Baseball Movie Countdown is a real Natural

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be counting down our favorite baseball movies for the next three weeks. Today’s choice was literally a natural to include on the countdown.

Last time on our Baseball Movie countdown we looked at Moneyball which showed the future of the game of baseball through the use of advance metrics.

Today it is only natural to balance things out a little bit by looking at a film that celebrates the pre sabermetrics Golden Age of baseball.

Roy Hobbs and his bat named “Wonderboy” anchor The Natural which is a tale of making the most of second chances and knocking out a few stadium lights in the process.

The movie came out in 1984 and is an adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s 1952 baseball novel of the same name.

At the cork core of the Natural is a story about a man, his homemade bat and some sparks on and off of the field. Photo R. Anderson
At the cork core of the Natural is a story about a man, his homemade bat and some sparks on and off of the field.
Photo R. Anderson

Starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Wilfred Brimley, Kim Bassinger and Robert Duvall the movie recounts the experiences of Roy Hobbs, a player in the 1930’s with great “natural” talent, and questionable decision making when it comes to members of the opposite sex.

After being shot when he was 19 by a crazed female fan, Hobbs makes a comeback attempt in his mid-thirties with the New York Knights managed by Pop Fisher (played by Brimley).

There are of course many baseball clichés included in the movie from the grizzled “seen it all manager” to the “intrepid baseball reporter” looking for a scoop, but all in all the clichés do not distract from the overall tone of the story.

And the movie’s climax is certainly one for the ages with the cascade of sparks falling down from the busted stadium lights after Hobbs hits the home run as the iconic music plays in the background.

It is an iconic scene in and iconic film and certainly one to remember.

The music from that iconic scene can be heard at Ranger Ballpark in Arlington whenever a member of the home team sends one over the outfield fence.

I am sure there are other teams that do the same thing but the only one I have seen do it in person is the Rangers.

Admittedly I am sure many of us have hummed along to that song after achieving some feat of skill or other accomplishment while picturing a shower of sparks falling around us.

Some days just getting out of bed can be cause for humming the theme to The Natural as we make our way around the base path of life.

In addition to creating lasting memories of home runs that knock out the stadium lights the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger).

So with all of that in its corner it would be only natural for The Natural to make our countdown.

Now if you’ll excuse, I need to go dodge a shower of sparks.

Copyright 2016 R. Anderson

Baseball Movie Countdown gets Analytical with Moneyball

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be counting down our favorite baseball movies for the next three weeks. Today we travel to the land of sabermetrics.

In the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham,  one of the characters goes into great poetic details on the many ways that he does not like eating green eggs and ham.

While I will spare you the poetic prose on the topic I will say that the way that character felt about green eggs and ham is very much like how I fell about sabermetrics, or the heart of over-analyzing baseball to the point where players become merely plots on a spreadsheet.

Few people can argue that the game of baseball was forever changed when the sabermetrics element of the game was moved from the back rooms, and fantasy baseball leagues to the general manager’s office.

Like it or not the advanced analytics are here to stay and are featured in the movie Moneyball which is the true story of how one team’s front office broke with tradition by using charts and graphs to build a team in a way that changed the game of baseball.

The film is based on Michael Lewis’s 2003 book, Moneyball, which follows the Oakland Athletics 2002 season and general manager Billy Beane’s (Played by Brad Pitt in the movie) attempts to assemble a competitive team through non-conventional means.

Instead of relying on the eyes and ears of baseball scouts on the road, the new analytical baseball method relied on computer programs showing where certain players excelled based on historical averages and on base percentage.

Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill star in Moneyball which brings the world of sabermetrics to the big screen. Photo R. Anderson
Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill star in Moneyball which brings the world of sabermetrics to the big screen.
Photo R. Anderson

The idea behind this new approach was that small market teams could spend more wisely on players who got on base more often instead of trying to go dollar to dollar with big market teams who spent more on a single player than many teams spent on their entire rosters.

While a new concept when it was introduced by the Athletics in the 1980’s, almost every team today using sabermetrics to one degree or another to build their rosters each year.

Whether sabermetrics is good for baseball in the long run is still up for debate. It has certainly allowed many smaller market teams the ability to be competitive and stand toe to toe with the big spenders in baseball for the past few decades.

The big spending teams are still around but through Moneyball inspired roster building a few smaller teams have found ways to crash the playoff party now and then.

Of course even the big spending teams have adapted some of the sabermetric philosophies including the Boston Red Sox who used a variation of the Oakland formula to compile the roster that won the 2004 World Series.

While the past few decades have certainly proven that sabermetrics is certainly not going away any time soon, for those wanting to see how it all began Moneyball is the way to go.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about statistics and math has me feeling a bit queasy.

Copyright 2016 R. Anderson