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Oh God, we don't have to build a football field now, do we?
April 21, 2014 3:38 PM   Subscribe

That's right folks, Field of Dreams is 25 years old. W.P. Kinsella reflects on how his novel "Shoeless Joe" was adapted into the timeless baseball/father-son movie, including how he made peace with the studio changing the name of J.D. Salinger's character.

Kevin Costner will headline a cast reunion, on Father's Day naturally.

Obligatory Listicle

The iconic field from the movie was retained in its Iowa cornfield, and is the subject of a heated zoning debate.
posted by dry white toast (89 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't care what you say about it this movie is goddamned great.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:42 PM on April 21 [23 favorites]


TCM just recently aired Field of Dreams. It had been ages since I had seen it unedited and without commercials. Yeah...Great, great film.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:43 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


You wanna have a catch?

*sob*
posted by entropicamericana at 3:44 PM on April 21 [14 favorites]


At some point a few years ago, I received a random text message from a friend that simply read "Damn it Kevin Costner, now I'm crying about baseball." I think it's the most succinct and accurate review of the movie possible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:46 PM on April 21 [8 favorites]


"Is this Heaven? No. It's Iowa." is still one of my favorite movie quotes.

I watched the recent TCM airing, also, and I thought it held up pretty well. It's gorgeously shot, emotionally manipulative as hell, and all around a fine addition to the inaccurately named Kevin Costner Messiah Trilogy (consisting of said movie, Dances With Wolves, The Postman, and Waterworld.)
posted by octobersurprise at 4:15 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


Folks, if you have't yet, read Shoeless Joe. For all the goodness that is Field of Dreams, the book is so much better.
posted by chavenet at 4:17 PM on April 21 [10 favorites]


Any movie in which Bert Lancaster shows up, graces a few scenes, and then exits into a cornfield is a movie that I will see multiple times. The movie is great, and then the addition of Lancaster makes it stupendously great.
posted by Danf at 4:24 PM on April 21 [5 favorites]


I want to hate this movie. I really do. I mean all that white-bread cornpone about "Baseball is the heart of America" and fathers and sons "having a catch"* - Barf!

But you can't hate it. It's a great film. Especially when you remember how much more there is beyond just the "holiness of baseball" stuff - James Earl Jones, Moonlight Graham, the wife fighting the intolerant local PTA- great stuff.

*Does anyone say this? Is it a regional thing? We called it "playing catch" and I find the phrasing "having a catch" incredibly bizarre, as if you were giving birth to it.

posted by drjimmy11 at 4:26 PM on April 21 [7 favorites]


Interestingly, Kinsella's headshot in the linked article is also 25 years old.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:26 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


This also reminds me that the '60s were 50 years ago now. Since my folks are baby boomers, I always felt very closely identified with hippies and draft dodging and Woodstock and all that stuff- since it was their baggage, I grew up with it all around me.

But there must be kids now for whom the '60s sound like Ancient Rome.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:29 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


A real classic. It's like the Forrest Gump of baseball films.
posted by thelonius at 4:31 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Let's see if I have this right:

In the movie, the reclusive author played by James Earl Jones is the fictional Terence Mann, not to be confused with the Tony-nominated broadway actor, Terrence Mann.

But in the novel, the reclusive author is J. D. Salinger. The main character is named Ray Kinsella, after a fictional character created by Salinger, and not to be confused with W. P. Kinsella--the author of the novel--or Ray Kinsella, the 1930s Canadian hocky player.

Who's on first.
posted by General Tonic at 4:34 PM on April 21 [7 favorites]


drjimmy11, in California we called it Playing Catch. Fellow softball players from New York call it Having a Catch.

Playing Catch is the proper term, IMO.
posted by Danf at 4:34 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


Huh. I had no idea the character of Terrence Mann was originally meant to be J.D. Salinger. While it's interesting to imagine FIELD OF DREAMS as kind of a proto BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, I think in hindsight inventing a character was obviously the right move.

Lawsuit or no, the baggage around the real Salinger would have inevitably shifted the focus of the story itself and laser-focused the audience on that character, and I don't think that would have been a good thing.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:36 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


Only tenuously related, but: one of the most succinct pieces of business advice I've heard recently is "If your startup's strategy is "if you build it, they will come", remember that's a misquote from a Kevin Costner movie about baseball ghosts."
posted by mhoye at 4:43 PM on April 21 [27 favorites]


I'm an absolute sucker for this movie, and for that matter, a lot of baseball movies. I don't even particularly like the sport, and I much prefer basketball and football. Neither of those, though, have movies that can hold a candle to a lot of baseball movies. I don't get it, and I've always wondered what it was about baseball, and the stories that baseball has, that puts it cinematically so far ahead.

Then again, James Earl Jones pretty much answers all the questions I've got with the best baseball soliloquy ever.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:54 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


Dammit, hoping this doesn't get developed. Or, developed yet. Though haven't looked into the feasibility of this yet, am (or was) hoping to get married on/in that very pitch.
posted by Wordshore at 5:00 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I just wrote about the set for an article (timely!); it was actually built straddling two different family farms' property. They had competing gift shops for a while each on their own property, until one of the families finally must have thought "this is stupid" and sold their chunk to the other family. They have a team that gives exhibition games for free in the summer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:00 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


drjimmy11, in eastern Pennsylvania we said either "have a catch" or "play catch", with the former much more common in my locale.
posted by mitten of doom at 5:21 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


"She was from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa."

My dad and Ron Darling both say having a catch.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:23 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


My main memory of Field of Dreams is riding in a very cramped car a very long ways in Iowa summer to take two Japanese exchange students to the field. Even then, it was still pretty magical.

The best movie line about Iowa comes from Mississippi Burning: "If you're ever in Des Moines, don't send me a postcard."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:40 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I play softball as much as I can, in a league but also a pickup game once or twice a week where someone sends around an email and people just show up. And there are usually people tossing in the park that we invite to join us. Happened today in fact.

Anyway, my favourite but in the film is when Ray comes back to find a bunch of dead Hall of Famers essentially doing the same thing; playing pick up baseball. That is the best way to play the game and I love that the movie shows that.
posted by dry white toast at 5:42 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


The Markin-Flanagan foundation paid many thousands for Kinsella the be the U of Calgary's writer in residence decade or so ago and all the could do is play Edmontonian-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder and complain about our chinooks giving him migraines. He strikes me as a bit of a dick.

