Baseball Weekly-Yes, I still call it that-ran a piece last week in which they listed the top-10 baseball movie moments. They did a pretty good job (though I don't think Bobby DiNero's big moment in Bang the Drum Slowly made it).
I thought it would be fun to compile the ten worst baseball moments on film, sort of like what baseball did in the fourth game of the World Series-and inadvertently created a new low by allowing banned-for-life pro tem Pete Rose to upstage the non-event. I have come up with my list, which is by no means exhaustive. I don't expect that I've seen more than a fraction of the horrible baseball movies made over the years. If you have some moments that I missed, send them to me and I'll post them.
Here goes, in no particular order:
- "TLAG"-The "Throws Like a Girl Award":
Tony Perkins in the otherwise fine film Fear Strikes Out threw with the wrong hand as Billy Crystal put it in Baseball like a Jerry Lewis "Hey Lady!"-ing.
Corbin Benson in Major League played a veteran third baseman whose throws in reality must have skipped off the mound or gone directly into the dugout. Of course, in the movie they were always a strike to the first baseman. Pathetic.
Madonna in A League of Their Own: At least she comes by it honestly, but it did look like she never even played catch before in her life and she played center in the movie.
Tony Danza in the remake of Angels in the Outfield: a two-foot pitcher with a one-foot stride.
- Life of Ruthey-William Bendix ham-handed, ham-fisted, and ham-faced portrayal of the Babe featured Bendix's unatheletic appearance, his wild gesticulations on the "Called Shot", his running in to the sick kid's room after hitting a home run still in uniform, his ordering milk in a bar, and his apocryphal submission to experimental cancer treatment. Felix Unger's comedic recreation of the home run for the sick kid for Oscar's radio show on The Odd Couple was less broad.
- "I'm a Buzz"-Ted McGinley causes the tottering Major League franchise to finally "jump the shark."
- "Debbie! The car! Debbie! The Car!..."-Freddie Prinze Jr. leaves his no-hitter with two out in the ninth to stop Jessica Biel from leaving on a jet plane in Summer Catch. This film was the anti-Casablanca.
- "Here's the Windup...."-The gut-wrenching sound effect used in Rookie of the Year to express the tendons tightening in Henry Rowengartner's freak arm before every pitch. Honorary mention: "Pitcher's got a big butt!"
-"Senator John Blutarsky and wife"-The tacked on endings in baseball movies to make it all the more nostalgic, tragic, or meaningful. Basically, ripping off the end of Stand By Me. Witness The Sandlot, a slight Jean Shepherd derivative in which the final minute shows the star's fiend as an adult playing for the Dodgers. Who cares?
- "Cubbies?"-An unidentified flying scifi film from the Saturday afternoons of my youth, in which the aliens are identified by asking them, "How about those Cubs?" When they respond, "The little bears?" in a thick Russian accent, open fire. Of course, aliens can perfect space travel, alter their appearance to look and sound like us, but the discipline of baseball evades them.
- "Let 'Em Play"-In The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, the Bears travel to Houston to play an exhibition in the Astrodome against the (Tucson?) Toros. The Bears stage a comeback to tie the game but must vacate the field to allow the major-league game to start. Bob Watson leads a cheer, while guards chase Tanner around second, to allow the kids to finish their game, which the Bears of course won. I won't even mention Tony Curtis in The bad News Bears Go To Japan, in which the "kids" are now thirty-two.
- "What You Talking 'bout, Mr. Kroc?"-The Gary Coleman vehicle From Left Field, in which the Padres are managed by a 10-year-old smart-mouth kid. The parallels between the "film" and reality with the Padres selecting Jerry Coleman to manage. The rote ending with Coleman's dad, Benson, a former star turned peanut vendor, becoming the manager.
- "Why there's no basement in the Alamo"-Brendan Fraser as Steve Nebraska on the roof of Yankees Stadium dealing with his movie-extending, second-act, inappropriately tacked-on psychological problems before throwing a 27-strikeout perfect game in the World Series in The Scout.
As a bonus, here are my top-10 baseball moments from TV:
Seienfeld (3): George and The Boss eating calzones, Keith Hernandez and "The Lone Spitter", and Kramer asking Paul O'Neill to hit two home runs.
SNL (3): Chico Escuela-"Beisbol be berry berry good to me", Billy Crystal and Chris Guest telling tall tales as former Negro League stars, and Chris Farley as Andrew Guliani climbing all over his mayoral pater at a Yankees game.
Simpsons (2): Dancing Homer and the major-league ringers on the power plant softball team.
WKRP: Jennifer poses on the mound to stymie opposing softball batters.
Brady Bunch: Don Drysdale teaching Greg how to throw a fastball on their Brady's astroturf. I think Joe Namath was waiting off camera to do his cameo at the time.