Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baseball Movie

This is a LoEB post~

As the winter snow melts away and the days start to get a little longer I start to get that warm familiar feeling. Spring is in the air and to me that has always meant one thing. The longing to once again see a perfectly groomed baseball field.
The smell of the freshly cut grass and the leather mitts. The feel of the dirt beneath your cleats. The sound of horsehide as it cracks against a hand-turned hickory bat. All these things and more, experienced the best way the can be, through the eyes of a fictional character in a baseball movie.

Of the countless baseball movies I’ve seen throughout my life one stands out above all others. Always able to inspire me to feel that rush of competitive spirit, that nostalgia for the game…and yes, even the sense that I had actually gone outside and done something. The gold standard of baseball films! And that movie was called, um….okay I can’t remember what it was called per se but I remember the storyline like it was yesterday.

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Our story begins in Japan immediately after the Japanese Major League Baseball Pennant. Our heroes name is Tom Manumpi a former MLB player and private detective from Hawaii who was traded By Albert Higgins, coach of the Oahu Dobermans after being labeled “washed up.” Hoping to redeem himself in the Japanese league he found a struggling team in need of a little fun, a coach on the edge of losing his job and an opportunity to get back to the fundamentals of the game. Instead our hero learned nothing. Briefly starting (and ending) a romantic entanglement with the coaches daughter. He never adapted to Japanese culture and in the final game he disobeyed orders, broke the coaches national record, lost his team the game and got both of them fired.

Back at his apartment, the disgraced Gajin receives an urgent phone call from Hawaii. It seems he had won a contest entitling him to a spot on a major league baseball team, provided that he supply a coach for said team! (it was one of those phone calls you get saying you won a contest that you never entered…there is ALWAYS a catch to those) Traveling back to the US to return to his dream of baseball stardom, Thomas has a layover in Jamaica (not to be to much of a geography nerd here but that layout of countries goes: Japan-Jamaica-The United States, in that order) anyway, he decides to take in a few Jamaican libations and heads to the local watering hole where in an amazing turn of events he realizes that one of the local barflies is in fact a down on his luck, world famous baseball coach (and fly killing hobbyist) Hank Miyagi. Coach Miyagi fell out of the public eye after his star pitcher got his leg swept during the 1984 world series. After days of pestering Mr. Miyagi through inspirational speeches, songs and all-around wacky hijinks, Magnumpi finally convinces the coach to come out of retirement for one last shot at glory.

A week into playing for the Detroit Robo-Cops Coach Miyagi is busted for drunken driving and immediately fired from the team. He is sentenced to perform community service by coaching a team in the dreaded “Sand Leagues” His now loyal team captain Thomas, follows his chief but they have some trouble getting any of the other players to leave the safety of their major league contracts to play in the uncharted wilds of the sand league. In a desperate attempt to bring some talent with them they call star player Eddie “The Toledo Torpedo” James; a gifted player who became a pitching star as a teenager when a freak broken arm caused him to have incredible throwing strength. During the phone call Eddie tells Miyagi that all they have to say is “show me the money” confused by his request (it’s an unpaid position) they still comply. They say show me the money back and forth to each other over the phone for 23 straight hours while Thomas Magnumpi dances around Miyagi’s kitchen for no reason. Eventually The Torpedo agrees to take a chance on them and joins the new team.

The three men then embark on an aggressive recruiting adventure and along the way find some incredible talent…and ultimately, begin to find a little bit about themselves as well. More importantly they finally formed their team.

The Mighty News Wildcats!

Hank Miyagi- coach

Thomas Magnumpi- our hero

Eddie “The Toledo Torpedo” James- high powered recruit.

And the newest additions:

Bobby Biggs- an enormous and imposing figure, very protective and incredibly strong but actually a gentle giant with a heart of gold. Also in love with…

Chris (the puma) Leslie- First female major league baseball player in the league recruited for her amazing reflexes and hand/eye coordination developed during her decorated career as a field hockey player.

Tim “the ticking time bomb” Boombowski- A baseball phenom that the team desperately depends on and would be crushed if anything happened to him (for instance: getting injured right before the championship game)

Good Players #1-4- good players with some witty dialogue, who don’t have a ton to offer other than filling out the roster.

Chadwick Chalk III- A player with little self confidence but a lot of talent, who was kicked off of his team The Berkley Occupiers, for being part of the one percent. He’s on a journey to finally loosen up and be one of the guys.