From the article: He has written numerous baseball short-story collections, the fictional Hobbema Indian Reserve stories. Hobbema is a very, very real place. VERY real.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:07 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


I am a terrible, terrible Iowan, because I have never seen this movie. I guess I should, just so they don't kick me out of the state.

(I'm actually not an Iowan. I just live in Iowa. And if they kick me out, it will probably be for hating college football, not for not having seen Field of Dreams.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:12 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Re: Ghidorah's comment above, George Plimpton, who was a fan of Kinsella, had a theory:

Some years ago I evolved what I called the Small Ball Theory to assess the quality of literature about sports. This stated that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes -- that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature. There are superb books about golf, very good books about baseball, not many good books about football or soccer, very few good books about basketball and no good books at all about beach balls. I capped off the Small Ball Theory by citing Mark Twain's "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," perhaps the most universally known of sports stories, in which bird shot (very small balls indeed!) is an important element in the plot.
posted by mahorn at 6:24 PM on April 21 [13 favorites]


I rewatched this a few months ago, and one of the things that really struck me was the excellent portrayal of the relationship between Ray and Annie. They've been married forever but they're still in love, he supports her desire to farm by becoming a farmer, she supports his baseball hallucinations by risking the farm, they make jokes together in the midst of tough times, it's just great.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:25 PM on April 21 [6 favorites]


I don't get it, and I've always wondered what it was about baseball, and the stories that baseball has, that puts it cinematically so far ahead.

It seems pretty obvious to me, but since you said you’re a fan of basketball and football and not baseball I’ll not expand on that.
posted by bongo_x at 6:27 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Heh. At a recent game at Dodgers Stadium, they described as eternal the debate between Field of Dreams and Bull Durham.

(To which I said, "Huh? Of course Bull Durham's better.")
posted by klangklangston at 6:29 PM on April 21 [6 favorites]


klangklangston, Field of Dreams vs, Bull Durham is like vi vs. emacs -- a debate to which there is no right or wrong answer.

It does, of course, bring up the question of which text editor is represented by "The Natural."
posted by lhauser at 7:07 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


W.P. Kinsella has also written, among other things, an "account of the career of baseball's Ichiro Suzuki, published only in Japanese"

Please, translators, won't someone take pity those of us who don't read Japanese and translate this! (And, yes, I forgive him, he's Ichiro and anyway, everybody goes to New York sooner or later--for the money. It's business, it's not personal.)
posted by Anitanola at 7:15 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


My dad died when I was 6 months old, I probably don't need to go on and on about this movie, you can easily imagine how I feel about it.
posted by HuronBob at 8:03 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


I love the movie, but I love the book even more. Kinsella's work is never less than entertaining and is usually far more.
posted by jonmc at 8:17 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


My first serious girlfriend's name was Alicia, so the Doc "Moonlight" Graham scenes always get to me. I have very little tolerance for coming into movies on cable after they've started, but I'll pretty much always stop on Field of Dreams as long as they haven't gotten to the end.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:31 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


I remember a Grade 11 English class where we had to pick from a list of short stories and have a discussion on them in class. One of them, my choice, was Kinsella's "Thrill of the Grass."

There was such a disconnect in the class between the few baseball fans on the class who understood the subtleties of why we dug a story about replacing turf with natural grass one pizza boy's worth of sod at a time and everybody else who pretty much thought we were from Mars.
posted by dry white toast at 8:41 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


I'm an absolute sucker for this movie, and for that matter, a lot of baseball movies. I don't even particularly like the sport, and I much prefer basketball and football. Neither of those, though, have movies that can hold a candle to a lot of baseball movies. I don't get it, and I've always wondered what it was about baseball, and the stories that baseball has, that puts it cinematically so far ahead.

I think it has to do with pacing/timing. A typical pro game of basketball could have a hundred fifty shots taken. There is very little that can happen in one possession that can affect a subsequent possession- injuries and technicals aside. Basketball can have some visually spectacular moments (excuse me while I hop on youtube for MJ highlight reels...) but the outcome of the game is the cumulative numeric effect of many, many smaller essentially independent possessions. Things are moving fast within any particular possession- maybe too fast to convey to the viewer why people are doing what they're doing.

I can't stand watching baseball as it occurs in the wild, but in a scripted setting, each play can build on previous plays to tell a story in a way that doesn't really work with basketball. Each play occurs slowly enough that it's easy to see why people do what they do. And of course, there's the dramatic focus of the game on the event of hitting, on which everything else in the play hinges.

Now, these same dramatic advantages accrue to football. It seems like it's only a matter of time before we get great football drama (and maybe we already have; I haven't seen Friday Night Lights, and maybe it qualifies).
posted by Jpfed at 8:45 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


The Markin-Flanagan foundation paid many thousands for Kinsella the be the U of Calgary's writer in residence decade or so ago and all the could do is play Edmontonian-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder and complain about our chinooks giving him migraines. He strikes me as a bit of a dick.

He taught my 4th-year fiction workshop one semester at the University of Victoria around 1991. He was a decent guy. Not the best fiction prof I ever had by any means, but a solid workshopper.

He's also a regular participant in competitive Scrabble tournaments in BC and Alberta, and occasionally, pre-2007, in Washington, Oregon and Nevada. He's not a very strong player (though he beat me during our single tournament game), and he's not terribly social -- he's a lot quieter these days, and increasingly fragile, physically.

So as to say, I know him somewhat, and I wouldn't say he's a dick.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:14 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


My favorite thing about baseball is there is no "playing the clock."

"You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all." Earl Weaver Baltimore Orioles Manager
posted by stltony at 9:28 PM on April 21 [16 favorites]


Don't forget the film's outstanding music by James Horner, who won an Oscar that year for Best Original Score. I think the music is maybe the most powerful part of the film. Especially the swelling strings at the end as Ray and John have their catch and the camera flies up to reveal the cars lined up for miles to come to the field. Tears. Every single time.

Horner also did the score for "Sneakers," another amazing Phil Alden Robinson film.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 10:03 PM on April 21 [10 favorites]


Some years ago I evolved what I called the Small Ball Theory to assess the quality of literature about sports. This stated that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes -- that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature. There are superb books about golf...

