Opening Day Memories of Three Best Baseball Movies
Published on: April 05, 2012 | Written by: Karen Howell
Today, overweight, middle-aged Americans across the country will button their shirts and head to work. By shirts, I mean authentic Jeterpujolsrodriguez jerseys. And by work, I mean go eat hot dogs, drink beer, and get a sunburn on the portion of their necks not covered in back hair. (And that’s just the women.) That’s right. It’s opening day of Major League Baseball. With such a long season, I’m often tempted not to tune in until the playoff races start getting interesting. MAYBE around the All-Star break. (Why then? Seven words: Ken. Griffey. Junior. Super. Nintendo. Homerun. Derby.) To help set the mood for the season (and to perhaps encourage greater participation on my part), I’d like to take a look back at three of my favorite baseball movies: Major League, The Sandlot, and A League of Their Own. (I realize there are tons of great baseball movies. I’m not saying these are the top three -- okay, I am and if you disagree you're a fool. But if I tried to discuss all of them, this would go on forever... forever…forever…) These are some my favorite moments from each film, as well as a few general thoughts and lingering questions.
The Game Itself. Rich widow and former gold digging exotic dancer Rachel Phelps, who now owns the Cleveland Indians, wants the team to be so bad that the attendance drops to a point that she’s contractually allowed to leave Cleveland for a new stadium in Miami. (Like anyone would choose South Beach over Cleveland.) Problem is, the rag-tag group she puts together turns out to be good enough to win their division. (Michael Lewis hasn’t confirmed it, but I’m pretty sure the Moneyball theory is a direct result of this film.)
Ricky Vaughn. Was Ricky the hottest guy in the clubhouse? Maybe. If not for the lightening bolt hair, it would be a definite yes. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t find Roger Dorn and Jake Taylor attractive. When those three are your only choices, you feel unhappy. When you feel unhappy, you go to happy hour. When you go to happy hour, you’re up for anything. When you’re up for anything, you head to a California Penal League game. When you head to a California Penal League game you meet Ricky Vaughn, and when you meet Ricky Vaughn you re-enact scenes from Mad Max. Don’t reenact scenes from Mad Max with Ricky Vaughn.
Willie Mays Hayes. That’s right, Willie. You don’t really have to be invited to camp to make the team. You just need a little swagger. (But wearing matching pajamas to spring training probably won’t help with that.) Willie Mays Hayes: “I hit like Mays, and I run like Hayes.” Lou Brown: “Well, you may run like Mays, but you hit like sh*t.” Wesley Snipes was replaced by Omar Epps in the sequel. I hate it when a movie franchise replaces an actor. Just make up a new character. (I don’t mind with the National Lampoon’s vacation movies because those are more like stand-alone movies telling new/different stories.) Look at it this way, Wesley, if you’d been in Major League 2, you would just owe that much more in taxes.
Pedro Cerrano. I’m not a fan of voodoo or idols, but I am a fan of Pedro Cerrano.
Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.
Harris: You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.
Dorn: Sh*t, Harris.
Cerrano: Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.
Harris: You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?
Color Commentator Harry Doyle: “Juuuust a bit outside” is no doubt Harry Doyle’s most memorable line, but it wasn’t his only gem:
“Just a reminder, fans, comin' up is our ‘Die-hard Night’ here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant.”
“This guy threw at his own son in a father son game.”
“Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair. When this guy sneezes, he looks like a party favor.”
[Vaughn is coming out to pitch]
“So, here is Rick Vaughn, the one they call the ‘Wild Thing’. So, he sets and deals.”
[Vaughn throws a wild pitch]
“Juuuust a bit outside, he tried for the corner and missed.”
[Vaughn throws another wild pitch]
[Vaughn throws another wild pitch]
[Vaughn throws another wild pitch]
“Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”
Miscellaneous Thoughts and Lingering Questions:
§ Major League = Ernest Goes to Camp + grown-ups + baseball.
§ If Roberto Alomar had played for the Indians when Major League was filmed, he would’ve come to Rachel Phelps’ AID. #heyooo
§ Frank and Jamie McCourt probably don’t watch this movie together.
§ In a modern day Major League, Rachel Phelps would drug test every player and then have her boyfriend put banned substances in their urine. Climax of the film: Boyfriend stores the samples in his mini-fridge over the weekend, foiling her plan.
§ Pony cleats are featured throughout this film. I always thought Pony brand merchandise was kinda slutty. I feel like the guy who owns American Apparel probably wears a lot of Pony.
§ Had the team been based in California, Cerrano would have dated Kris Kardashian Jenner, probably.
