MOUNT RUSHMORE BASEBALL MOVIES NON FICTION For my Mount Rushmore of Baseball movies Non-Fiction a lot of people who know me will be surprised by my choices. Unlike the Fiction list these movies don’t always have to be entertaining as long as the story being told is the truth and is also interesting. These movies aren’t a laugh a minute although Hollywood does put a little bit of humor in the movies. We all know the story is not 100 percent accurate but they never are. But the movies I have selected all have both and the first movie on my list is one where I am sure not everybody has seen before. I highly suggest watching this movie.
SOUL OF THE GAME
This movie is about the Negro League for the one year that Jackie Robinson played in it prior to signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But unlike 42 it does not center on Jackie. The three main characters are Robinson played by Blair Underwood, Satchell Paige played by Delroy Lindo and Josh Gibson played by Mykelti Williamson. Paige was the flamboyant drawing card and most popular player in the league. He would often leave his team for the day to go play for another team who needed a home game sell out to prevent the team from folding. As you will see in the movie he did it a few times. He takes Robinson under his wing. Gibson is widely known as the best player to ever play in the league. He is a home run hitter every bit as good as Babe Ruth. The movie centers on the trio as Robinson behind the scenes meets with Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to become the first Negro player to break the color barrier. Of course Paige and Gibson want to be the first player and each thinks they deserve to be the one based on their talent and the number of years played in the Negro Leagues. Once it comes out they resent Robinson who only played one year in the Negro League and had not proven to be better than the other two. Robinson himself wonders that to Rickey. Rickey explains to Robinson that he needs a player disciplined enough to take all the hatred thrown his way while he makes his way through the season. Robinson who was a college grad and served in the armed forces had the qualities Rickey was looking for. Gibson was a loudmouth drunk who would never be able to deal with the hatred without opening his mouth to fight back. Paige was much too flamboyant to be the first one to break through. As Robinson said it himself in the movie do we want Gibson to be the first player in who we know is a drunk that would ruin it for the rest of us. History showed the right person was picked. But this movie shows the admiration the fans have for the Negro players while still not seeing them as equals.
Arguably one of the best players to ever play the game and some even think he is the best. This movie was based on the book written by Al Stump. Robert Wuhl was great as Stumpy but no one could have competed with the performance by Tommy Lee Jones as Tyrus Raymond Cobb. This is very much a two man movie as Stump travels with Cobb and learns all about the good, the bad and the dark sides of the man. We see Cobb as a brilliant business man as he gains a small fortune in the stock market. He gave Stump the ultimate stock tip by saying Coke is about to come out in cans. Stump thought he was crazy. We see the bad side as Cobb was very racist and also hated people who didn’t acknowledge his greatness. We see his generous side as he buys longtime teammate Mickey Cochrane a suit and we discover he was sending him money. We also see that his family hates him and how he was mostly alone at the end of his life. Stump who was writing 2 books the one Cobb wanted and the one he wanted ultimately becomes a drunk by the end of the movie as travelling with the legend has taken it’s toll on him. Stump wrestles with the decision to tell the truth about this legendary player or tell another story which does not dismantle the legacy of this great player. As Cobb told Stump “You have never been this close to greatness in your entire life”.
EIGHT MEN OUT
This is the story of the Black Sox(White) of Chicago who threw the 1919 World Series. Owner of the White Sox is Charlie Comiskey played by Clifton James. Commie as he is known by is notorious for being a very cheap man towards his players. The White Sox were huge favorites to win the World Series against the Reds and were widely known as the greatest team ever. Back then there wasn’t a real commissioner of baseball and the league was policed or not policed by the owners. Commie would order his manager to sit out players late in the season so they wouldn’t reach the performance bonuses in their contract. His reason was that we need you rested and healthy for the playoffs. This didn’t sit too well with the players and even the manager Kid Gleason played by John Mahoney. There is a scene in the movie where Commie gives his players cases of champagne for winning the pennant. The bottles were flat. Meanwhile up in his office he has bubbly champagne with reporters and other executives.
The players were fed up and the opportunity to blow a couple of games for money was thrown around. I don’t believe they were supposed to blow the whole series but once it started it was impossible to stop. Especially when the gamblers knew they had bribed the players. There was an all star cast put in place to play the Blacksox. Charlie Sheen played Oscar Felch, David Strathairn played ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte, Michael Rooker played Chick Grandal, John Cusack played Buck Weaver who never took any money and DB Sweeney played Shoeless Joe Jackson who took money but was the best player in the series. As the series went on it was up to the pitchers Cicotte and Lefty Williams to blow the games on their own. The position players were hesitant to make themselves look bad. Once the pitchers got it started some of the other bribed players followed suit. The monkey wrench was Dickie kerr. Who won his two starts to keep the series going. In a best of 9 series with the BlackSox down 4 games to 2 Cicotte told Gleason he can’t miss as Gleason was about to replace him before the game. All of this was happening as the players were stiffed on the money they were promised and decided to play for real. Cicotte wins game 7 and now it was Lefty Williams’ turn and as the story goes his wife’s life was threatened. So the Black Sox lost but now there are legal issues and possible jail time. Commie pushed for Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis to be commissioner to help clean up baseball. Little did he know that Landis would decimate his team. The players avoid jail time but Landis throws them out of the league forever. Buck Weaver tries for years to clear his name but he failed. Great movie and a piece of baseball history.
This movie really makes you appreciate Roger Maris and even Mickey Mantle. As for Maris played by Barry Pepper as the reluctant player chasing Babe Ruth’s single season home run record we see how tormented he is with everything around him. Roger just wants to win and play ball and be humble and quiet and sit in the back ground. He never asked for the attention. But still this is a record no one wanted him to break. From the Yankee fans and even his own team mates who felt Mantle should be the one to break it. Then there is Ford Frick who was the Babe’s ghost writer declaring the asterisk be put in place if the record is not broken in the same amount of games as Babe did it in. Maris was getting death threats against him and his family and he was constantly heckled by fans home or away. Everything he said was taken out of context.
Mickey Mantle was played by Thomas Jane. The movie also showed the Mick in a different light. He was a womanizer which we all knew. He was a partier who drank too much but we all knew that too. He also had demons. The males in his family all died young so Mickey lived his life to the fullest his way. Even if it meant not taking care of his body. He was saddled as the next great Yankee after Joe DiMaggio who was not willing to step aside so easily. His knee injury early in his career while it did not diminish him but it did rob something from him. Always playing hurt he was the care taker of the Yankee legacy and was loved and respected by his teammates and the fans no matter what he seemed to do.
The movie shows the relationship between the two as they chased the greatest single season record in sports history while playing in the house that player built. Mickey even moved in with Roger and Bob Cerv. They wanted it quiet with no women and only a couple of beers at a time. This was a hard adjustment for Mickey as we understood the pressures he lived with and played with. Roger would often wonder why can’t the people love him and Mickey. Mickey would realize just what burden Roger had on his shoulders and they formed a bond chasing that record. Roger would constantly tell Mickey to take care of his body better and Mickey would try to understand why Roger had so many issues with the press. Any case once these two let each other into their lives professionally and specifically personally we see the bond that is being formed.
This movie was brilliantly created by life long Yankee fan Billy Crystal. Much like his movies this one had highs and lows and plenty of laughs too.