I wonder if Plimpton came up with that theory before or after he wrote his book about golf.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:06 PM on April 21 [5 favorites]


Can't watch this film without getting wrecked but that's OK because my dad can't watch it without getting wrecked either.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:06 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


My dad is awesome.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:06 PM on April 21 [8 favorites]


The other thing for me about this, is I went to college in Rock Island, about an hour for the field, and I never went. It's one of those things I realized packing up after graduation, that I'd been so close, but I always said I'd go later. Given that pretty much the only time I'm back in the states is in winter or very early spring, and I spend it with my family, I doubt I'll ever get there now. I think that's probably one of my bigger regrets from college, which is saying quite a lot.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:52 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I'm in the "Bull Durham" camp, I gotta say. Great dialogue, fantastic characters, hell of an interesting story.

"Field of Dreams," on the other hand, just never did anything for me. It's not a bad film by any means, and has good individual moments, but at the end of the day it never seemed anything more than a nice little bit of wish fulfillment for dudes and their dads, and I guess maybe I don't have that relationship with my dad or something.

Which is not to criticize anyone who loves it; I get why people do. But for me this really is one of those films where I just accept the fact it's not for me.
posted by jscalzi at 2:59 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


I think "A League of Their Own" is a baseball movie worth including in this conversation and there's your Tom Hanks baseball movie. As for "Bull Durham" vs. "Field of Dreams", as much as Susan Sarandon nearly always tips the scales for me, I have to go with "Field of Dreams" because it's such a classic in the same way "It's a Wonderful Life" is a classic. They both capture some essentially American nostalgia that is very satisfying. Try as it might, I don't think "The Natural" has that quality either although I'll always watch Redford. IMDb ranks "Field of Dreams" and "The Natural" at 7.6 stars each while "Bull Durham" and "A League of Their Own" are tied at 7.1.
posted by Anitanola at 3:26 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


dry white toast: "One of them, my choice, was Kinsella's "Thrill of the Grass.""

Such a great story.
posted by chavenet at 4:25 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Field of Dreams is on my list of Films I Can't Believe I've Never Watched. Just so I know what I'm getting into, where does it fall on the manly blubbering scale, where 1 is how I always well up a little bit at the end of The Shawshank Redemption and 10 is the sobbing wreck I became at the end of Big Fish?
posted by usonian at 4:48 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"...1 is how I always well up a little bit at the end of The Shawshank Redemption and 10 is the sobbing wreck I became at the end of Big Fish?"

It's probably going to be closer to Big Fish...That movie didn't do much for me personally*, but the father/reconciliation issues in the conclusion would tie closely to Field of Dreams' ending.

* Actually, remembering the ending of Big Fish (which I saw only once when it first hit DVD) right now is making me a little misty, maybe I just needed to wait a few years and give it another chance to really appreciate it.
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:10 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


I grew up about 20 miles from the field. It's been years since I've seen Field of Dreams all the way through, but it's one of those movies I'd always stop and watch when flipping through channels. Not only is it a great movie, but there's a few Boston shots that were done in my hometown of Dubuque. My junior high science teacher walks right into one of these shots.

The land dispute over the field was long and ugly and I remember reading about it in the local paper for years. I'm honestly surprised the field is still there, considering how valuable Iowa farmland has become since the 80s farm crisis.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:23 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


From the "12 Things Your Didn't Know" link:

"...Robinson was already an accomplished director with hits like Fletch and All of Me under his belt..."

He wrote the screenplay for All of Me, Carl Reiner directed it. To the best of my knowledge he had nothing at all to do with Fletch, so that's a little weird...Maybe uncredited rewriting? That would have to count as one thing I definitely didn't know, you totally got me, Uproxx.

He'd only directed the Patrick Dempsey flop In The Mood prior to Field of Dreams. Since then, he's directed Sneakers, The Sum of All Fears, and the upcoming Robin Williams comedy The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.

I haven't seen In The Mood, The Sum of All Fears wasn't bad but wasn't particularly special...But Field of Dreams and Sneakers are enduring classics of my grade school/middle school years.
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:23 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I think a strong part of the movie's effect on me is that, growing up, my dad wasn't around, and I was always jealous of kids who had their dads in their everyday life. To some extent, it's very much wish fulfillment.

And, damn, Big Fish is one of my favorite films, which I haven't been able to watch since my dad passed away. In terms of Shawshank to Big Fish, I'd say Big Fish is those big wracking sobs where it just hurts to breathe and cry at the same time because the stories were true, just not in that way, whereas FoD is more the kind of helpless-tears-down-the-face/I-wish-I-had-the-chance-for-one-more (whatever activity you shared with the person you missed) kind of crying.

That is to say, I can function by the end of the credits, even if I'll be a little sad for a while. Even thinking this much about Big Fish has me fighting back tears. Watching it would leave me catatonic for hours.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:28 AM on April 22 [4 favorites]


To the best of my knowledge he had nothing at all to do with Fletch

I wouldn't want anyone to know I had anything to do with Fletch, either.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:50 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't want anyone to know I had anything to do with Fletch, either.

You shut your dirty mouth!
posted by kuanes at 8:15 AM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Field of Dreams is probably modern cinema's finest example of a movie made for, and enjoyed by, white people.

I love love LOVE that James Earl Jones' character--who is supposed to be an icon of the Civil Rights movement --seems completely oblivious to the fact that baseball was segregated in 1919. And apparently is STILL segregated in the afterlife.

Major League Baseball is still damn near segregated today. Last time I looked, something like less than 10% of players in MLB are black. This is a big reason why American blacks don't watch MLB the way they used to, and prefer the NBA instead. When inner-city youth programs dried up the past three decades, basketball courts were an inexpensive way to promote healthy play. So lots of the kids that grew up playing basketball in the streets went on to play in college and then the NBA. The MLB has been trying to get back into the 'hood, but they've got one hell of an uphill battle.

My point is: Field of Dreams glorifies baseball and the era of segregation like no movie ever made in the post-Civil Rights era. It's a damn insult to American blacks that a character described as a black radical journalist never even mentions the Negro Leagues, which--as an African-American of his age--is where he would've learned to love baseball in the first place. Why is the man never shown talking about Josh Gibson or Satchel Paige or Cool Papa Bell or Jackie Robinson or Larry Doby or Hank Aaron? Why is he choosing to spend eternity playing ball with people who will probably spend it calling him "boy"?

White audiences of Field of Dreams never had relatives or friends who lived under segregation, so this stuff never crosses their minds. They watch the movie and get all misty-eyed about dead dads and the ritual of playing catch with your father. Black audiences watch it and cringe in horror at a character that was apparently written by a white man with no black friends, its celebration of an era where the likes of us couldn't even go see a game, and its complete ignorance of the fact that the Chicago Race Riots happened three fucking months before the 1919 World Series. And 1919 was not exactly a high point in American race relations, let the record show.

