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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

30 for 30 Shorts: ‘Fields of Fear’

Welcome back to our 30 for 30 documentary short series.

Mackey Sasser was an exceptional catcher for the New York Mets in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He could hit. He could manage a pitching staff. He could nail you trying to steal second base. But one day, there was something Sasser couldn’t do. He couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher. Suddenly the most basic act for a catcher was next to impossible for Sasser. What happened? This film explores the mental side of the game and shows how a childhood trauma can come back to overwhelm a professional athlete, and how confronting it can lead to recovery.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 24, 2014 at 05:19 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: 30 for 30, film, mackey sasser, mental issues, mets

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The forgotten brilliance and influence of ‘Little Big League’

Ron Gardenhire should not have made this movie.

From the beginning, “Little Big League” looked destined to fail — and that’s not just because Pincus wanted to make a movie about the Royals. Pincus was an aspiring screenwriter with zero credits to his name. He had grown up on the East Coast, and relocated to Los Angeles to chase a career in Hollywood. But by the early 1990s, not much had materialized.

But there was one idea in his head, something that sounded fun. What if a kid managed a big-league baseball team? What if a kid ran a baseball team. So in late 1990, more than three years before the movie would arrive in theaters, Pincus went to work on a script. But first, he needed a team. As a child in the mid 1970s, he had been a fan of Royals infielders Freddy Patek and Cookie Rojas, the forefathers of the Royals glory years.

“Some of my favorite baseball cards,” Pincus says.

So it was settled. It couldn’t be a big-market club like New York or Los Angeles. It had to be small.

Billy Heywood would manage the Kansas City Royals…

So if you don’t mind a spoiler from a 20-year-old baseball movie, you might want to know about the final scene. You might want to know that the Twins lose. In the bottom of the ninth, Lou Collins hits a deep drive to center, and then Griffey robs the would-be home run, and the Twins lose.

Twenty years later, Pincus can’t remember all the details about the movie he wrote. But he can tell you this: The Twins always lost.

“It always ended that way,” Pincus says, “and it’s okay to lose. Only one team wins.”

Yes, it should have been the Royals.

 


Saturday, July 12, 2014

‘Battered Bastards of Baseball’ review: Portland Mavericks’ story is true to the team’s name

I give it 4.5 Rob Neyer flannel shirts out of a possible 5.

First-time directors Chapman and Maclain Way are the grandsons of Bing Russell, the cowboy actor who founded the independent, minor-league Portland Mavericks in 1973, so “Battered Bastards” is an affectionate family valentine rather than a hard-hitting exposé.  But the Ways’ family connections probably helped convince a number of erstwhile Mavs to sit for interviews, not least of them Bing’s movie-star son Kurt, who rhapsodizes about his dad’s love for the game. The only person more passionate about the team today, it seems, is onetime bat boy (and current Hollywood director) Todd Field, whose profanity-laced nostalgic rants are a highlight….

Reality provided the story of the Mavericks with a somewhat anticlimactic finale, so the documentary runs out of steam a bit towards the end. And some of the recollections are selective. For instance, Kurt Russell tells a story about the Mavericks’ first game being a no-hitter, but he’s probably talking about their sixth game. The Mavericks’ first manager, longtime minor-leaguer Hank Robinson, is given short shrift compared with his successor, Frank Peters, but Peters’ darker, turbulent post-Mavs life isn’t highlighted.

Then again, it probably would have been impossible to shoehorn every memorable Mavericks moment and strange-but-probably-true anecdote into one film. That’s how chock full of stories the team’s brief life was. It might not be true that the Mavericks could only have happened in Portland, but it’s certainly fun to think so.


 

 

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