"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Get That Bum Off the Stage


I had a couple of guest posts over at Rob Neyer’s blog yesterday. One on baseball movies, the other on Yanks-Sox. I’m pleased to say I got ripped but good, especially on baseball movies. All you’ve got to do is pan Field of Dreams and you might as well burn the flag. So I’m a soulless so-and-so, I can live with that.

When does Neyer come back?

Actually feels oddly comforting getting trashed by a dude with the moniker, Pornstar7.

Yeah, baby.

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1 Statler   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:17 am

[0] I approve this message.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:26 am

The comments on those big-ticket sites are a trip. I got ripped to pieces on SI.com's Trade Talk blog, just like I got stomped by the Fungoes readers. I came to realize that on those sites, people only comment to argue or disagree, and usually do so in a way befitting talk radio, complete with yelling and personal insults. It certainly makes me appreciate both the high quality of the conversations in our comments here and the generally amicable and supportive community that has grown on this site. Not that I didn't already . . .

3 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:28 am

As I said yesterday, excellent work on both, Alex. Heaven forbid you challenge someone to think about something differently! ;)

I'm kind of surprised none of those folks from the Sox-Yanks piece came over here and left anything, especially during last night's game. Perhaps it would have been different if the Yanks lost big, instead of winning big.

4 jonnystrongleg   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:31 am

Anybody see Sugar? I read great things about it, but waiting for Netflix.

5 a.O   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:32 am

@ #2: Indeed. Plus, in the spirit of those sites, Rob Neyer is a Yankee-hating tool. And if I ever see him around town (I'm in Portland), I am going to tell him so.

6 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:42 am

[0] Alex ... Nice work on the "Field of Dreams" piece. I respect your opinion on hating the film's ending, as I am not a fan of it, either. I still can't get around Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe batting RIGHT-HANDED. That always bothered me. ... However, if you look at the film from the context outside of baseball and typical Kevin Costner schmaltz, and view the movie for what it is: The retelling of the Easter story set to a baseball background wrapped in Native American Sioux mythology (the significance of corn), I bet you'll forget the sappy ending.

And the fact that you know how awesome "Long Gone" was just shows your depth of field knowledge.

The Natural, for as much as I love the movie for its fantasy ending, is not as good as the book, where Roy Hobbs is a tragic figure. I like reality in my fiction.

7 vockins   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:47 am

You don't like baseball if you don't like "Field of Dreams?" That's like saying you don't like puppies if you don't like dog shit.

8 ms october   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:58 am

why do you watch it?

i loved those two old cranks.
the espn et al commenters could learn a thing or two from then.
of course this will sound rather snobby - but what the hell - the masses are asses.

i enjoyed both pieces alex. good that you can take it well.

9 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:03 pm
10 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:04 pm

You know what has a good baseball-related scene in it? The grenade throwing kid who loves Dennis Martinez in "Under Fire," and over-looked but excellent Nick Nolte movie. Also, the scene in "In the Bedroom" when the killer is being driven to the woods to meet his maker, with the Red Sox game on the radio in the background, really added some subtle but creepy tension.

11 Joel   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:04 pm

From out of left field: You know with 2,380 lifetime hits, Johnny Damon has a shot at 3,000. He would have to stay healthy for 3 more years and do a little something in a 4th year--which would be his age 39 season. But it is possible.

HOF then for Johnny Damon?

12 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:09 pm

I like Field of Dreams even though it probably isn't a good "baseball" movie. Something about playing under lights in a cornfield is appealing to me.

Long Gone is also very good, but one of my favorite baseball movies is Pastime.

13 Statler   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:13 pm

On a more substantive note than my first comment, I think the most challenging thing about making a baseball movie is the audience(s). Yes, baseball is the iconic American game, but it occupies a lot of different places in people's lives.

Some (few) of us are Fantasy Baseball geeks, tracking players and stats across all baseball. Some of us encounter baseball as a way to connect with friends at a bar--our lives have changed and drifted apart, but we can all appreciate the experience of a game, a beer, and rooting for the home team. Some of us live and die game-to-game. After a lopsided loss, we believe the wheels have come off on some definitive level. Others are placid, season-long viewers, able to keep their eye on the next game and the next and the one after that.

But I'd wager the large majority of people are casual fans, the guys (or gals) who watch playoff baseball, and have their sports narratives prepared for them by ESPN, TBS, or what have you. The way they engage with the sport explains the slow-motion shots in baseball movies and the peculiar durability of stats like wins, batting average, and saves.