I get it that there's a good story there about faith and redemption. But for all the movie says about how baseball reflects American life, it's completely and joyfully blind to the fact that for decades, MLB baseball proudly reflected one of the ugliest aspects of American life.

tl;dr: Thank Almighty God that Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is also celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:35 AM on April 22 [47 favorites]


Thanks Ghidorah, that was exactly what I was looking for. I saw Big Fish not long after my grandfather passed away and while it was a lovely film, I may not ever watch it again, because damn.
posted by usonian at 8:38 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Well, thank God someone's finally in the thread to tell us how horrible the movie is.

How is that NOT threadshitting?
posted by uberchet at 3:15 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


That was a completely substantive critique, which is not the same thing as saying that your favorite movie sucks. I don't believe that the only appropriate response to discussion of a movie is to say that it's awesome.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:28 PM on April 22 [18 favorites]


Yeah, that was a solid objection backed up with evidence. It's, like, the opposite of a thread-shit. At worst, it just made me a bit embarrassed about how I'd never thought about the segregation parts before.
posted by klangklangston at 4:33 PM on April 22 [10 favorites]


magstheaxe gave a substantive and well-developed critique of the movie. I'm glad they posted it so that I can think more critically about a movie and sport I enjoy, and be more conscious about my media choices.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:46 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Just want to chime in to enthusiastically second reading the book if you haven't already. I read it in high school and fell in love with it and its magical realism. I never wanted to see the movie and I didn't for years - I was afraid it would ruin the book for me. I finally saw Field of Dreams when I was well into my 20s - long after it was released - and I liked it, but nothing could touch the joy Shoeless Joe gave me when I first read it as a young teenager. I don't have my copy here right now, so I can't paste my favorite quote, even though I remember exactly where it is in the book and on the page. Here's another one I like:

“God what an outfield,' he says. 'What a left field.' He looks up at me, and I look down at him. 'This must be heaven,' he says.

No. It's Iowa,' I reply automatically. But then I feel the night rubbing softly against my face like cherry blossoms; look at the sleeping girl-child in my arms, her small hand curled around one of my fingers; think of the fierce warmth of the woman waiting for me in the house; inhale the fresh-cut grass small that seems locked in the air like permanent incense; and listen to the drone of the crowd, as below me Shoeless Joe Jackson tenses, watching the angle of the distant bat for a clue as to where the ball will be hit.

I think you're right, Joe,' I say, but softly enough not to disturb his concentration.”


Such a lovely book.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:47 PM on April 22


Well, opinions vary. "Let's point out how a 25 year old movie is flawed according to 2014 standards" in a thread started from a "hey, this is cool" perspective is awful close to this in my estimation.
posted by uberchet at 7:48 PM on April 22


I don't think that's a fair characterization of the racial dialogue, or the dialogue around segregation in baseball, in 1989. Being self-congratulatory about integrating before most of the rest of the country was/is a big part of MLB's identity. The Hall of Fame started inducting Negro Leagues players in the 1970s. Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974. When Ken Burns's "Baseball" aired in 1994, it included two episodes (Innings Five and Six, "Shadow Ball" and "The National Pastime") that were focused largely on the Negro Leagues, segregation, and Jackie Robinson. The league retired Robinson's number in 1997. I don't think it's out of place at all to see the movie, in that context, as being somewhere on the spectrum from "offensively tone-deaf" to "actively promoting a kinder, gentler, fake baseball history."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:13 PM on April 22 [7 favorites]


"Well, opinions vary. "Let's point out how a 25 year old movie is flawed according to 2014 standards" in a thread started from a "hey, this is cool" perspective is awful close to this in my estimation."

Oh, bullshit. First off, Marty McFly, we live in 2014 now, so when we discuss things, including media, it's fair to point out flaws in the work based on that.

Second off, this is about something where all the facts were there: it's not like it took 9/11 for us to realize that there were segregated Negro Leagues and that the phenomenon was racist bullshit. It's something that the characters would have been aware of if they were true to how they were written.

Third, "yuck your yum"? Aww, sorry, Charlie, guess racism does kinda taste like shit. You know what might be even worse than having to occasionally realize that you're getting an artificially bleached version of nostalgia? Prob'ly seeing people who look like you written out of history not because of current animus, but because of current obliviousness.

Fourth, you know how Frank says "harmless" in there? Black people getting written out of baseball history isn't harmless. It both harms the ability of black people to see themselves in black characters, and harms the ability of white audiences to see themselves in black characters. And Field of Dreams is a big part of baseball culture by now, widely revered as a classic.

Fifth, that whole, "Just let me like what I like" thing leads to stuff like this, a blithe romance about slavery.

Finally, I find defensiveness like that profoundly anti-intellectual, in that the only way to preserve the unvarnished appreciation is to remain ignorant, and that just makes everyone worse off. You don't have to agree with Mags, but he lays down a pretty solid critique (or as solid as any can do in comment-length brevity) and you're not being told that you can't enjoy the movie, just the reasons he didn't. If you now feel like you can't enjoy the movie, that's on you, but the segregation of the Negro Leagues and how that would impact the worldview of a putative civil rights icon character is entirely fair game.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 PM on April 22 [13 favorites]


magstheaxe, you might want to double check that "The MLB has been trying to get back into the 'hood," link before you recommend it again. It goes to SBPDL (stuff black people don't like.)

It starts out like an article but manages to work in a bunch of garbage about black people not playing professional baseball because they are in prison and black people not having fond memories of playing catch with their fathers because they are born out of wedlock. If you just look at the beginning you may gloss over the "Pre Obama America" stuff, but it keeps getting worse as it goes on.

Just so you don't think I'm misreading, from link to this guy's book on amazon "Guns, Blacks, and Steel: American Cities After the Civil Rights Era";
With the advent of federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s, America’s cities went to war. Washington D.C., New Orleans, Baltimore, Memphis, Philadelphia, and St. Louis became urban combat zones as extreme black-on-black gun violence exploded in the streets. Urban whites became refugees, fleeing to the safety of white-flight suburbia.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:07 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Yeah, whatever, klang. Not every conversation about a movie from 1989 necessarily requires a "and this is fucked up about race because ____" self-criticism session.

I do enjoy the movie. I was enjoying this thread, and had almost forgotten about MeFi's tendency to insist on attacking virtually any piece of popular culture on racism or sexism grounds.

