Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Larry Granillo’s (Baseball Prospectus and Wezen-Ball) recent forensic investigation into Ferris Buehler’s whereabouts on his now infamous day off made for one of the more creative and entertaining blog posts in quite some time. For those who missed the piece, Granillo attempted (and succeeded) to determine the date of the game that Buehler attended with his fellow truants by analyzing the footage from WGN that was used in the movie.

In addition to being greatly amused by Granillo’s investigation, it got me to thinking about how many other unsolved baseball mysteries remain cloaked in movie clips from years gone by? The list of unidentified baseball references on the silver screen are probably too numerous to count, so let’s start at the beginning by examining one of the first movies to incorporate live baseball action into its script.

The movie in question is called Speedy (which will be featured at this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival in August). Created by renowned silent-era funny man Harold Lloyd, the comedy tells the tale of hapless Harold “Speedy” Swift, whose addiction to the Yankees constantly interferes with his ability to remain employed. During the course of the movie, this compulsion causes Speedy to lose several jobs, including one as a taxi cab driver, but not before having the chance to chauffeur Babe Ruth in a harrowing ride from Manhattan to Yankee Stadium.

Speedy was Lloyd’s last silent film and resulted in his only Academy Award nomination, but more than anything, it is best remembered today for the spectacular footage filmed in 1927-era New York City. The extensive on-location filming pushed the movie’s price tag toward $1 million, an unheard of figure for the era, but  Lloyd’s expense immediately paid off thanks to the buzz his month-long stay in New York created.

Over the years, the movie’s archival footage has made it even more valuable as a historical reference. As Speedy whirls around the town, we get detailed glimpses of a city brimming with motor cars, horse-drawn carriages, trolleys, and elevated trains. The movie also includes vivid images of Luna Park in Coney Island, Columbus Circle, the Brooklyn Bridge, Penn Station, the Battery, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, and most importantly to baseball fans, Yankee Stadium, which is where the real point of this exercise begins.

The first glimpse of Yankee Stadium occurs early on in the movie (4:32 in the first clip). Unfortunately, the lack of clarity and detail prevents the date of the game from being indentified…at least to this point. In the meantime, we’re treated to several amusing scenes as Speedy endeavors to perform his duties while keeping tabs on the ongoing game via telephone calls to Yankee Stadium and a visit to a public scoreboard outside the local sporting goods store (which we’ll examine later).


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One hundred years ago in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Wilson Reagan began an improbable road to the presidency that culminated in one of the most successful political careers in American history. Admittedly, I have a profound admiration for the Gipper, but The Captain’s Blog likes to steer clear of politics, so this centennial tribute will focus on Reagan’s strong link to the great American past time of baseball.

Before calling the shots as commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan did play-by-play reenactments for the Cubs.

Although Reagan’s pre-political background as a movie actor is widely known, not many people realize that his first entertainment career was in radio, most notably as the reenactment voice of the Chicago Cubs on Iowa’s WHO during the early-to-mid 1930s. In this role, Dutch Reagan, as he was known to listeners, would receive game updates via telegraph and then, accompanied by sound effects, bring the action to life with a vivid description of the details. In one famous instance, the telegraph feed went down in the ninth inning of a tight ballgame, forcing Reagan to improvise on the spot. With no updates forthcoming, Reagan anxiously described the action as Augie Galan battled Dizzy Dean in an epic batter/pitcher confrontation. Foul ball after foul ball was broadcast to the audience until the telegraph messages finally resumed. Even at an early age, the comfort and ease with which Reagan worked a microphone was evident.

Curly started typing. I clutched at the slip. It said: ‘Galan popped out on the first pitch’. Not in my game he didn’t. He popped out after practically making a career of foul balls”. – Ronald Reagan, excerpted from his 1965 autobiography “Where’s the Rest of Me?”

Reagan left radio behind for the bright lights of Hollywood, but his baseball reenactment days were far from over. In 1952, Reagan starred alongside Doris Day in “The Winning Team”, a movie about pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who balanced a Hall of Famer career and alcoholism. Although not as famous as his portrayal of George Gipp in the classic “Knute Rockne All American”, a role that included the “win one for the Gipper” line that would give the future President one of his more endearing nicknames, Reagan’s performance as Alexander was well received.

Reagan portayed Hall of Famer Pete "Grover Cleveland" Alexander in the 1952 film, "The Winning Team".

