s 1990 film. Both of these characters together, however, gave me my favorite scene in the film:

Maybe I secretly wanted to see my 8-year-old self in them, in that moment; they were everything I wasn’t allowed to be (rude, out doing things alone), and everything I knew I wasn’t (unafraid of consequences). Michelangelo (noted party dude) was my favorite Turtle, but knew myself to be, even then, in the indigo quenelle of the TMNT Personality Venn Diagram where Donatello’s nerdiness and wordplay overlapped with Leonardo’s perfectionism and rule-following. But I could participate in Raphael and Casey Jones’s sports-cliché dust-up, right down to the derision of Jose Canseco (whom my older brother liked and was thus anathema to me) and Anglophile cricket humor. Baseball, I could say, was one thing we had in common. (Holly M. Wendt)


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Institutionalized Randal P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) desperately wants to watch the game, but the dreaded Nurse Ratched refuses to turn on the television. In defiance, McMurphy stands before a blank TV and calls a nail-biting inning for Sandy Koufax, while the other patients—magnetized by McMurphy’s excitement—gather round, and end up whooping and cheering along with him.

As a Mets fan living deep behind enemy lines in South Philly, I feel McMurphy’s pain—when it comes to turning on the Kings of Queens, every bartender is a little Nurse Ratched. But beyond that, the scene crystallizes what’s so great about baseball, especially playoff baseball—the tension of each pitch, and the community knitted together by that thrill, no matter how detached from the real world. (Sara Novic)


Gilmore Girls

Luke Danes is one of my favorite TV characters. He’s a cool guy; I hope to be like him in my forties, sans the receding hairline. Throughout the run of Gilmore Girls, he delivered many great and inspirational quotes. And also this one, which left me dumbfounded.

In season 6, episode 18, entitled “The Real Paul Anka”, Luke goes on a field trip with his newfound biological daughter April and her classmates. On the bus ride, the kids start mocking Mr. Munster, their math teacher. A kid named Freddie accuses him of being a liar for claiming to be a Red Sox fan despite not being aware of them having “traded” Johnny Damon to the Yankees the previous winter. Luke brings up how George Steinbrenner, then-Yankees owner, made Damon cut his hair. Freddie says Damon looks way less scary. Luke agrees, and ends the discussion with the following line: “Yeah, less intimidating to pitchers. It’s gonna shave 20 points off his batting average.”

…Okay. In Luke’s defense, Damon’s batting average dropped from .316 in 2005 to .285. Although he displayed PECOTA-esque accuracy in his prediction, the logic behind it was based on Skip Bayless-esque idiocy, not a cutting-edge algorithm. I wanted Luke Danes to be smarter than this. But hey, he won Lorelai Gilmore’s heart in the end. It turns out that you can spend a happy life with sub-adequate sports opinions. (Kazuto Yamazaki)


A Few Good Men

It seems, at first, that Kaffee (Tom Cruise) has taken a legitimate interest in helping out Sherby (not Tom Cruise), who is inexplicably unable to field a slow-moving softball. Sherby, grateful for the attention, spends two thirds of his dialogue apologizing for sucking:

  • “Sorry!”
  • “Sorry!”
  • “I don’t think so.”

Sherby thinks finally, finally someone cares enough to work with him on his incredibly below replacement level fielding. In reality, we learn, Kaffee is just using Sherby as a pawn: The furious prosecutor who shows up makes it clear that Kaffee is stalling for time on a case. This darker truth should be more obvious in this movie: We may be watching a softball practice full of quirky dialogue, but a couple of scenes ago, a U.S. Marine drowned in his own blood after a poison-soaked rag was duct taped inside of his mouth.

Perhaps we are owed a film that branches away from Kaffee’s story and follows Sherby as he attempts to prove to his intramural JAG corps softball team that he is more than a prop in their negotiating tactics. Picture the end of this film, as Tom Cruise leaves the courtroom having put Jack Nicholson in prison. He squints across the street at the park–his softball team’s championship was today, he forgot! As he spectates, a talented second baseman he can’t recognize makes a diving stop to save the game.