Sure, it's probably possible to find "problematic" aspects of virtually every mainstream film ever made. That doesn't make such digressions -- in a thread thus far dominated by fond memories of the film, and by discussions of father-son relationships -- universally welcome. Except, I guess, here.

Finally, "Marty McFly?" Cute. And by cute, obviously, I mean juvenile and insulting.
posted by uberchet at 6:34 AM on April 23 [4 favorites]


Yeah, whatever, klang. Not every conversation about a movie from 1989 necessarily requires a "and this is fucked up about race because ____" self-criticism session.

You realize that 1989 wasn't aeons ago, right? It's not like we discovered that segregated baseball was an racist thing in the last 25 years; we knew that in 1989, and the movie ignores that. It's an important part of a honest assessment of the movie to acknowledge that. It's also completely disingenuous to act like criticizing the movie for white washing the existence of segregated baseball is harmful to enjoying the movie. I'd wager that the vast majority of people in this thread enjoy the movie; you don't have to be willfully ignorant of the problems of something to enjoy it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:45 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Oy vey.

We're all equally entitled to give our opinions here. You may not like a particular line of discussion, but that doesn't mean that you get to shut it down. Can we move on?

I now kind of wish I'd seen the movie so I could think about Mags's critique. Maybe I'll see if they have it at the library.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:29 AM on April 23 [3 favorites]


If there's something about a movie that bothers someone, I'm not going to try to shout them down for saying so. I'd point out that this isn't a case of someone bringing up a hypothetical hurt for someone else, magstheaxe (who made the original comment) is African-American and is pointing out the problems with white-washing her history. You trying to stop her from expressing her feelings about the movie because they don't jive with your need to feel good about things is really not something this site needs.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:34 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


magstheaxe, you might want to double check that "The MLB has been trying to get back into the 'hood," link before you recommend it again. It goes to SBPDL (stuff black people don't like.)
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:07 AM on April 23


You're right, ATG. I had that link saved because someone had sent it to me. I thought I was doing a direct link to the MLB's web site about their efforts to bring baseball back into the inner cities. Is that something I can ask the mods to fix, or is it a done deal?


Not every conversation about a movie from 1989 necessarily requires a "and this is fucked up about race because ____" self-criticism session.

I do enjoy the movie. I was enjoying this thread, and had almost forgotten about MeFi's tendency to insist on attacking virtually any piece of popular culture on racism or sexism grounds.

posted by uberchet at 9:34 AM on April 2.


And even though the fountains at the time were marked "Whites" and "Colored", I should ignore that and focus on how good the water was, right?
posted by magstheaxe at 8:03 AM on April 23 [4 favorites]


Congratulations on a massive fucking derail and trainwreck. Awesome job, guys.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:33 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Yes, Bulgaroktonos, because suggesting her comment was a bit out of left field in THIS particular conversation is absolutely trying to silence her. Nice use of loaded words there, and excellent rhetorical gambit.

This isn't about "my need to feel good about things." I feel fine. I do, however, grow weary of the degree to which every. single. mefi. thread. about enjoying any film, book, or show will absolutely include a derail explaining why the work is shitty.

Was segregated baseball a fucking travesty? Absolutely. Is the casting of Jones dissonant, given the context? No question. Is it weird they make him an icon of the 60s and Civil Rights that mysteriously never mentions segregated baseball? No argument here. The screenwriter or producer or someone fucked that up. But the movie you're asking for here is a very different movie than was implied by Shoeless Joe, the novel they were adapting. Maybe it's a better movie. I don't know. But it's not this movie.

I _do_ know that I'd much rather have the film with Jones than without (I imagine a forgettable older white dude as faux-Salinger). Obviously Jones isn't Salinger, so they had to make some changes to support his casting -- but, as in the book, the writer character is a supporting one. The main narrative can be pithily but not unfairly described as a Frank Deford wet dream wherein baseball is actually profound and pure and stuffed with redemptive magic for a disillusioned white baby boomer who thought farming would be a good way to make a living in the 1980s (about which: HUH?).

That the resulting film ends up being not just watchable but genuinely moving is utterly shocking. I hate baseball, and I love this movie. Is it lillywhite? Sure. Some stories are. The magic conjured in the cornfield is tied to the baseball that existed in Ray's memories, and in Ray's memories of his father's memories.

I'm not sure 1919 counts as a high point for anything, really, unless you're a big fan of temperance. Women couldn't vote despite the fact that, 50 years prior, the question of more universal suffrage had resulted in the 15th Amendment. The version of 1919 in the film isn't exactly rosy, either: it's about the Black Sox scandal. The tl;dr here is that it's not at all clear what WASN'T fucked up in 1919. Even the memories of 1919 Sox are (deliberately) rose-colored, to better support the aforementioned Deford narrative.

Do we then expect every film, book, and show to explore which things were fucked up in whatever time period they take place, regardless of connection to narrative? Surely not. Is any film about a boomer's baseball history with his father a whitewash if it fails to discuss segregated baseball?

I wrote all this, and saw Magstheaxe's "focus on how good the water is" post. I'm going to post it anyway, but if that's your takeaway from my posts, I'm not sure there's any point in engaging with you.
posted by uberchet at 8:37 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


You explicitly called the comment threadshitting. The point of that is plainly that you do not want people making comments like that. You don't want to have this conversation, so you start whining about having it in hopes that people won't make those comments in the future. Complaining about how disadvantaged groups can't just shut up about all the nasty things in the world is like Play #1 in the playbook for silencing those voices. That's what you were doing.

If you grow weary of genuine engagement with pop culture, including its problems, on Metafilter, there's a whole big internet out there full of white people feeling good about white people things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:56 AM on April 23 [11 favorites]


[Guys, at a certain point (and in this case it's probably a point a few volleys before this one) a conversation about how a conversation should go and whether something is threadshitting should be taking place in Metatalk, not in here.]
posted by cortex at 9:26 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


When I was a teenager, I read all his stuff. The Hobbema books, the baseball books, the works.

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learned WP was an early, loyal and long-term member and supporter of the Reform Party.
posted by docgonzo at 11:18 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Look, even if you remove the unintentional racism of Field of Dreams (and there's no doubt in my mind that it was completely unintentional), it's actually not that great a baseball movie--not bad, just not great. There's many better baseball movies out there.

