TCM Baseball Movie Fest Brings Smiles


Yesterday proved itself a dawn-to-dusk baseball movie parade on the Turner Classic Movie channel, stating at 5:00 AM with Joe E. Brown in “Alibi Ike” (1935) and moving continuously on through Robert Young in “Death on the Diamond (1934), William Bendix in “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948), Ray Milland in “It Happens Every Spring” (1949), Jackie Robinson playing himself in “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950, Paul Douglas in the original and best version of “Angels in the Outfield” (1951), and Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander in “The Winning Team” (1952).

Except for “Alibi Ike”, which I already have on DVD, I recorded them all on DVR. – What a treasure. Now all I have to do is figure out what I need to do to transfer them all from the Direct TV DVR to DVD disks. Just another item for the “ASK NEAL” list I keep close by for the next free time I have with my very busy adult son.

My late mom had a saying that came quickly to mind yesterday as I looked in on some of the movies that I was recording. I’d seen them all many times over, of course, but Mom’s words rang loudly on Friday. She used to say: “Sometimes you can stretch the truth so far that all the rubber falls out of a good story.”

No kidding, Mom!

How about two Cardinals getting murdered by gamblers on the day of their big pennant-deciding game with the Giants in “Death on the Diamond”. One is given a poison hot dog prior to the big game. The other is shot in the heart during the big game as he rounds third, trying to score the winning run. (The Giants catcher even tags him out before they even start checking his vital signs.)

Bendix as Babe Ruth, of course, is one truth stretch or lie piled upon another. This Ruth doesn’t merely point to center field when he calls his shot, he deliberately takes two called strikes before jabbing his finger defiantly to center and then crushing the ball there for a home run that he had promised to hit for a seriously ill kid. When Ruth dies, he is operated upon by the same doctor who saved the life of a little dog in Chicago much earlier when Ruth accidentally pulled a foul ball that hit another kid’s pet, causing Ruth to miss the game while he and the kid searched for help with “poor little Pee Wee” in an action which saves the pup but gets Ruth fined and suspended from the Yankees. The whole movie is that hokie, but I still love it because of the effect it had on this tender-hearted kid who fell in love with the goodness and greatness of Babe Ruth back in 1948. Yes, I know Ruth did not really yield his position to a rookie in the 9th inning of his big 3-HR game in Pittsburgh in 1935, and never play again, but it feels good to think he could have done so, had it occurred to him.

Mom, stretching the truth so far that all the rubber falls out of the story? Were you trying to tell me that Ray Milland could not have been an unbeatable pitcher had he been given a wood repellant substance to rub on the ball before he threw to the best hitters in baseball? I suppose you think some umpire along the way would have checked the glove he wore and discovered that big hole in the pocket with moist sponge behind it!

As for Jackie Robinson playing himself in the original movie version of what became “42” in 2013, there was no stretching of the truth here. Jackie Robinson was a great ballplayer and a terrible actor – and that’s exactly how the movie played out.

“Angels in the Outfield”? – It came off credible to me in 1951 and it still does.

As for Ronald Reagan and Doris Day as his wife in “The Winning Team”, it was a total rubber fallout for me when I learned from my own studies of that time that Alexander had not really struck out the last batter in Game Seven. That 1926 World Series ended with Babe Ruth getting thrown out on an attempted steal of second base, but that wasn’t good enough for Hollywood. They had to make it a dramatic example of how Alexander succeeded only because his loving wife was there to support him through the experience as the other member of “the winning team”.

She may have been his personal Mojo in what is arguably the greatest clutch performance by a pitcher in a World Series, but it wasn’t necessary to change the ending of the Series to get that point across. – Hey, they could’ve had Doris Day as Mrs. Pete Alexander winking at first base runner Ruth and shouting something like, “Hey, Babe! I double dare you to try to steal second base on my husband!”

Have some fun this weekend, folks! ~ Go write you own happy endings!


4 Responses to “TCM Baseball Movie Fest Brings Smiles”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    Bill, my project right now sans cable is to take my large library of videotapes and transfer them to DVD before they’ve deteriorated too badly. Among these were several old baseball movies like the ones you mentioned. If you have room for more, I can recommend “Kill The Umpire” where Bendix becomes an ump with double vision, “Rhubarb” where a cat becomes a team owner and Milland his caretaker, “Safe at Home” where a Florida kid sneaks away to find Mantle and Maris at spring training and “The Kid From Left Field” where a player’s son becomes manager of a team. All black and white films and all stretch credibility in Hollywood fashion but they are all fun to watch. Enjoy!

  2. gregclucas Says:

    Best thing about TCM is the last time I tried it they don’t have copy guard on anything. So you can copy from your DVR OK. Haven’t done any dubbing for a year or so, though. I already grabbed off most of the films you have been watching to DVD.

  3. Bill McCurdy Says:

    … from Kathleen and Larry Miggins:

    “Dear Bill, you too Norma, We sure enjoy your biographies of the stars of the Houston Buffs of yesteryear,some familiar and others before our time. you manage to shine a very bright light on All of them.

    “Thank you so much for your kindness in relating the oft told story of Larry’s balking at escorting the Buff Queen as a concession to modesty!!! Those were the days when ‘Virtue held an honored place in our daily lives.; For all your dedication to the great sport of baseball we thank you.

    “Larry and I indulged ourselves watching the remarkable story about Babe Ruth.followed by a funny lighthearted one and then the Jackie Robinson saga, All tastefully presented and suitable for any age group.

    “Stay cool and be assured of our love.

    “Sincerely, Kathleen and Larry”

  4. Shirley Virdon Says:

    Bill, A comment concerning the movie “42”——I thought it was a very good movie except for the scriptwriter taking such liberties in the part about Fritz Ostermueller and the Pirates and the Phillies manager yelling and using such derogatory language! The umpires would have NEVER allowed that in those days! That was too much Hollywood spin and very hurtful to the family members who are still living! No one bothered to check with them on authenticity! Sad commentary on a movie which was otherwise well done. I thought Harrison Ford was excellent as Branch Rickey!
    Aren’t the old movies fun?
    Take care ,
    Shirley V.

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