He begins a slow clap–until a sniper’s bullet takes him out and he crumples to the ground. Sherby disassembles his rifle, puts on a baseball cap, and disappears into the crowd. (Justin Klugh)


Smash

There’s too much about “Smash,” the bizarre musical NBC show that inexplicably lasted for two seasons, to properly explain, so just know this: they were making a musical about Marilyn Monroe. And if you’re going to talk about Marilyn Monroe, you have to talk about her disastrous romances. And if you’re going to talk about her disastrous romances, you have to talk about Joe DiMaggio. And that brings us to the “National Pastime” number.

It’s raunchy and sexist and wildly inappropriate and catchy as hell. There’s plenty to talk about here regarding the clumsy commercialization of baseball for a mainstream audience, or about women feigning mutual hobbies to impress men less impressive than Joe DiMaggio. Those are discussions for another time. I just want to talk about lyrics like: “Who’s that man?” “That’s the first base coach!” “Have you noticed that he signals every time I approach?” (Kate Feldman)


Woman of the Year


Click the image to watch the unembeddeable video, please

It’s hard to describe the unmatched wonderfulness of this scene from the 1942 Hepburn-Tracy film Woman of the Year, directed by George Stevens. Is it the brief but certifying (in the Walker Percy sense) establishing shot of the old Yankee Stadium? The kinetic tracking shot across the grandstand to the two stars as they enter the peculiarly situated and continuity-skewing press box? Is it the first line of Hepburn’s character, who has never seen a ballgame, as she takes in the massive afternoon crowd: “Are all these people unemployed?” (Tracy: “No, they’re all attending their grandmothers’ funerals.”) Or is it all the classic banter that follows, building to a head when a controversial call at first base sends the crowd into a frenzy? This is cinema-baseball for novice and adept alike.

“You mean our newspaper sends two men to cover just this one game?”
“No, I cover the game; he just kicks it around in his column.”
“We’ve only got one man in Vichy.”
“Vichy? Are they still in the league?” (Adam Sobsey)


Grease

High school senior and greaser Danny Zuko wants to win back his summer love Sandy Olsen. After he spies Sandy out on a date with a popular football player, Danny thinks the only way he’ll get her to acknowledge him is if he turns into a jock himself. So Danny springs into action and tries out for a few sports. He fails at basketball and soon finds out that wrestling is not for him so the school’s football coach and gym teacher, Coach Calhoun takes Danny out onto the baseball diamond to see what he can do.

Alas, Danny’s foray into baseball only lasts three pitches, and his primary skill appears to be a batting approach inspired by Felix Millan. But it all works out in the end, as he becomes a track star, earns a letterman’s sweater, and wins back his summer love. (Stacey Gotsulias)


Twilight, Seriously

By the time the Twilight film adaptation came out in 2008, the obsession with the franchise had reached cult-like proportions within my peer group. Copies of Twilight were toted around like Bibles for easy reference, and it seemed like every conversation centered around the relative sexiness of vampires and werewolves. Having neither read the book nor seen the movie, I spent a lot of time nodding along in pretend understanding. I somehow managed to avoid consuming any part of Twilight until 2009, when I found myself jammed into a hotel room with eight girls at the Canadian national spelling bee. It was movie night, and the movie of choice was, of course, Twilight.

I remember pretty much nothing about the movie except the baseball scene. Watching it unfold may have been the most confused I’ve ever felt in my life. I could never feign enthusiasm for Twilight again. (Rachael McDaniel)


Dave

2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the largely underrated Dave. As a political movie, it has aged very well. How can you not love a movie that was released in 1993 that includes a scene where the White House chief of staff storms into the Oval Office to berate the man who fell into the presidency and now finds himself totally in over his head? After allowing the chief of staff to vent, the president says simply, “Bob, you’re fired.” That scene just has a whole new dimension now.

But of course, the best part of the film is that I am in it. Before a Tigers-Orioles game in August of 1992, Kline and the film crew came to Camden Yards to do a scene where the president throws out a first pitch. I had a partial season ticket at Camden Yards that season and I was at that game. I’m still slightly convinced that, as the camera pans the wildly cheering crowd for approximately two milliseconds, I can catch a fleeting glimpse of myself. (Scott Delp)


Psych

Angry and argumentative white men are a massive and terrifying problem in society, but when one adds pajamas and a healthy dose of inconsequentiality to the mix, the fear transforms into humor and absurdity.