§ If Dorn played now, he would own every type of clothing ever made by Ed Hardy. He would also have small gold earrings in each ear. And his daughter would be friends with Brooke Hogan.
§ Dennis Haysbert, please work Cerrano and/or Jobu into one of your All-State ads. Cerrano vs. Mayhem would do more for insurance than any group of talking animals your competitors could ever hope to assemble.
The Game Itself. So the premise of the Sandlot is that these neighborhood kids play baseball together every day, all summer long. The new kid in town, Smalls, has apparently never seen a baseball, much less heard of some girl named Babe. Also safe to say he’s never had a friend. #ErectorSetEffect Fortunately, Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, resident hotty, sees his potential and gives him a chance (and a hat that doesn’t have an eight inch long bill). The daily practices consist of a healthy balance of defensive drills and batting practice (doubtful that kids that age would have any interest in working on defense so much). There’s also a scrimmage with a rival team following a little name calling. (“Moron!” “Scab eater!” “Butt sniffer!” “Pus licker!” “Fart Smeller!” “You eat dog crap for breakfast, geek.” “You mix your Wheaties with your mama's toe jam!” “You bob for apples in the toilet and you like it.” “You play ball like a girl!”) Of course, Benny and the gang easily man-handle those preppies. (Let’s be real. Smalls got a little too good, a little too fast. #Smallsanity)
The Legend of The Beast. Of course the movie also focuses on the guys’ attempts to retrieve the signed Babe Ruth ball that Smalls hit over the fence…into The Beast’s lair. The Beast has killed 120…no, 143 guys. He’s no regular dog. (Until you finally see him. Then he’s a disappointingly regular dog.) Intimidating dog trained to be violent? Not cool, James Earl Vick. And don’t think you get a free pass because you’re blind. (Side note: James Earl Jones is probably all like “Morgan who? I had the freckles first. I had the voiceovers first. Darth Vader, b*tches!”) I was always a little confused by the portrayal of Mr. Mertle. In Squints’ flashback tale, he’s an overweight white man. Turns out he’s an overweight black man. I don’t know how that makes you racist, Squints, but I’m pretty sure it does.
Tobacco-Induced Vomiting. The fair came to town that summer, and the nerdiest guy at the party provided the banned substance: Big Chief chew. (Plug. Wad. Chewing tobacco…‘Baccy, man.) The guys all bit off huge pieces like they were Augustus Gloop going to town at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And you know what you do after you put a big wad of tobacco in your mouth. You go on a tilt-a-whirl. (Love the use of the song “Tequila” in this scene. Two movies I think of when I hear that song: The Sandlot and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.) The footage of the vomit spraying on people and on the ground is nothing short of amazing. It looked much more like diarrhea than vomit (not that I know what diarrhea looks like). Also, everyone’s looked the same. I guess that’s what happens when guys hang out together all the time. They get on the same cycle or something like that. Teachable moment: After you eat a handful of tobacco, wait at least 30 minutes to go swimming or ride a roller coaster. (Having personally been next to a friend as he threw up on a roller coaster, it’s truly an entertaining experience as long as none of it ends up on you.)
Wendy Peffercorn. “Wendy Peffercorn. Mmmmmm. Wowwwww.” The lifeguard by which all other lifeguards are measured. (When I was a lifeguard in high school, my role models were Wendy Peffercorn and Melody from Hey Dude.) She knew exactly what she was doing. Squints: “I’ve swam here every summer of my adult life. And every summer, there she is: lotioning, oiling…oiling, lotioning…smiling…smiling…I can’t take this no more!” Squints, it’s not cool to intentionally drown just so you can get some mouth-to-mouth from Wendy P. (But it’s ok that you don’t know how to swim. Everyone knows swimmers don’t get the girls. Unless they have easy access to bongs and Subway sandwiches.) Squints and Wendy are now married and have 9 children. Wendy is a cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Smores. The tree house campout scene near the beginning of the movie is the one I quote most often. First, there’s the aforementioned “forever…forever…forever…” Also, I don’t know that I ever hear the words “some more” together and not think about this exchange:
Hamilton: Hey, you want a smore?
Smalls: Some more what?
Hamilton: No, no, you want a smore?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
Hamilton: You’re killin’ me Smalls!
