Tag Archives: MLB

42’s Legacy

By the time Audrey Hepburn had made her Hollywood debut and won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953), Jackie Robinson had played major league baseball for six years with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  When he was inducted into the Baseball of Fame on July 23, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was still alive, James Bond was a few months shy of being introduced to the public as a cinematic icon, and by the end of the year prisoners from the Bay of Pigs incident in Cuba went back home to the US.

In case you haven’t guessed, I watched the sports biopic 42 (Brian Helgeland, 2013).  It depicts key moments in Jackie Robinson’s life between 1945 and 1947, though the extent of historical accuracy in the sense of X actually happened in the manner presented is up for disclaimers.  Please see SBNation, History News Network, and ESPN.

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The film opens with a historical context reel narrated by Wendell Smith (Andre Holland).  America might have saved the (modern) world from the horrible agendas of the Axis Powers but back home, a hero’s welcome is hard to come by…even harder if you aren’t white.  It is in this existentially fraught environment that Jackie Robinson (a terrific Chadwick Boseman) goes about doing what he was born to do: play baseball.

42 is a beautiful film; it’s wonderful to behold for its subtle humor and cinematography. The acting is excellent all around too (Nicole Beharie is especially impressive as Robinson’s fiancee, and it’s always good to see Christopher Meloni playing someone who isn’t doing detective work in a special victim’s unit).  The wardrobe department and set designers and decorators must have gone to great lengths to imbue the film with a historically authentic mise-en-scene.

Despite its visual splendor, it isn’t the tightest film.  When it ended, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been more effective as a series of vignettes juxtaposed against conversations from scholars, journalists, historians, and any surviving friend or relative of Robinson’s.  (Shameless, unaffiliated plug for the documentary about Jackie Robinson by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon that airs April 11 and 12 9pm and 11pm EST on your local PBS station — check your local listings!).  

As a sports biopic, 42 is formulaic, psychologically powerful without being excessively tense, and eager to fill you with hope.  The contrast between two specific sequences produces an effect that both clobbers and heals the heart.  The first, ugly scene occurs when the Philadelphia Phillies are playing the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Phillies’ coach, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), hurls so many racist remarks at Robinson that one wonders if there will be any reprieve from or retribution for having witnessed it…as a film-goer.**

If you don’t come away from that scene feeling as though you’re ashamed to be in the same “room” as the Phillies coach and want to travel back in time to apologize to Jackie Robinson on behalf of a less bigoted future, then you have achieved satori and there’s nothin’ left to see here.  If, though, you do find it uncomfortable hearing those words and remembering that, “hey, are we any kinder to each other in 2016 than the people of 1947 were to one another?”  (Peut-etre un peu? Pas du tout?), then, you’re going to demand for some kind of pay-back.

As a much needed and pleasantly surprising challenge to that scene is the second, marvelous sequence when the Dodgers play in Cincinnati.  Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) puts his arm around Robinson.  The camera films in a high-angle medium shot as he smiles and you can hear the crowd gasp.***  That unassuming but profound gesture of Pee Wee walking up to Jackie and sharing in the human experience is what the 21st century needs to remember.  You see, isn’t your heart mending already?

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And yet… what 42 and the Jesse Owens biopic Race have pushed me to consider is whether or not a person is worth a chance to be welcomed and accepted if a person doesn’t demonstrate a capacity for excellence in the performative, physiological, or intellectual achievements of being human.  Do the best and brightest have to take on the mantle of pathfinder before the lukewarm and decent can even have a place to get a better view?

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*Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962), starring Sean Connery, was the first Bond film to be released.

**SB Nation has a good summary of this moment.  And, every time I see Alan Tudyk I think of Steven Weber.

*** Note: According to the Jackie Robinson documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, that gesture was a thing of myth-making; it probably never really happened.  If it did, the press would’ve reported it and surely there’d have been witnesses…still living witnesses.

Peaking at Any Age

Some of us know people who peaked in high school or college, people who were never more radiant than at their prom or a fraternity ceremony or working at their college newspaper.  Some of us know people whose lives couldn’t have gotten any better the moment they were no longer single in the eyes of the law or the moment they finally realized what would truly give them happiness in a capitalist system.

And then there are people like Mike Fiers (fear-s?  fires?  fyeers?), who did something he will not soon be forgetting in the area of pitching in a baseball game.

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Have you peaked yet?