Yet, after watching Psych’s 5th episode of season 6 episode, “Dead Man’s Curveball,” I can’t help but be a little disappointed by each MLB ejection. This episode features faux-psychic detective, Shawn Spencer, and his best friend, Burton Guster, investigating the murder of the Santa Barbara Seahawks’ hitting coach. Though the episode features a number of absurd moments as everyone associated with the team is at various points declared a suspect, the apex of the episode occurs at the end of the cold open, featuring a charity baseball game between two of the most evil entities in the world, the SBPD and the DMV. Enraged by being called out at home to end the game and subsequently ejected, Shawn rips home base out of the dirt and discus throws it into short left field.

Go watch any of Bobby Cox’s 161 ejections and tell me a similar move wouldn’t have infinitely improved each and every one. (Mary Craig)


Kingsman – The Golden Circle

In the first Kingsman movie, we meet the titular British spies, whose aesthetic and gadgets are derived from English stereotypes like Savile Row suits and umbrellas. In the second, their American counterparts the Statesmen appear, hawking bourbon in their cowboy hats and dungarees. We later see them add to it by having a Louisville Slugger minesweeper and baseball grenades. There’s no James Bond-like reason to disguise the gadgets–as seen in the clip, suited spies in the Cambodian jungle look even sillier with a bat and ball.

So what’s to like about this tiny slice of a movie best watched on a plane? The increasingly global nature of baseball is fantastic, but there’s something reassuring about the use of baseball equipment as a heavy-handed symbol of the USA. I don’t particularly mind that football clearly eclipsed baseball in the American consciousness (or at least international branding) decades ago, but it’s nice to see that Hollywood, when it needs classic American iconography, still leans on The National Pastime. I can’t really imagine Colin Firth throwing a spiral at the bad guys, anyhow. (Frank Firke)


Spotlight

I was in j-school getting my master’s degree when Spotlight came out, so naturally we all flocked to see it because, hey, journalism students going to go see a movie about journalism, cool!

But there’s one scene that irked me in particular, and it was the scene where many Globe editor and reporters were at Fenway Park, maybe about five or six of them sitting down the first base line. They’re bantering back and forth about the Red Sox, and also talking some shop, as one may do when they’re out with co-workers and off the clock. But there was just something about this scene: It’s one thing if it’s just some casual outing among co-workers complaining about the pre-2004 Red Sox—but they were discussing the story they were investigating.

I was mortified that the Globe staff was discussing the story in such a public place; regardless of the distraction and the crowd noise, you still don’t know exactly who is sitting within earshot. My baseball fan self was torn because on one hand, it’s cool and chill to go to a game with colleagues to unwind, but then my journalist self is having a conniption because what if someone overhears it and figures it out and tips them off and I’m starting to think about how much could go so so so very wrong here and I sob. (Jen Mac Ramos)


The Naughty Nineties

“Who’s on First” shouldn’t work. At all. The premise is completely absurd and has no connection to anything resembling real life.

SCOTT BORAS: Kris, we’ve made you more marketable! I’ve called the media and told them you have a new nickname.
KRIS BRYANT: Great! What is it?
BORAS: I Don’t Know.
BRYANT: You’re fired.

And yet it’s the greatest routine in the history of comedy–due entirely to the genius of Bud Abbott and the reactive brilliance of Lou Costello. Bud’s role was to verbally push Lou to the brink of sanity–essentially gaslighting him with set-ups. Because he was so committed to this and his timing was so rapid fire, he could sell the concept of a first baseman named Who.

The other key was that Bud and Lou always had an immediate answer for everything one threw at the other and knew the rhythm by heart. So much so that when they did WOF for The Naughty Nineties, they knew exactly where to insert every pause for laughter even while performing in front of a stone-faced film crew. They turned an unworkable premise into transcendent comedy and became legends. (Ken Schultz)


Brewster’s Millions

Brewster’s Millions has been remade for film at least a dozen times, but the one I grew up with reran endlessly on UHF television in the 80s, and starred Richard Pryor, John Candy, and Jerry Orbach. I’ve only seen the edited-for-TV version and wouldn’t have it any other way.