I've always felt that, to truly understand what baseball means to Americans, you have to see the game through the eyes of the players who have a more....complicated relationship with American society. So for those baseball fans who are interested, please consider also viewing:

* If you want to see James Earl Jones in a good, authentic baseball picture, go watch him, Billy Dee Williams, and Richard Pryor in the 1976 Negro Leagues/barnstorming picture, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, in which he plays a character very loosely based on Josh Gibson. I would also suggest reading August Wilson's Pulitzer-Prize play Fences, in which Jones portrayed a man so disappointed that his professional baseball career was stunted by the major league color line that his anger devoured him from the inside out. Jones won a Tony in 1987 for that performance on Broadway.

* Sugar tells the story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a 19-year-old pitcher from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic who is trying to make the big leagues. It's an unflinching look at the life of a player trying to make it in a foreign land, unfamiliar with the language, customs and way of life.

* The documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero is about two prospects in the Dominican Republic who are about to celebrate their 16th birthdays, making them eligible to sign with a MLB team, and the shady, underhanded dealings they have to go through to make their dreams a reality.

* 42. Most of us know the story already, but do yourself a favor and pick this one up anyway. Harrison Ford gives his best performance in years as Branch Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as Jackie Robinson.

* The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. One of the greatest sluggers of them all, "The Hebrew Hammer" was also the first major leaguer to enlist in the military for WWII. A great documentary about a player not celebrated enough, IMO.

* A League of Their Own. The fictionalized story of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, founded to fill in the baseball gap when most MLB players went off to fight for their country. You know you're watching something special when Madonna does a good acting job.

* The Bad News Bears. Forget The Sandlot, this movie is about what Little League was really like. Bad News Bears broke the rules of what a movie centered around children should abide by, and I firmly believe it would never be made today. No list of greatest baseball films is complete without it.

* 61* Billy Crystal directs a phenomenal take on the story of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and their chase of Babe Ruth's home run record in a single season in the summer of 1961.

Those are among my favorites (and I'd love to hear anyone else's) because--among other things--they show that what was developed as a white man's game can still be meaningful to those who are not white, and are not men. That, to me, is the real power of baseball.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:52 AM on April 23 [84 favorites]


"Yeah, whatever, klang. Not every conversation about a movie from 1989 necessarily requires a "and this is fucked up about race because ____" self-criticism session."

So, uh, if you're gonna make claims like that, I'm gonna require you to cite every conversation about a movie from 1989, because I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of those conversations that don't touch on race at all.

I do enjoy the movie. I was enjoying this thread, and had almost forgotten about MeFi's tendency to insist on attacking virtually any piece of popular culture on racism or sexism grounds.

; _ ; MOAR WHITE TEARS FOR THE RACISM GOD

Sure, it's probably possible to find "problematic" aspects of virtually every mainstream film ever made. That doesn't make such digressions -- in a thread thus far dominated by fond memories of the film, and by discussions of father-son relationships -- universally welcome. Except, I guess, here.

I would like to thank you for being the straight man this evening — I assume you're intentionally setting me up for lines like, "You know who wasn't universally welcome? Black people during segregation."

Finally, "Marty McFly?" Cute. And by cute, obviously, I mean juvenile and insulting."

; _ ; MOAR WHITE TEARS FOR THE RACISM GOD

"So your contention is that, yes, every discussion about a 25 year old film needs to have a "and this is fucked up because ___" section? "

How about just this one? You know, with the big lacuna where the Civil Rights era goes?

I'm not sold. EVERYTHING is problematic for someone, but it's only at MeFi that I can absolutely rely on someone coming along to explain it about goddamn near every single book, show, or movie mentioned in a post."

Everything's problematic for somebody, so hey, let's not listen to reasonable criticism because it makes us feel guilty. Cantcha see that's a little bit, you know, willfully ignorant in a way that privileges your good time over having to hear about, you know, one of the biggest issues in baseball in the 20th century?

"Yes, Bulgaroktonos, because suggesting her comment was a bit out of left field in THIS particular conversation is absolutely trying to silence her. Nice use of loaded words there, and excellent rhetorical gambit. "

Dude, you complain that her mentioning it here is equivalent to "every conversation." Let's hop offa that "loaded words" cross, mmkay?

"This isn't about "my need to feel good about things." I feel fine. I do, however, grow weary of the degree to which every. single. mefi. thread. about enjoying any film, book, or show will absolutely include a derail explaining why the work is shitty. "

Uh, it wasn't about the work being shitty. It was about why she couldn't enjoy it, due to a pretty big criticism fairly leveled. Stop making your self worth reliant on public appreciation of Kevin Costner.

"Was segregated baseball a fucking travesty? Absolutely. Is the casting of Jones dissonant, given the context? No question. Is it weird they make him an icon of the 60s and Civil Rights that mysteriously never mentions segregated baseball? No argument here. The screenwriter or producer or someone fucked that up. But the movie you're asking for here is a very different movie than was implied by Shoeless Joe, the novel they were adapting. Maybe it's a better movie. I don't know. But it's not this movie."

Right. So now we take the thinking bus to the next station: Why wasn't it this movie? Why was segregation elided? Is it reasonable to infer that it's because none of the people involved in making the movie had any real connection to the black baseball experience (except, maybe, James Earl Jones, who doesn't seem to have raised it or if he did, it didn't make it in).

"I _do_ know that I'd much rather have the film with Jones than without (I imagine a forgettable older white dude as faux-Salinger). Obviously Jones isn't Salinger, so they had to make some changes to support his casting -- but, as in the book, the writer character is a supporting one. The main narrative can be pithily but not unfairly described as a Frank Deford wet dream wherein baseball is actually profound and pure and stuffed with redemptive magic for a disillusioned white baby boomer who thought farming would be a good way to make a living in the 1980s (about which: HUH?). "

Right, so again, let's take the thinking bus and head to the next station. If they're making changes to the story already, and changing the character to be a Civil Rights icon, what would be a good intersection between baseball and the Civil Rights movement, which would also coincidentally contain many of the best baseball players ever? (You're right about the farming thing.)

"That the resulting film ends up being not just watchable but genuinely moving is utterly shocking. I hate baseball, and I love this movie. Is it lillywhite? Sure. Some stories are. The magic conjured in the cornfield is tied to the baseball that existed in Ray's memories, and in Ray's memories of his father's memories. "

I love baseball and I enjoy this movie. However, I can enjoy something while acknowledging that it's pretty flawed. I enjoy the Mr. Moto movies with Peter Lorré despite them being hella racist in all sorts of complicated ways (a white dude in yellow-face outsmarts his racist white guy antagonists because they underestimate him). It's also no Bull Durham, which also lacks real black characters.

