Now that football season is over (actually it ended for me during the 3rd quarter of the AFC championship game), it’s time to think about baseball. What better time of year for the baseball fan? Every team is in first place. You close your eyes and imagine green grass and warm sun. And, for me, I think of the few days Avi and I spent at spring training a few years ago- one of the best trips I have ever taken. (A bit of advice, if you want to go to spring training and your team opens its training facilities to the public, plan your trip for the last days before the exhibition games start- walking around the Red Sox training camp while the players were practicing was one of the biggest thrills of my life).
But, when the talk turns to baseball, there are some questions which are bound to cause disagreement: whether so and so should be in the hall of fame, whether the game is better today than 30 years ago, whether the designated hitter “experiment” should be abandoned? All of these and many others have started their share of arguments over the years. But, the one that really gets people agitated is: “What’s your favorite baseball movie?”
I love that question because unlike most questions that start with: “What’s your favorite…”, I have an unequivocal answer for this one. No hemming and hawing, no “well, it depends on whether…”, I have an absolute favorite baseball movie and since the day I saw it for the first time in 1992, I never have wavered. It isn’t The Natural, it isn’t Field of Dreams, it isn’t Bull Durham and it isn’t the Bad News Bears or any one of the others. My far and away favorite baseball movie of all time is A League of Their Own.
In fact, I would rank that movie among my 10 favorites of all time. Directed by Penny Marshall with a tremendous cast which included Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis, Garry Marshall, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jon Lovitz, the film is based on the “All American Girls Professional Baseball League” which began during World War II and continued for a few year after. The movie is heartwarming, poignant, funny and, best of all, it really is about baseball.
This morning, I read an obituary for a woman named Lavonne Paire Davis who died on Saturday. She was a star in the league and was a consultant to Penny Marshall for the film. Just reading her obit made me want to go back and watch the movie again.
I’m not a movie reviewer but I have never seen a movie which captured the heart and soul of the game I love and placed it in a context that was believable and real as this film did. If you’ve never seen it, I defy you to try to watch the “world series” scenes without finding them as exciting as any world series game in recent years and I defy you to try to watch the final scene in the movie without a tear.
I’ve become somewhat frustrated with baseball over the last few years (except for 2004 and 2007 of course) because the games have grown interminably long, the whole steroids business is horribly upsetting and free agency and salaries are of course ridiculously out of control. So, I look for opportunities to find the “pure” game I love with the characters and the situations which have made baseball the American pastime. I have found it in many places including, and most clearly, in Penny Marshall’s film. If you haven’t seen it, a cold, snowy winter day is the best time to watch it. If you have seen it, go watch it again and it will prove that Tom Hanks’ great line was wrong. There is crying in baseball.