The movie is about a man trying to inherit $300,000,000 dollars by adhering to some crazy conditions in a long lost relative’s will, but the most interesting part sees Pryor’s Monty Brewster spend a substantial chunk of money for a 3-inning exhibition against the New York Yankees. Brewster is a career minor-leaguer trapped in what appears to be Low-A at best, as the Hackensack Bulls’ stadium has a freight train running through the outfield regularly, and appears to be a danger to anyone who sets foot in it.

Brewster believes he can get any team out for one inning with his low-80s fastball, but the movie lapses briefly into realism as the Yankees are completely prepared for Brewster’s meager repertoire. They send him to the showers with a first inning grand slam, and Brewster decides to hang up his spikes. (Paul Noonan)


Men in Black

Men in Black is a film about hiding in plain sight. When Tommy Lee Jones’s Kay explains to new MIB recruit Will Sm—er, Jay, perhaps a subtle nod to 1990s cool king Michael Jordan—that there are 1500 aliens living on earth, Jay is shocked to hear that these visitors don’t live in underground bunkers. Rather, they populate the streets of New York City, bumping elbows with the city’s eight million residents.

The film itself harkens back to 1950s B-movies, playing up a select few moments of camp and allusion. When the climactic scene arrives, in which Vince D’Onofrio’s Edgar crashes a 1964 World’s Fair observation tower-cum-flying saucer, we’re treated to a cameo by the New York Mets outfielder Bernard Gilkey. Gilkey is metsmerized by the UFO flying about Shea Stadium, making an implicit connection between sci-fi and the space-age-born Mets, as Gilkey allows a flyball to bounce off his noggin. It’s a sendup of the Mets’ status as the little brother of New York baseball, and a perfect summation of Bernard Gilkey’s 1997 season. (Zack Moser)


The Warriors

New York experienced a baseball renaissance in the late 1970s. Sure, the Mets were still lousy, but the Yankees made it to three consecutive World Series from 1976-78 after a decade outside the playoffs. Baseball was so popular again that even youth gangs built their entire identities around it, as seen in the 1979 NYC crime documentary, The Warriors.

The Baseball Furies were based in Riverside, practically a cutoff throw away from Yankee Stadium. These young baseball enthusiasts were so excited to see what clearly looked like another team show up in their backyard that they lost all sense of decorum and chased after them in an effort to play a quick late night nine innings. Despite exceptional fitness (sprinting in full uniform with equipment for four minutes), the Furies complete lack of plate discipline (note the flashing DON’T WALK sign) and wild power swings ultimately doomed the home team to a quick and surprising defeat. Their parent club would see similar disappointment that summer, going 89-71 and missing the postseason entirely. (Mark Primiano)


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the encapsulation of everything that makes Chicago amazing, especially in the summer. Ferris’ sick day encompasses so many iconic Chicago attractions.

His trip to Wrigley is one just about everyone in Chicago can relate to. At one point, we’ve all feigned illness and taken off school or work to catch a day game on either side of town. Everyone knows where the Ferris Bueller seats are — or at least they know they’re down that right field line somewhere. And everyone still worries about getting caught when they’re anywhere near a foul ball, even though Principal Rooney managed to miss Ferris’ catch. (Anthony Rescan)


The Naked Gun

Need to send a quick message to your third base coach to relay to the batter? The catcher doesn’t remember what the scouting report said? The outfield forgot to shift on Joey Gallo? Doesn’t seem like waving your hands and playing a perverse version of If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands will work.

Managers should take a page from The Naked Gun and start using lights, flags, and Morse code to communicate faster on the field. Players will get the message faster and there would be no need to block opposing players from trying to steal signs.