"I'm not sure 1919 counts as a high point for anything, really, unless you're a big fan of temperance. Women couldn't vote despite the fact that, 50 years prior, the question of more universal suffrage had resulted in the 15th Amendment. The version of 1919 in the film isn't exactly rosy, either: it's about the Black Sox scandal. The tl;dr here is that it's not at all clear what WASN'T fucked up in 1919. Even the memories of 1919 Sox are (deliberately) rose-colored, to better support the aforementioned Deford narrative."

Dude, the response to, '1919 was notable for its race riots and racial violence' is not, 'Women couldn't even vote!' You're missing the point pretty spectacularly.

"Do we then expect every film, book, and show to explore which things were fucked up in whatever time period they take place, regardless of connection to narrative? Surely not. Is any film about a boomer's baseball history with his father a whitewash if it fails to discuss segregated baseball? "

No, and no. However, is this film a whitewash when it has a Civil Rights character fail to actually talk about the biggest Civil Rights issue in baseball? Yeah, seems like.

"I wrote all this, and saw Magstheaxe's "focus on how good the water is" post. I'm going to post it anyway, but if that's your takeaway from my posts, I'm not sure there's any point in engaging with you."

Take your ball and go home? I mean, that's kinda the trade-off: If you're blithe and oblivious about race, people of color are totally justified in calling you out on it, and getting all pouty about that is a great way to demonstrate that your right to rose-colored nostalgia is greater than their right to not be written out of history.
posted by klangklangston at 1:43 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


"* 42. Most of us know the story already, but do yourself a favor and pick this one up anyway. Harrison Ford gives his best performance in years as Branch Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as Jackie Robinson. "

Really? You didn't think it was kinda preachy-preachy and really glossed over a lot of what went on? I mean, I saw it on a plane, but I was pretty meh about the whole thing.

"* The Bad News Bears. Forget The Sandlot, this movie is about what Little League was really like. Bad News Bears broke the rules of what a movie centered around children should abide by, and I firmly believe it would never be made today. No list of greatest baseball films is complete without it."

Tatum O'Neil and Walter Matthau cruise around LA without seatbelts, smoking cigarettes and drinking cans of beer. There is no way this could be made today; the remake was totally bowlderized.

I'd rather watch Major League and Eight Men Out, and I'd toss the Life and Times of Hank Greenberg in there because I'm a Tigers fan (though I've never seen Cobb, the story of one of the worst human beings ever to be really, really good at baseball).
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


I am deeply ashamed to admit that right up until I read magstheaxe's critique, I would have described myself as an unapologetic Field of Dreams fanboy. The problems that they articulated have never even crossed my mind, and, in hindsight, that's just goddamned embarrassing.

I am very grateful that magstheaxe posted what they did, because it provided a serious, healthy reality check. I can't say the same for any of your "contributions" to this thread, uberchef.

magstheaxe: no love for Eight Men Out?
posted by scrump at 2:04 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


>; ; MOAR WHITE TEARS

I stopped reading there.

I believe Cortex has made it clear already that further volleys are unwelcome. Let it go.
posted by uberchet at 2:20 PM on April 23


I really enjoyed Field of Dreams, for several reasons, on first viewing; oddly, in the cinema car of an Amtrak train between LA and Seattle. It's possibly useful to note that there may be a very wide range of reasons why a movie is liked. Mine, for FoD, are perhaps a little odd and personal.

I've also enjoyed watching it a few times since; I've never taken it as a historically accurate portrayal of baseball, even though it contains references to historical figures.

Though aware of the civil rights struggles, and various bits of American history with large gaps (am of English birth), I wasn't aware of the historical segregation in US baseball described in this thread. I'm glad I am now (all knowledge is good). And I'll still probably watch Field of Dreams again, and probably enjoy it, though with this new additional knowledge that it shoudn't be taken as historically, socially or culturally accurate.

As an interesting analogy, cricket (to some, the sister sport of baseball) has had its problems with racism and segregation over the years. One of the more notable incidents being the Basil D'Oliveira affair, which played a major part in South Africa's sporting isolation and the anti-apartheid history. Heck, that's a future FPP in itself for another day.
posted by Wordshore at 2:57 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


Magstheaxe, thank you both for that wonderful list and for giving us one of my favorite parts of MeFi: different perspectives on things I take for granted.

For those of you who enjoy both books about baseball and father/son relationships, I highly recommend "The Brothers K" by David James Duncan. Set in a small mill town in Washington during the 50s & 60s, it follows 4 brothers and their baseball hero father as he attempts to move up to the Big Leagues. An amazing (fiction) book, here's 2 quotes from it which also relates to Field of Dreams:

“I started having doubts right on top of my certainty.”

"Sometimes a strikeout means that the slugger’s girlfriend just ran off with the UPS driver. Sometimes a muffed ground ball means that the shortstop’s baby daughter has a pain in her head that won’t go away. And handicapping is for amateur golfers, not ballplayers. Pitchers don’t ease off on the cleanup hitter because of the lumps just discovered in his wife’s breast. Baseball is not life. It is a fiction, a metaphor. And a ballplayer is a man who agrees to uphold that metaphor as though lives were at stake."

As for the small ball theory: yes! Mostly because one of the best sports writing pieces ever was Faulkner's essay about hockey - "The vacant ice looked tired, though it shouldn't have" - and the best sports book ever written is Ken Dryden's The Game, and both are not about balls at all, but a hockey puck. Ha!
posted by barchan at 5:11 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


I love baseball. I don't love this movie. I respect that it seems to mean a lot to a lot of people, but if you want Kevin Costner + baseball...jeez, "Bull Durham" is right there.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:56 PM on April 23


I believe Cortex has made it clear already that further volleys are unwelcome. Let it go.

Cortex said that debating how the discussion should go is Metatalk fodder; the discussion itself is on topic.

And of course Field of Dreams wasn't uncontroversial at the time it came out for exactly those reasons mentioned before, its whitewashing of baseball history. This isn't something that people only noticed now, but something that was in play from the time it premiered.

Though obviously, like so many other matters of race, it could be pretty invisible for a great many people.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:38 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


There's many better baseball movies out there.

