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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Baseball and the movies

July 21, 2011
The Daily Mining Gazette

Baseball has been besmirched - again.

A past scandal was the throwing of the game during the Black Sox 1919 World Series (made into a movie in 1988 with a top notch cast of John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn and others. In an exquisitely detailed period piece, members of the Chicago White Sox agreed to throw the game in return for a cash reward. John Sayles wrote and directed the film, and cast himself as sportswriter Ring Lardner).

There have been other scandals, including the accusation that in 1986 N.Y. Mets star Mike Scott had "scuffed" his ball to cause it to illegally fly in an unexpected manner; it was never proven, but the blemish on his name remains.

And now we have the Roger Clemens trial with more than a dozen high-profile witnesses -including Boston Red Sox star Wade Boggs, N.Y. Yankees Jason Giambi and Jason Cone as well as the Yankee's general manager Brian Cashman - all to prove or disprove the former baseball star's claim that he had never taken steroids or human growth hormones.

Clemens was not alone in such controversies over the use of steroids by players - a sad, dark stain on the game, America's favorite pastime, for kids especially, who would look up faithfully to admire the players.

To resume our faith in the game, we could look to the heroes of the past - Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swat," for example - who during his career (mostly with the Yankees) between 1914 and 1936 created a sensation by hitting 714 homers during his 22 seasons. Despite his private marital infidelities he became a loved man who became one of the first five ballplayers to be honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame (in 1948, a mediocre movie was made of his life - "The Babe Ruth Story," starring a miscast William Bendix in the title role).

A friend and compatriot of Ruth's was Lou Gehrig, nicely dramatized in the "Pride of the Yankees," which contained scenes between Ruth and Gehrig (played believably by Gary Cooper with an all-star cast in this excellent 1942 film). Gehrig was born in 1903, began his career in the big leagues when he was 19 years old -pitching for the N.Y. Yankees. Though he could never claim record stats, he was known for his reliability, a man who could be counted on to help guide his team to fame. He played his final game in 1939 and died shortly afterwards from a rare disease now known as Lou Gehrig's disease - beloved by his fans long after his death.

Dizzy Dean, almost more famous for his outrageous speaking than his pitching ("He slud into third." "I ain't the man I used to be, but who the hell is?"), made the Hall of Fame in 1953 as the last National League player to win 30 games in one season. He was best known on the "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis team. By 1947, his pitching career was over; he resorted to his infamous butchering of the English language to become legendary as a radio announcer for baseball games (Dan Dailey portrayed Dean in 1952, in a loosely based but exceptional biographical film, "The Pride of St. Louis" ).

Baseball has always been popular as a film subject. Among the best: "The Natural," 1984, in which Robert Redford grows up to become a star hitter; "Field of Dreams, 1989, with Kevin Costner as a lover of the sport, following the mysterious command to "build it and they will come;" "Angels in the Outfield," (the 1951 version) with Paul Douglas as the foul-mouthed manager of a losing team, turned winner when a miracle occurs; and for pure idiocy, "Bull Durham, a 1988 serio/comic look at characters in a minor league.

Note: Music continues in the community with Omega House's annual evening of fun and musical talent, "Many Waters," next Tuesday.

Rotten Tomatoes averages for "Harry Potter," A-



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