Unfortunately for Reagan, his love of the game was not matched by his ability to play it. In his trademark self deprecating manner, he once admitted that a fear of the ball prevented him from hitting and ensured that he was always the last boy chosen in every game. In this one regard, Reagan likely wasn’t being modest. In 1938, he injured his Achilles tendon during a celebrity baseball game, and then, in 1949, upped the ante at a charity event by breaking his leg in a collision at first base with fellow actor George Tobias. In addition to a damaged ego, the latter injury not only cost the actor a $100,000 salary for an upcoming film, but also forced him to use crutches or a cane for almost an entire year. After the accident, Reagan didn’t play much baseball.


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To many baseball fans, Leslie Nielsen, who died yesterday at the age of 84, is better known as “Enrico Palazzo”, the dysfunctional national anthem singer turned home plate umpire that he portrayed in a scene from The Naked Gun. Nielsen’s outrageous parody yielded one most memorable comedic depictions of the game in movie history. However, the former dramatic actor, whose career turned toward parody-based comedy after being cast in Airplane, was also a big baseball fan. In addition, during the 1960s, Nielsen also regularly played in a weekend baseball league along with numerous other Hollywood actors. According to a February 10, 1966 article appearing in the Toledo Blade, the actors involved in the league took it so seriously that they were regularly scouting their studio sets for new talent as well as soliciting tips and advice from L.A.-based major leaguers. Perhaps that’s how former major league infielder John Beradino (or Johnny Berardino, as he was known during his playing days) earned his role opposite Nielsen in the short-lived crime series The New Breed?

Click the following links for Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day promos recorded by Nielsen for radio station 700 WLWpromo 1, promo 2 and promo 3.

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Yesterday was the anniversary of the day the Babe hit 60, but October 1 belongs to Roger Maris and 61.

Next year will mark the golden anniversary of Maris’ historic blast off the Red Sox Tracy Stallard in 1961, and the Yankees are sure to have something special planned to mark the occasion. In the meantime, however, the Hall of Fame has decided to honor 61 by adding an asterisk.

This evening, the Hall of Fame will open its fifth annual Baseball Film Festival in Cooperstown by honoring Billy Crystal’s 61*. The festivities will include a screening of the 2001 film at the Hall, followed by a reception and discussion that will be hosted by Bob Costas and produced in conjunction with HBO Sports. Past festival headliners have included Pride of the Yankees and Bull Durham.

In addition to 61*, the festival will also feature 11 other films, including Josh Gibson: The Legend Behind the Plate, a documentary that is reported to be the most in depth look at the Negro League legend. Also, for those disappointed by Ken Burns’ Tenth Inning, the festival will also feature a comprehensive look at the history on Latin baseball as well as another account of the Red Sox miracle comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Several other short films, many of them nostalgic, and historical documentaries also highlight the agenda, which is listed below.

Session 1: Saturday, October 2, 10AM

  • Josh Gibson: The Legend Behind the Plate (50 min.): A comprehensive account of Josh Gibson’s career and the culture of the Negro Leagues.
  • 3 Balls, 2 Strikes (5 min.): A short film about baseball’s role in everyday life.
  • Dear Baseball: I Love You (14 mins.): A 1950s era retrospective about a man’s memories of baseball during his youth.

Session 2: Saturday, October 2, 1PM

  • James Warwick (13 min.): An everyman nostalgia piece that revolves around baseball.
  • BEISBOL: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (118 min.): An account of the history, legends and characters of Latin baseball as well as underlying cultural, economic and political issues.

Session 3: Saturday, October 2, 7PM

  • Four Days in October (51 min.): An account of the Red Sox historic comeback in the 2004 ALCS.
  • Ballhawks (74 min.): A look at the 2004 Cubs from the perspective of a group of men who collect baseballs hit out of the Friendly Confines.

Session 4: Sunday, October 3, 10AM

  • Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (91 min.): A film about the Jewish experience in America with baseball as the underlying theme.
  • Conrads: A Team Rich in History (10 min.): A look at a sandlot team with a long tradition in Pennslyvania.

Session 5: Sunday, October 3, 1:30PM

  • Buck O’Neil and Black Baseball in Chicago (30 min): A film by the Chicago Baseball Museum that examines the area’s minority baseball leagues through stories told by Buck O’Neil.
  • The Last Season: The Eugene Emeralds and Civic Park (30 min): An account of the final season of Civic Stadium, which was home to Padres single-A affiliate Eugene Emeralds, from 1969 before moving to University of Oregon’s PK Park in  2010.

Source: Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce

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