I want to know where the goddamn Clemente movie is. How can a big budget production about this guy's life not be available to me?
posted by DigDoug at 5:59 AM on April 24 [8 favorites]


I am deeply ashamed to admit that right up until I read magstheaxe's critique, I would have described myself as an unapologetic Field of Dreams fanboy. The problems that they articulated have never even crossed my mind, and, in hindsight, that's just goddamned embarrassing.

I am very grateful that magstheaxe posted what they did, because it provided a serious, healthy reality check.
posted by scrump at 5:04 PM on April 23


You know, when I made my original post in this thread, my only goal was to make the Field of Dreams fans here aware that a portion of their enjoyment of the film is predicated on a certain amount of white privilege. I still maintain that it's modern cinema's finest example of a movie made for, and enjoyed by, white people, but that doesn't mean I think it's without merit.

One of the things that I think Field of Dreams does very well indeed is tell a great father/son story. It's a little sappy for my personal taste, but at the same time, if there was a similar sappy mother/daughter story being told about, I dunno, cooking or gardening or something? With the same earnest sincerity? Yeah, I'd probably be a sobbing mess in the movie theater. So I freely admit my subjectivity on this. I also think there are amazing performances in the movie.

I just want people to understand that the inadvertent-yet-blatant racism in the movie is a big part of why some people who saw Field of Dreams--especially American who aren't white--don't enjoy it. For many viewers, that racism got in the way of the father/son story. It's a shame that it does, because that racism could have been very easily avoided in the story.

I'm not asking anyone to stop being a fan of Field of Dreams. Just be aware of the history of baseball made America's game is very different for some Americans. Different in a way that a character like Terence Mann simply could not ignore, and absolutely would not have ignored.

As an interesting analogy, cricket (to some, the sister sport of baseball) has had its problems with racism and segregation over the years. One of the more notable incidents being the Basil D'Oliveira affair, which played a major part in South Africa's sporting isolation and the anti-apartheid history. Heck, that's a future FPP in itself for another day.
posted by Wordshore at 5:57 PM on April 23


Wordshore, please do that FPP. I would love to learn more about that. I know nothing about cricket, but I've always had an interest in how racism/classism/sexism intersects with national pastimes.

magstheaxe: no love for Eight Men Out?
posted by scrump at 5:04 PM on April 23


GREAT SCOTT HOW COULD I FORGET EIGHT MEN OUT?



"* 42. Most of us know the story already, but do yourself a favor and pick this one up anyway. "

Really? You didn't think it was kinda preachy-preachy and really glossed over a lot of what went on? I mean, I saw it on a plane, but I was pretty meh about the whole thing.

posted by klangklangston at 4:51 PM on April 23


I would have liked to see 42 get more into what Jackie Robinson suffered through, but on the whole, I enjoyed it greatly. It did get heavy-handed, I agree with you there, but my thought was, well, there's a lot of people watching the movie who know very little about segregation in general (and baseball's color line in particular) and who may have to get hit with a narrative clue-by-four....

I'd rather watch Major League and Eight Men Out, and I'd toss the Life and Times of Hank Greenberg in there because I'm a Tigers fan (though I've never seen Cobb, the story of one of the worst human beings ever to be really, really good at baseball).
posted by klangklangston at 4:51 PM on April 23


My issue with Major League is very simple--it's not really a game about baseball. It's a game about winning over incredible odds. Let me explain.

I saw Major League in the theater and enjoyed it. Then I saw it on television a few years later, and still enjoyed it.

The day after I saw it on TV, I went to the theater with friends and saw a matinee of Necessary Roughness.

Oh. My. Goodness. IT WAS THE EXACT SAME MOVIE. The exact same story arc with nearly the exact same characters, only with a college football setting instead of a professional baseball setting.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Necessary Roughness, too. I still enjoy it, just as I still enjoy Major League. But roughly halfway through Necessary Roughness, I realized that neither movie was really about the sports featured. The sports were merely settings for telling the story of overcoming incredible odds, and easily replaceable settings at that. You could tell the exact same story with pro hockey, or college soccer, or professional tiddly-winks.

Now, I happen to enjoy movies about winning over incredible odds. I think motion pictures do those sorts of stories very well. My love for Major League and Necessary Roughness is not diminished by the fact that they're really about overcoming odds.

But those movies are not about their respective sports. So I don't include them in any of my personal "great baseball movies" or "great football movies" list. YMMV, of course.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:48 AM on April 24 [4 favorites]


Wordshore, please do that FPP. I would love to learn more about that. I know nothing about cricket, but I've always had an interest in how racism/classism/sexism intersects with national pastimes.

I might do, though am reassessing how I do FPPs as many previous ones of mine are unsatisfactory. Also, just spotted that there have been a few FPPs in the past on this issue, including an excellent one by Rodgerd.

Cricket has a bizarre history that is tangled up in British colonialism. Despite over 100 countries fielding a national cricket team, the big teams who play the top class versions of the game are England and nine countries colonised within the British Empire. Though it's more complicated than that e.g. the first international cricket match - in 1844 - was actually between the USA and Canada (Canada won).
posted by Wordshore at 8:21 AM on April 24


42 was something of a life changer for me. My dad recommended it when I was in the process of taking great offense at something stupid a couple of my brothers had engaged in. But it could have been anything, really.

He pointed out that greater men than me (my words, not his) have gone through so much more in their lives than I ever have or will, and have responded with much more grace than I do to my relatively minor daily struggles. 42 gave me the opportunity to watch the story of a man facing such glaring injustices, reigning in his righteous rage, and manning up under the weight of things to persevere and in fact thrive.

42 gave me hope that I can be a better me, even if I'll never struggle with what Jackie did.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:00 PM on April 24 [4 favorites]


Major League resonated with me as a baseball fan in particular though, for nothing more than caputuring the sheer joy of suddenly finding your favorite team full of losers and misfits winning, after you've spent years sitting in an empty stadium with your dad through late summer watching them suck eggs thoroughly and consistently just because you love the game.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:07 PM on April 24 [5 favorites]


This has been a really interesting thread - thank you all! I haven't seen Field of Dreams in about a million years, and I remember liking it a lot but also feeling manipulated by it (not that I mind a whole lot because hey, movies). But I also hadn't yet become a Real Baseball Fan when I first saw it.

All the other baseball movies I haven't seen that are recommended in this thread are going on my list of things to see, that's for sure. Thanks again!
posted by rtha at 6:28 AM on April 25


It's not a baseball movie. The baseball is secondary.

It is a story about fathers and sons. Like Hamlet.
posted by Bonzai at 8:28 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


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