Hollywood misses the mark

I like baseball movies, but frequently they make me crazy.

“A League of Their Own” was on cable this morning, and in general, it’s a fairly accurate representation of the old All American Girl’s Professional Baseball League.

Until the last 20 minutes or so.

In the championship game scene, when Kit goes for an inside-the-park home run after driving in the game-tying run, she crashes into her sister Dottie at the plate. Dottie is knocked backwards after making the tag with the ball in her hand inside her mitt, and as the dust clears, she’s on her back with the ball in her hand, and her fingers open up and it rolls away.

The umpire yells “safe!” The Racine Belles beat the Rockford Peaches 3-2.

Now, in a real game, once the tag was made for the final out, the game would be over, and it wouldn’t matter what happened after she hit the ground. If the ball had been knocked out of her hand in the act of making the tag, different story. But at least a full second or two passed before she released the ball. I know, I know, it’s only a story, but they could’ve written that scene differently for the same result.

Later in the film the now-aged female players are told they’re being “inducted” into the Hall of Fame. Total myth, and one that drives the folks in Cooperstown crazy.

Every so often someone arrives at the Hall of fame claiming to be related to a Hall of Famer. When asked to identify said member, some of these good people name a former AAGPBL player, and they’re amazed to find out that there’s no plaque with their cousin or aunt’s name on it. What there is, is a small display about the league, but no genuine members of the HOF.

Remember the film “Major League” with Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger? In that one, the producers would have you believe that the players report to spring training and live in a dorm at the ballpark, sleeping in bunk beds. As if.

“The Babe,” the 1992 version of Babe Ruth’s life story starring John Goodman, is also a loser in the accuracy department. It makes the 1948 Bill Bendix version of Ruth’s life look like “Gone With the Wind.”

That Goodman makes Prince Fielder look thin in the film is an understatement. Brief side story: When the film was being made in 1991, I was working for Rand McNally as a consultant on The Rand McNally Baseball Atlas, which was published in 1992. Rand McNally sent me to Hollywood to talk to some Universal Studio bigwigs who had expressed some interest in advertising the film in the book.

A studio flack handed me a stack of stills shot on the set of the film. He made the comment that “John lost 65 pounds to play this role.” I responded by telling him if he’d look behind Goodman, he’d find all 65.

Goodman’s heft aside, the scene that made me the most nuts was when he homered three times against the Pirates at the end of his career. After hitting the first two, he runs to first and slaps the hand of a “courtesy runner.”

What is this, slow pitch softball? There were no courtesy runners in 1935, or really ever, for that matter. Once he did it the first time, he’d be out of the game. After the third home run, he waved off the runner and circled the bases himself. Whoopee.

The film also has that game as Ruth’s last, when in fact, he played another week. He grounded out to first in his final at-bat against the Phillies at Baker Bowl, Thursday, May 30, 1935.

I always wished that someone would’ve made the Ruth story in the 1960’s and cast Jonathan Winters in the lead. He looked like the Babe, and was certainly capable of playing a straight dramatic role. Big baseball fan, too.

I realize that a certain amount of artistic license has to be granted to a filmmaker, but it crosses the line when they change the rules of the game, or simply make up facts to enhance a scene. Don’t get me started on “Fear Strikes Out.”

As to baseball films I like, I’d name “The Jackie Robinson Story,” “Pride of the Yankees,” and “Eight Men Out.” There are others, but those are what come immediately to mind.

Didn’t care much for “Bull Durham” either, to be truthful.