No Game Today

by John Delach

Jack Solomon, the original co-owner of Gallagher’s Steak House in Manhattan’s theater district, was also an avid fan of the New York Giants baseball club. So avid that he posted the daily score on a bulletin board located in the restaurant’s foyer but only when his team won. If they lost the message read: “No Game Today.”

These are sad days for our national pastime as COVID-19 has wrought havoc on the 2020 season. No Game Today or any day is our sad reality. Highlights of recent past seasons are available, but I believe baseball movies are a better escape. Why? Because baseball is the sport that best lends itself to production for the big screen. It captures everything that movies are all about and the movies make baseball sparkle.

Boxing and horse racing also have a decent compatibility to the film industry but nothing like baseball. Americas game, pro football, on the other hand is a dud on the big screen. There are a few, Rudy, Brian’s Song, Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, The Longest Yard and Friday Night Lights are the exceptions.

Hollywood offers over 50 baseball movies for your watching pleasure. The New York Times recently picked 10 to watch. Seems to me to be worth a shot especially while we remain in lock down that one wise man has described: “While Monday remains a Monday, every other day is a Tuesday.” 

I rated the films from one to 10 and I included the year the film debuted, and noted the ratings given to each movie by Rotten Tomatoes and MLB.

Following that, I have listed as many of the other significant baseball movies from varying lists and their ratings, if any. Make your own list and let us know your top ten. Heck, since every day is Tuesday, except Monday, what else do you have to do?

I expect baseball aficionados will object to my placement of Bull Durham in fourth place, but that’s what sports are all about.  

Bang the Drums Slowly is my top pick. I read Mark Harris’ book before the film was released and fell in love with it. Today, it remains in the top five of books I have read. When the movie was released in 1973, Mary Ann and I were living in Middle Village, Queens. Unfortunately, the closest theater playing it was in Franklin Square. Times were hard but I grabbed enough money to hire a babysitter so we could see it.

The opening scene gave me goose bumps. A sunny day, old Yankee Stadium, before the renovation that was a Frankenstein-like defacement. The opening shot focuses on the old visiting bullpen that separated the left field stands from the bleachers.

The co-stars, a young Michael Moriarty and an equally young Robert DeNiro, head out from the bull pen, two players in identical dress; pin stripe baseball pants, navy blue undershirts covered by plain white cotton vests. Both wear NY logo hats and wear hand towels around their necks that they hold onto with both hands.

They turn right when they reach the warning path and jog along it toward home plate. They pass the visiting dugout, round home, pass the Yankees dugout as they jog toward right field.

Instrumental notes from the song, The Streets of Laredo, fill the air as the ace pitcher for the NY Monarchs and his ailing catcher jog along.

To me, that alone was worth the price of admission.

John’s top ten:

1.Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) 8 and none

2.Field of Dreams (1989) 2 and 4

3. The Natural (1984) 18 and 7

4. Bull Durham (1980) 1 and 1

5. Eight Men Out (1988) 12 and none

6. A League of Their Own (!992) 22 and 2

7. The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings (1988) 15 & 13

8. Moneyball (2011) 2 And 6

9. Major League (1989) 19 and 10

10. Bad News Bears (1976) 3 and 11

The others:

Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949) 9 and 15

Everybody Wants Some (2016) 7 and 9

Sugar (2006) 6 and 17

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (2000) 4 and none

Up for Grabs (2005) 10 and none

Ballplayer: Peletero (2012) 13 and none      

42 (2013) 19 and none

Trouble with the Curve (2016) none and none

Cobb (1994) 24 and 27

Fear Strikes Out (1977) 17 and none

For the Love of the Game (1999) none and 25

61* (2001) 33 and 23

The Sandlot (1993) 30 and 8

The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 5 and 3

Off the Black (2006) 28 and none

Million Dollar Arm (2014) 26 and none

Fever Pitch (2005) 25 and 18

Damn Yankees (1958) 16 and 24

The Phenom (2016) 23 and none

It Happens Every Spring (1949) 21 and none

The Rookie (2002) 14 and 14

Quite a list. Admittedly, I never heard of some of these films. Off the Black, I believe is about umpires.  I believe Ballplayer: Peletero is an indictment of baseball recruiting in the Islands, but I know nothing about either.

I look forward to your comments and I promise to respond.