Why stop there? Managers can make calling signs look like cheerleading, making it a treat for the players and fans to get more involved with the happenings on the field. Talk about keeping young people entertained at the ballpark! Next thing you know, we’ll have umpires showing up players and tigers roaming the infield to guard against potential base stealers. Would you not be entertained? (Martin Alonso)


The Cameraman

One of the most common comedic tropes of the silent film era was the juxtaposition of childhood spirit within an adult body: take Harold Lloyd’s physical comedy, or Chaplin’s tramp. Buster Keaton was, in this sense, at a disadvantage: his long, stoic face is all world-weariness, not impishness.

But when it comes to baseball, we are all children; we all dream of ourselves on the mound, going through the motions of our heroes. As he toes the rubber and goes through the motions of the pitcher, Keaton’s skills at mimicry are so complete, his interaction so natural that one has to remember that the ballplayers around him don’t exist, rather than go through the effort of imagining them. By the end, when Keaton slides into home, he and we have both forgotten how ridiculous the whole thing is, until the security guard slides into frame and dispels the illusion. Suddenly, we are all adults again. (Patrick Dubuque)


Thanks for reading, and apologies for failing to include your personal favorite baseball scene. Look forward to next year, when we analyze and rank the pitching mechanics of every actor who has ever thrown a baseball on screen. Tim Robbins, consider yourself on notice.

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Adrock
5/28
Fun stuff. I'm curious: Rachael, how did the spelling bee go?
Mac
5/28
Thanks, all, I loved this. And yes, I have to mention that my favorite baseball scene from a non-baseball show was not included, which is when the crew of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine plays a game of baseball against a Vulcan team on the holodeck. More specifically, the moment when Captain Sisko tells his team to “get some chatter going,” and first baseman Worf complies with this directive by shouting, “Death to the opposition!”
Paul Seppala
5/28
Quite the collection here. There's also a couple of quasi baseball scenes in When Harry Met Sally. Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby have one exchange while taking hacks in a batting cage and another at a game where they're doing The Wave.
Adam Sobsey
5/28
nb. BP did some research into which game exactly Ferris & Co. attended. Turns out it's two: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/did-ferris-buellers-day-take-800463
Adam Sobsey
5/28
I might as well add here that on June 8 the Durham Bulls Baseball Club is graciously showing Bull Durham in its entirety at the old Durham Athletic Park, where its baseball scenes were filmed (and where the Bulls no longer play). By "entirety" I mean, among other things, that the naughty bits (which are frankly most of them) aren't being edited out. The screening commemorates the movie's 30th (!) anniversary. If you're anywhere near Durham on that night, it's worth making a trip, otherwise Crash is gonna call you a clamshucker,
Philip Bess
5/28
Great compilation. I know you were limiting yourselves to movies, but if you went just outside that box you could include a very sweet one-off episode from The X-Files starring Jesse L. Martin and M. Emmit Walsh about a 1940s Negro baseball player in Roswell named Josh Exley [X-ly; get it?] who was actually an alien. It was written by David Duchovny and includes a background broadcast clip featuring Vin Scully, after whom Dana Scully was named (Fox Mulder's replacement was Agent Doggett, named after Vin Scully's original L.A. sidekick Jerry Doggett); as well as some clever John Steed / Emma Peel-like banter between Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (referring to her baseball bat, Duchovny/Mulder observes to Anderson/Scully: "Nice piece of Ash, Scully.") Fun episode...
Jim Proulx
5/28
Always liked the baseball episode of X-Files (The Unnatural).
Russell A. Carleton
5/29
Luke Danes is played by Scott Patterson. Scott Patterson is a former minor league pitcher (played in the Braves and Yankees systems).
rjblakel
5/29
Nice throwback article. Thanks!
Jason Lebeck
5/29
I liked the role that baseball played in "Frequency" with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. Not so much a scene, but the '69 Series is used as reference point for the timing of events happening in the plot.
N Blocher
5/29
You forgot the odd couple where Walter Matthau is called away from the game by an "urgent" phone call. Mets lead by a run but the Pirates have the bases loaded with no outs. The other writers are already calling it another Mets loss. Oscar says, with little conviction, "ain't you never heard of a triple play?" While the urgent call is that Felix is making franks and beans for dinner so, don't eat too many hot dogs, Mazeroski hits into a triple play in the days of no replay. Like going to the john when Bobby Thomson stepped up (wasn't that with Robert Guillame in SportsNight)

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