I saw all of this because I noticed something in your article, (and while this is criticism it's mean respectfully) a sort of unconscious privileging of your knowledge about "real baseball." But that's a perspective born out of a dedication to the ins-and-outs of the sport that most people don't share. So I kind of take issue with the idea that things are "heightened the wrong way" as you say. Everybody has a right to enjoy the game in their own way--that's part of what makes it the American game--and I'm not sure levying moral judgments against people who experience it differently is productive or illuminating.

14 a.O   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:19 pm

@ #11: The only thing I care about with respect to Johnny is that the rest of his girly-armed career is spent with someone else.

15 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:31 pm

[11] [14] I imagine the Giants will be thrilled to have him chase 3000 hits in their beautiful park by the Bay. Or the Mets. Or the Reds. Some GM will (foolishly) overreact to his YS2.0-driven performance (.302/.397/.577 at home, vs .273/.346/.459 on the road), in a contract year and overpay him accordingly. (BTW, his road numbers for this year match his career line almost exactly (.289/.355/.439), and I expect those numbers to start going down next year. Damon could make 3000 hits, but it might not be pretty getting there.)

That's not a knock on Damon - I think he's awesome. But he's not multi-year contract awesome, not at his age. If he'd take a one-year deal on the cheap, and there was really nothing else out there, then I'd be all for him re-signing. Anything else - thanks for the memories, Johnny!

16 RCK   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:46 pm

[4] I did see Sugar and think that it is definitely worth seeing. It's a really nicely done, sincere but not overly sincere film. It makes a point without being preachy. I would like to discuss it more, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone here who hasn't seen it. The parts of it with which I was dissatisfied are intrinsic to the plot.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:03 pm

Pavano to Twins for a PTBNL ...

173 baserunners in 125 innings, a 5.37 ERA ... maybe we'll see him in the playoffs? :-)

18 unmoderated   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:21 pm

Can't even watch Field of Dreams.
Costner monotone.
J.E. Jones totally wasted in that role.
Ray Liotta....
The wife rules, though.

For the same reason I don't bother with horror flicks, I don't bother with schmaltz like this. My head can't buy into it.

19 thelarmis   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:26 pm

The A's just released The Big 'G'

20 Emma Span   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:34 pm

Stay strong, Alex! The only thing that sucks harder than the end of Field of Dreams is the end of the Natural.

21 jonnystrongleg   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:37 pm

[20] the natural's a room divider, i'm sure, but i'll never understand why some people feel the need to stick to that awful ending of that awful book. the movie was a vasly superior experience for me.

22 jonnystrongleg   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:38 pm

[16] Thanks for the review, and for not spoiling the details. Looking forward to it.

23 The Hawk   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:41 pm

[13] Well-said, even though I didn't pick up on any of that.

24 The Mick536   ~  Aug 7, 2009 1:54 pm

[20] I can see your point about how the book can divide a room. Movie should be remade, preferably by Roman Polanski. Redford ruined the character. Perhaps, at the time of its making, people would not have accepted a character of such low repute. Redford may not have made the movie if it tracked the book. Looking forward to another reread.

Mark Harris greatly under appreciated as a writer. Bang The Drum still moves me. Very close to the book. Someone should make the other books into movies.

Why hasn't anyone made a movie from The Universal Baseball Association? It could be a modern day Pawnbroker. Coover's book is brilliant

25 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 2:30 pm

Does ANYONE need a remake of The Pawnbroker? UGH.

Talk about heaviosity.


26 ed   ~  Aug 7, 2009 2:46 pm

Idunno, I always liked Field of Dreams. Sappy, absolutely, and the New Age spirituality (twinged with Native American mysticism) always felt pretty empty to me... but the stuff with his dad I get.

Although tapping into the memory of playing catch with your dad doesn't exactly require virtuosic cinematic skill.

27 mrm1970   ~  Aug 7, 2009 5:05 pm

The worst baseball-related movie ever is "Strategic Air Command," starring Jimmy Stewart. Discharged from the military after a successful career as a bomber pilot, Stewart returns home to his civilian job: third baseman for the Cardinals. But he ultimately gives up baseball--and staying at home with his pregnant wife--because the Air Force needs him to pilot bomber planes on early Cold War era missions.

28 The Hawk   ~  Aug 7, 2009 5:11 pm

There are not many good baseball movies. I was just thinking last night though, how good The Bronx is Burning miniseries was.

Baseball movies are usually corny.

29 matt b   ~  Aug 8, 2009 4:13 pm

[10] There's a Dodgers game on the radio in a couple scenes in Blake Edwards' "The Party." I always liked that touch - it helped make it feel like a real summer night in LA in the 60s.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver