Baseball and The Oscars

Frank Lovejoy: "Well, Ronnie I gotta be honest with you. - You will never picth even a scripted no-hitter - nor will you ever win an Oscar for your acting, but ... let me ask you something ... have you ever thought about going into politics?"

Frank Lovejoy: “Well, Ronnie, I gotta be honest with you. – You will never pitch even a scripted no-hitter – nor will you ever win an Oscar for your acting, but … let me ask you something … have you ever thought about going into politics?”


Eight baseball movies have been nominated for various and sometimes multiple Academy Awards:

(1) Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Gary Cooper starred as Lou Gehrig. Cooper and the movie were both nominated for Best Actor and Best Picture, but neither won. Other nominations also included Best Actress (Theresa Wright), Best Screenplay, Best Writing, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Art Direction, Best Sound Recording, Best Special Effects, and Best Music. None of those listed won, but Daniel Mandell did take home the Oscar for Best Film Editing to crack the shell on an otherwise goose-egg finish for the film team on an evening of recognition. To the surprise of no one, neither Babe Ruth nor Bill Dickey were nominated for the each did portraying themselves. Ruth’s “oversight” was a little disappointing in the sense that he was much better as himself in “Pride” than either William Bendix or John Goodman would be in their later and much later film portrayals of The great Bambino.

(2) The Stratton Story (1949) – Jimmy Stewart starred as Monty Stratton, the Texas farm boy who showed promise as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox before he lost a leg in a hunting accident. Unfortunately, Jimmy didn’t have the athleticism it takes to be convincing. Frank Morgan’s portrayal of the down-and-out bird dog scout who falls off a freight train just in time to discover and sign Stratton after watching him pitch in a Texas town ball game, unfortunately, was a virtual replay of his character in “The Wizard of Oz” as “Professor Marvel”, the shadow character to his later star appearance in the same classic OZ film as “The Wizard”. – In the “Stratton” film, when the lead character shoots himself while hunting alone and has to straggle back to his house with no help, we almost expected Professor Marvel to appear as a distant witness to utter his immortal lines from “The Wizard of Oz”: “Poor little kid! I hope he gets home all right!”  – At the 1950 Academy Awards, another shutout was avoided when Douglas Morrow took home the Oscar for Best Screenplay for his story.

(3) Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) – This color film is notable as one of Robert De Niro’s earliest performances. After Bang the Drum Slowly, De Niro starred in Mean Streets, The Godfather: Part II and Taxi Driver, consecutively. Vincent Gardenia earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but did not win. De Niro was brilliant in the role of a limited ability, not-too-bright aspiring catcher, but his absent star power in those days probably kept him from getting the nomination and possibly the Oscar. (This brings up why baseball is so much fairer than acting or practically anything else in life away from sports. If you are Carlos Correa, and not an unknown Robert Di Nero, you don’t have to wait for the powers-that-be to nominate you for great rewards. In baseball, and most team sports, you get those rewards from your measurable performance on the field. If you can do it right away, you get it right away.)

(4) The Natural (1984) – It was the movie that made hitting the cover off the ball a literal event – and a home run slam that breaks a lighting arc and sets off a shower of exploding light the symbol of ultimate triumph in baseball. Roy Hobbs could do it all, even get himself shot by a crazed female fan, ala Eddie Waitkus, while being a far greater loss to the game than Waitkus ever would be as a contributor. Robert Redford was perfect for the part of this super hero, of course, and maybe, along with Kevin Costner in other baseball roles, one of the two most “naturally” gifted athletes whoever asked an audience to suspend their editorial brains and accept them each as real baseball players on the screen. Glenn Close earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Iris Gaines, the childhood sweetheart of Roy Hobbs on his road to baseball redemption. The Natural was also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. – The movie hit the “snider” – and took home no Oscars.

(5) Bull Durham (1988) – This was the movie that made a lot of us wish for some early might-have-been-time memories also as players on the roster of the Durham Bulls with Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh. Surely, Annie Savoy either had some extra friends or extra time.  Crash Davis’ passionate plea to Annie Savoy was, at least, memorable. Crash told Annie that “the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap.” Ron Shelton wrote that line along with all the other dialogue and story and that earned him a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He didn’t win, but he left us wishing forever that we might get to see again another pitcher beaning a sidelines mascot at some point in our baseball fan lifetimes.

(6) Field of Dreams (1989) – “If you build it, they will come.” ~ Whispers in an Iowa cornfield. ~ Shoeless Joe Jackson and friends coming out of a corn field to play baseball on field that had been built for them on good faith and a young man’s love for the game. ~ The presence and authoritative voice of James Earl Jones, lending his holy book sanctifying expressions to everything that transpired there. ~ Moonlight Graham, showing up to get that time at bat he missed decades earlier, only to cross the line and be transformed again into his elder identity as Doc Graham for the sake of saving an injured child. ~ A father and son reunion to beat all others on a field of dreams. ~ The stream of cars that finally come ~ bearing souls who seek for themselves ~ a chance to bathe their hearts and minds in the visual waters ~ of the place that fast became known to fans from all over ~ as the Lourdes of Baseball. ~ And, in 2016, they still come, in the hope of finding themselves again.

At the 1990 Academy Awards, Field of Dreams was nominated for three awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. The profound baseball theme must have been lost on the non-baseball fan award voters. Remarkably, Field of Dreams won nothing.

(7) Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995) – We never personally saw this documentary by Michael Tollin. It supposedly was about the life and career of Hank Aaron and it featured such luminaries as Ken Griffey Jr., Dusty Baker, Yogi Berra, President Jimmy Carter, David Justice and Frank Thomas. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, but did not win.

(8) Moneyball (2011) – Aaron Sorkin wrote the adapted screenplay of Michael Lewis’ best-selling book about Billy Beane and the use of sabermetrics by modern baseball clubs. The film earned a total of six nominations at the 2012 Oscars. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were nominated for Best Actor (Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Hill). Moneyball also earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay (Sorkin). The sabermetric path to victory at the Oscars apparently is still a work-in-progress. – Moneyball won nothing.


Five Famous Actors That Never Made The Oscar Nomination Cut: *

(1) William Bendix as Babe Ruth in “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948) ~ although it remains my sentimental favorite baseball movie from childhood.

(2) Ray Milland as Mike Kelly in “It Happens Every Spring” (1949) ~ Pitcher Kelly had that wood-repellent juice he rubbed into balls that helped him lead the Cardinals to a National League pennant.

(3) Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander in “The Winning Team” (1952) ~ Like the rest of the actors on this list, Reagan wasn’t athletically credible.

(4) Dan Dailey as Dizzy Dean in “The Pride of St. Louis” (1952) ~ Also got what he deserved from the Academy.

(5) Anthony Perkins as Jimmy Piersall in “Fear Strikes Out” (1957) ~ Worst impersonation of a ballplayer. Ever.

  • The first four listed movies were enjoyable, but none of the five had a shot at an Oscar as credible bodies of writing, acting, or historically accurate works.


Have a nice Monday, everybody!

 eagle-0range Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


4 Responses to “Baseball and The Oscars”

  1. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Two comments:
    1. Fever Pitch, 2005, is a good baseball movie as it is written from an obsessive Red Sox fan’s perspective of the game, rather than a player’s. Also, it’s ending had to be rewritten as the curse of the Bambino was broken at the end of that season.
    2. Your description of The Natural’s Oscar performance uses an expression that I have not heard before.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Mike – I was playing loose when I wrote “hit the ‘snider’ ” to describe getting shut-out at the Oscars. The original word here is “schneide”, a German term for “edge”. A tailor who cut that edge was known as a “Schneider” (pronounced “Schnyder”). It first came into use as a term for those who cut it too close at cards and lost a lot of money. In time, “hitting the Schneider” moved from card losers to baseball teams losing a game, either big time, or by having no runs in a one-sided game. To “get off the Schnyder” in such a one-sided shutout, a club had to score.

      Hope that helps. And thanks for asking. That’s, at least, the take on that term’s history that I go by. Others may have different ideas on its derivations. – Bill.

  2. Cliff Blau Says:

    Re Field of Dreams:
    It’s “If you build it, he will come.” Not “they will come.”

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Cliff – Whenever I make an uninformed, careless, or unconscious mistake in print, I am among the first to apologize, when corrected. No apologies this time. I know the literal quote like the the back of my hand and I do understand its pertinence to the movie’s story line. I wrote “they will come” as an allusion to the quantifiably larger effect of what happens when an Iowa farmer builds a baseball field within his corn crop that attracts the likes of Joe Jackson from beyond the grave for a few more games. The “they” of my reference includes all of those snake-lining car lights that are trying to reach the magical ballpark in the final scene – and every MLB team that has since used “if you build it, they will come” as an argument for local governments putting up the money to build their club’s new ballparks. – Thanks for giving me the opportunity to articulate the basis for this particular “allusion” for scorekeepers everywhere. 🙂

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