Miscellaneous Thoughts and Lingering Questions:We never saw him, but Hamilton Porter’s older brother was played by Buzz from Home Alone, probably. Really, Benny? “A can’t hack it, panty waste, who wears their mama’s bra”? Is that all you got? The Fourth of July scene includes my favorite version of America the Beautiful. Good thing it’s a long song, because it takes Benny about 5 minutes to round the bases while the guys are distracted by fireworks. The guys from the rival team are like the cheerleaders on Glee. Why are they always wearing their uniforms? If Benny were on Facebook, he would tag all of his friends spam-style in pictures of PF Flyers. Safe to say Benny took roids once he made it to The Bigs. He looks far too much like Rafael Palmeiro to be trusted. Magic Johnson thinks Benny the Jet still plays for the Dodgers. Benny, if you’re reading this, hit me up on my cell or send me a DM.
A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is admittedly one of my very favorite movies. I was pretty much just looking for an excuse to talk about it.
The Game Itself. As men, including Major League Baseball players, head off to war, several rich investors decide to give a women’s professional baseball league a try to fill the void. (This actually happened.) The central relationship in the film is that between sisters Dottie and Kit. Dottie, in addition to being a knock-out, is the best player in the league. Not cool with Kit. Sibling rivalry ensues. Recovering (?) alcoholic and former famous baseball player Jimmy Dugan, played perfectly by Tom Hanks, reluctantly guides his team, the Rockford Peaches, to the World Series. In addition to featuring legitimate game sequences, the movie emphasizes the importance of hitting the cutoff man and the fact that you should not cry while playing baseball. (I know it’s an over-played line, but Hanks executes that scene wonderfully. Kind of the same situation as Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” scene in A Few Good Men.)
Music. Music played an important role in A League of Their Own. First, there was Marla Hooch singing a soul-stirring rendition of “It Had to be You.” Then there was the All-American League song. “We got Cana-dians, Irish ones, and Swedes…” (It will now be in your head all day. You’re welcome.) Finally, it’s safe to say that Madonna wrote the saddest song that has ever been written about a playground. #RIPChildhoodDreams
Madonna. Speaking of Madonna, I love her in this movie. Love that she uses Harlequin-style romance novels to teach Shirley Baker to read (“milky…wh white…”). (FYI: The actress who played Shirley is the sister of Joan and John Cusack.) My favorite Mae quote (despite the fact that is her low-point acting-wise in the film): “And what am I supposed to do, huh? Go back to taxi dancin’? 10 cents so some slob can sweat gin all over me? I’m never doin’ that again. So you go back there any you tell ole rich Mr. Chocolate Man that he ain’t closin’ me down.” There’s also this exchange:
Mae: [During the league's publicity drive] What if at a key moment in the game my, my uniform bursts open and, uh, oops., my bosoms come flying out? That, that might draw a crowd, right?
Doris: You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?
Marla Hooch. And let’s not forget the aforementioned Marla Hooch. Without Marla Hooch, would the movie stand the test of time? Doubtful. Three of my favorite moments: (1) Marla Hooch waiving at the far-away camera from second base (“And how bout Marla Hooch? What a hitter!”); (2) Marla Hooch walking gracefully and grandly; and (3) Marla Hooch singing to Nelson (“It…had…to be you you you you you you you…”). Her name is the opposite of Madonna’s. It’s essential that you refer to her by first and last name.
Dottie Dropping the Ball. When her sister Kit, by that time a member of the opposing Racin Somethings, comes barreling toward home Scott Cousins style, Dottie drops the ball. Her team loses. Kit’s team wins. Did Dottie do it on purpose to allow Kit an opportunity to redeem herself and have her moment in the spotlight? Tough call. at the end of the day, I think she probably didn’t do it on purpose. Hopefully the Verve will write a song about it and we can also spend years figuring out the meaning of the lyrics.
Miscellaneous Thoughts and Lingering Questions:Ok, can we agree that young Dottie and Kit did the voiceovers for old Dottie and Kit? That has to be Geena Davis’ voice. Geena Davis is fantastic and should be in more movies. Judging by the crowd, there’s a lot of interest in Oregon Dairy League softball. Tom Hanks’ peeing scene is something that every boy and man aspires to, probably. Other than maybe the fact that he was doing it in front of a locker room full of female baseball players. When Bill Pullman signed on, they told him he would be playing the president. Marla Hooch and her dad would make a good father/daughter pair on a very special episode of Law & Order: SVU. The beauty queen from Georgia or Florida or wherever seriously looks like a man. “The eyebrows. Thin and separate. There should be two.” (That’s not really one of my favorite quotes. Just wanted to throw it out there in case Anthonya Avisda is reading this.) Stillwell Angel is an argument for corporeal punishment. Rosie O’Donnell as a former bouncer is great casting. Rosie O’Donnell as a third baseman who leans into the stands to catch a foul ball and comes out with a hot dog in her mouth is even better casting.