Jack Pattella- a former softball player (who had joined the team by pretending to be a girl after being disqualified from playing for the baseball team) all disqualifications have long since expired but Jack has found that he just plays better dressed as a woman, and has continued the tradition.

Anthony Micelli- a tough, bruiser, hoodlum pulled from the mean streets and given a sense of purpose by joining a team. He learns to turn his criminal aggression into unorthodox baseball skill. He has an earring and wears a jean jacket with the arms cut off. Even while playing baseball.

Jamaal “Jokester” Jones- A player with no real talent aside from being hilarious comic relief who helps to keep the team together through his moral boosting, goofy gags.

Champ- a hyper-intelligent golden retriever who is inexplicably aloud to play on a professional baseball team but who ultimately gets kicked off for gambling.

At first this rag tag group of rapscallions has a ton of difficulty playing as a team, they don’t get along can’t play the game and their training results in side splitting sight gags! Over time (by which I mean a montage of training and games they begin to improve, turning their weird character traits and skills into unconventional baseball success.)

The team begins to plow their way through every team in the league they defeat The Cobra Kai Dojo, The Communist Russian Yaakov’s, The Icelandic EvilGuys and in one of the best scenes in the film they travel to an Iowa cornfield to play again the ghosts of past professional baseball players. They vanquish the evil spirits in the game and send those clawing and shrieking, apparitions back into the netherworld where they belong!
After the game against the ghosts their training has finally reached it’s apex because and they had learned the skills as well as the life lessons they would need to become champions. We knew this because “Stuck With You” By Huey Lewis and the News had finally stopped playing and the scenes of the baseball games had stopped being inter-cut with training scenes that had become increasingly less comical and more impressive.

Finally it was the day of the championship! Tim Boombowski had predictably gotten injured that morning and all the wind had been taken from the team’s sails. All seemed lost until Chadwick Chalk stepped forward. The team began to fall silent as he made one of the most stirring and inspiring speeches in film history. I don’t remember much of it but it had to do with the heart of a champion…something something teamwork. The love of the game and “if you must remember only one thing it’s…blah blah blah etc…. several of the players had tears in their eyes by the end of the speech and they began the slow clap… Even Micelli turned his baseball cap backward; his signature move when he was about to go “Game On!”

And the whole team needed to have a die-hard attitude since they were about to face the biggest challenge of their lives. The championship game against the Crushing might of The Cliché Villains! A team that plays dirty has no remorse and always…ALWAYS wins. Coached by the ruthless Bob Dragonav, overly competitive older brother of Hank Miyagi and somehow also the former mentor of Thomas Magnumpi turned Icelandic Baseball coach. The game is very evenly matched sometimes played at regular speed and sometimes slowed down to emphasize drama. The best example of this drama is when Chris “The Puma” becomes injured during the middle of the game by an illegal move. Causing the gentle giant to become not so gentle anymore and the team rallies around their fallen friend to begin a triumphant comeback. At the end of the game the team forms the Flying V (which, if you think about it, doesn’t even make sense in a baseball game) and scores the winning point.

Unbeknownst to the team, scouts from the MLB were in the crowd and approach Thomas Magnumpi with an offer, very difficult to refuse, a 4 year contract with a major league team that would surely propel him back into national fame and make him a millionaire. Faced with a decision between fame and fortune or the team that had become a family to him and had taught him lessons worth more than all the money in the world, he made the only decision that he could. He chose the money and the contract.

Though the team fell apart and lost touch with each other and their new found confidence they never forgot about their friend Thomas Magnumpi and they never forgot the most important thing he taught them.
“Scrape em’ off…you wanna save somebody? Save yourself.”

This movie still brings chills up my spine even talking about it. I live my life based on the lessons I learned in this movie and if I knew anything about baseball, I’m sure it’s pretty solid on that subject too. Not only is it personally inspiring to me, it’s one of the few movies that I always sit through the credits of and that is because of the end theme. Some rappers and Goldie Han sing a song that sums up the spirit of the movie and the game better than any blog ever could. It sort of sounds like they’re singing about football but I’m sure I just don’t understand it. They have to be singing about baseball right? I mean come on, it’s a baseball movie.

For other sporting adventures in baseball madness be sure to check out these posts from my league comrades!

AEIOU and Sometimes Why.

Revenge From The Cosmic Ark

Calvacade of Awesomeness

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