World Series 2010 Game 4: Giants hose down the Rangers

Being back in the Lone Star State was advantageous for the Texas Rangers as they defeated the San Francisco Giants 4 to 2 in the third game of the World Series last night.  Would Texas be able to reprise their victory in Game 4 or would San Francisco have something else in mind?  Televised by Fox, the Giants went to bat first and demonstrated a modicum amount more offensive spirit tonight than yesterday.  Their defense was spot-on when it was the Rangers turn to bat.

The Rangers demonstrated defensive confidence in the second inning that the Giants mirrored right back.  Infielder Freddy Sanchez made an incredible backwards leap of a catch (followed by backwards roll) in the bottom of the inning.  The top of the third inning saw the Giants put two runs onto the scoreboard (via outfielder Andres Torres and infielder Aubrey Huff).  San Francisco 2 and Texas 0.

Alexi Ogando had to leave pitching duties for Texas in the sixth inning due to an injury of some sort (pulled muscle?).   Darren Oliver replaced him.  The Giants got another run in the stop of the seventh inning when an Andres Torres hit enabled Edgar Renteria to get home.  San Francisco 3 and Texas 0.  Giants catcher Buster Poesy increased his team’s lead with a solo homerun in the top of the eighth inning.  San Francisco 4 and Texas 0.  Final score.

Pitchers for the Giants were Madison Bumgarner and Brian Wilson.

Pitchers for the Rangers were Tommy Hunter, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, and Derek Holland.

Observations & Miscellania:

1.  Lyle Lovett sang “The Star Spangled Banner” with an accompanying cellist.  He wore a World Series jacket and looked severely dehydrated.  His version of the National Anthem was rather somber.

2.  The first pitch was thrown by former Presidents George Bush and son.  They rode in from the left gate.  Dad wore red and son wore blue.  Nolan Ryan served as catcher.  Barbara Bush was taking pictures with a digital camera.  Laura Bush sat next to her.  George W. actually threw the ball; his father stood back and watched.

3.  Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were commentators.  Buck wore a beige suit jacket, a lavender button-down shirt, and a navy-lavender diagonally striped tie.

4.  Andres Torres got himself to either second or third base in the top of the third inning.  Aubrey Huff hit the ball out of the park, and that produced the two runs.

5.  One of the spectators was dressed like a Jack Nicholson Joker with Heath Ledger hair and makeup.  Another spectator was dressed like Elvis, the latter years.  Another spectator was wearing a Captain America costume.

6.  Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa nearly did a split in the bottom of the fourth when he stretch to catch Freddy Sanchez’s throw (to get Michael Young out at first).

7.  HOLY SAN MARIANAS TRENCH!!! In the top of the sixth inning, upon returning from commercial break, the telecast went to the press box where Joe Buck was pointing out the Halloween decor.  He also made a reference to Hamlet!  There was an off-screen skull and Buck remarked, “You can even say ‘Alas poor Yorrick, I knew him well, Horatio.”

8.  For me, the suspense in baseball results from both the pitching and the batting when there’s someone on a base.  Every time the batter strikes out, doesn’t bother, or some other scenario that prevents him from hitting the ball, it makes me think of a football team’s inability to get another set of downs.

9.  4 Troops sang “God Bless America” in the middle of the seventh inning.  They should’ve done it acapella.

Click here for the Giants’ roster and here for the Rangers’ roster.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Read about Game 1; read about Game 2.

World Series 2010 Game 3: Rangers rewind the Giants

Detour: FL @ UGA in overtime 31-31.  Would the Gators kicker Chas Henry be able to make the thirty-seven yard field goal to win?!  Yes!  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Retour: And now back to the regularly scheduled blog post.
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The first two games of the World Series took place in San Francisco.  The third game unfolded in Arlington, Texas. Would home field be a boon or a bust for the Rangers?  Broadcast on Fox, the Giants were at bat first.   Good gourde!  Rangers Vladimir Guerrero nearly hit the a Jonathan Sanchez ball out of the park.  Giants outfielder Pat Burrell was able to catch it.  The second inning was progressing rather uneventfully when Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland hit a homerun, sending himself and his two teammates through to home.

The third and fourth innings were scoreless.  The fifth inning featured an amazing double-play by the Giants (courtesy of Juan Uribe and Freddy Sanchez) in getting two Rangers out at second and first bases.  Shortly thereafter, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hit the ball into the stands.  Texas 4 and San Francisco 0.  Guillermo Mota replaced Jonathan Sanchez in the bottom of the fifth inning.

