Growing up in England my first sporting love is football, I started watching American football when it was first show on British TV in the 80’s. Then a few years later a few years later I started watching NBA basketball. Now I only ever watch occasionally and then only the big the big games. But one American I watch at every opportunity is baseball. I started watching it in the late 90’s on TV but really fell in love with the sport a few years ago when I went to my first game, San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks at AT & T Park. By a mixture of luck and judgement I had a fantastic seat between home plate and first Base and was lucky enough to sit next to a season ticket holder who helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the game. Up until this point I had never affiliated myself to one particular team but suddenly became a Giants fan. As the season progressed and they finished with a record of 72–90 putting them fourth in the NL West I suddenly realised I was following a rubbish team.
The following season was a little better with Tim Lincecum who I had seen in the game I had been to the year before emerging as a top pitcher and taking a well deserved place in the All-Star Game. The highlight of the season came against the San Diego Padres when Jonathan Sánchez threw a near perfect “ no-hitter”. 2010 look liked like it would be more of the same, trailing the San Diego Padres most of the season, they did however come through to National League Western Division. They went on to defeated the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, Philadelphia Phillies in the Championship Series and the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Maybe I had picked a decent team to follow after all.
This season has gone the same way, trailing to their old rivals the LA Dodgers. Just as things where starting to pick up they lost star player (and MVP at the All-Star Game) Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension. Then from august onwards everything seemed to go well as went on to win the division. The division series didn’t start well going down in the first two games against Cincinnati before coming back to win the next three games in Ohio. They started the same in the championship series going 3-1 down after for games to was years champions the St Louis Cardinals. They came back winning the next three games giving up just one run to set up a best of seven World Series against the Detroit Tigers. After coming from behind and facing six elimination games in the play-offs so far the Giants have started in style winning the first three games including back to back shutouts in games two and three. Needing just one win in the four possible remaining games its looking good for my adopted team.
So why all this talk of baseball on a movie blog? As mentioned in previous posts baseball is the most cinematic of sports and baseball movies are the reason I started watching the sport. More specifically Kevin Costner baseball movies.
Bull Durham (1988): Journeyman Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is employed by a minor league baseball team to help educate their hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a player destined for the major-league if he can learn to control his erratic pitching. The pair don’t exactly hit it off, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of Annie (Susan Sarandon). This is the movie that first sparked my interest in baseball. The casting is perfect with genuine chemistry between the three leads and the right blend of comedy and drama. it’s a sports movie that knows which clichés to embrace and which to avoid.
Field of Dreams (1989): “If you build it, he will come” Iowa farmer Ray Kinchella (Kevin Costner) is compelled by voices he hears in his cornfield to build a baseball diamond on his land. Before long the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team-mates banned in the 1919 Black Sox scandal (see Eight Men Out above) come to play there. On paper Field of Dreams a cheesy and pointless movie, in practice it is cinema perfection that gets better every time I see it.
For Love of the Game (1999): Costner plays Billy Chapel, a forty year old pitcher in his nineteenth season with the Detroit Tigers. While pitching in the final game of the season against New York we flashback to his career and his on-and-off relationship. It soon becomes evident that this will probably be his final game and it could well be a perfect game. Made by people (Director Sam Raimi as well as Costner) who clearly do love the game. Unfairly overlooked, it isn’t as good as a movie as his other two movies but it gives a very different prospective.
All three of his movies feature very different characters with varying relationships to baseball; Crash Davis is a Journeyman in the minor leagues, he operates as a catcher and mentor for a rookie pitcher, he is also closing in on the minor league record for career home runs. Ray Kinsella is a fan of the sport obsessed with the beauty and history of the game. Billy Chapel is a major-league star, prominently a starting pitcher. As he plays for the Detroit Tigers in the American League who adopt the designated hitter rule it is unlikely he spends much time at bat. I would love to see another Costner Baseball movie, at 57 he is clearly too old to make another movie as a player but there is lots of scope to play a coach or scout.
Back to 2012 World Series, game four is set for later today with remaining games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday if needed, lets hope they are not!