It became apparent in the seventh inning that home field was a boon for the Rangers…and then Giants outfielder Cody Ross hit a homerun.  Texas 4 and San Francisco 1.  Jeremy Affeldt took over pitching in the bottom of the seventh.  Andres Torres hit a homerun in the top of the eighth inning, bringing the Giants point deficit to two.  Darren O’Day replaced Colby Lewis as pitcher.  Ramon Ramirez replaced Affeldt in the bottom of the inning.  The ninth inning saw Neftali Feliz on the mound for the Rangers.  The Giants had moments of offensive shine but it wasn’t sufficiently resilient.  Texas would be taking home bragging rights tonight.  4 to 2.

Pitchers for the Giants were Jonathan Sanchez, Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affeldt, and Ramon Ramirez.

Pitchers for the Rangers were Colby Lewis, and Darren O’Day.

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Observations & Miscellania:

1.  Chuck Morgan was the public address announcer.

2.  Kelly Clarkson sang the National Anthem.

3.  Joe Buck and Tim McCarver returned as commentators.  Buck wore a navy suit, a white and very thin, dark-striped shirt, and an orange-silvery horizontally striped tie.  It looked like an orange creamsicle!  Or a cremesaver.  Yummy.

4.  Nolan Ryan threw the first pitch of the game.

5.  Colby Lewis is tall!  He’s ambidextrous too.

6.  Former el Presidente and First Lady were sitting next to Nolan Ryan (just behind home base).

7.  In the top of the second inning, the camera cut to a medium shot of Giants pitcher Matt Cain leaning against the front bar of the dugout.  A law enforcement agent was standing in the corner; a pair of sunglasses sat atop his forehead.  He was chewing something.  I couldn’t tell if it was gum or other things that would require spitting.

8.  Mitch Moreland likes to bite his nails.

9.  Are Jonathan Sanchez’s eyebrows naturally dark or did he experiment with eye liner?

10.  The cast of Raising Hope was in the house.

11.  Freddy Sanchez nearly got hit on the head by a Colby Lewis 76mph curve ball in the top of the sixth inning.

12.  Ron Washington was chewing hot pink gum!

13.  Did one of the commentators say that Benghie Molina would get a ring no matter what team won?

14.  Actress Martha Plimpton sang “God Bless America” in the middle of the seventh inning.  Wow, she’s a bass.

Click here for the Giants’ roster and here for the Rangers’ roster.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Read about Game 1; read about Game 2.

World Series 2010 Game 2: Giants freeze the Rangers

Stupendous! Glorious!  Televised on Fox, the second game of the World Series doled out four innings of masterful defense by both the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.  It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the blank scoreboard was shaken up in favor of the Giants via an Edgar Renteria homerun.  The score remained 1-0 through the seven innings.  By the top of the eighth, both teams had tapped into their offense reserves; the Giants were more effective at it.  San Francisco would eventually win 9-0.

CJ Wilson, Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, Derek Holland, Mark Lowe, and Michael Kirkman pitched for the Rangers.

Matt Cain, Javier Lopez, and Guillermo Mota pitched for the Giants.

Observations & Miscellania:

1.  The National Anthem was performed by Lady Antebellum.  They gave “The Star Spangled Banner” a lullaby motif.

2.  CJ Wilson is rather handsome too.  He and I are the same age!

3.  The Rangers batted first.

4.  Joe Montana read off the Giants starting lineup (pre-recorded segment).

5.  Basketball players are generally lanky; football players emit a certain allure; baseball players appear more approachable.  Less untouchable.

6.  Per Joe Buck and Tim McCarver banter, Irish coffee is a product of San Francisco.  Denim Jeans were created for gold rush miners.

7.  What’s up with the “friendship” necklaces the players wear?  According to Joe Buck, they aid in circulation.

8.  Giants infielder Aubrey Huff kept chewing hot pink bubble gum.  I want some too!  It was really, pink.

9.  When Matt Cain hit the ball in the third inning, his bat shattered.

10.  Does the Rangers coach really eat sunflower seeds?

11.  After Rangers player David Murphy struck out in the fifth inning and Ian Kinsler was hovering around second base, did the camera get Kinsler re-adjusting himself in full view of the camera?  Long shot.

12.  Rangers infielder Michael Young is dashing too (in a cap).

13.  Giants catcher Buster Posey lost his bat in the sixth inning.  It flew out of his hands and into the stands.  The commentators noted that a projectile bat is less likely to cause injury to spectators than a projectile ball.

14.  Combat veteran specialist Kristin Day (from the Army) sang “God Bless America” in the bottom of the seventh inning.

15.  Wayne Gretzky was at the game.

16.  Giants outfielder Cody Ross chewed pink gum too.

Click here for the Giants’ roster and here for the Rangers’ roster.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.  Read more about the game here.

Read about Game 1 here.  Yes, I shall be watching Game 3 on Saturday.