Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Greatest Movie Runs at MLB Incredibility

February 15, 2019

Perhaps our column title slightly overstates our case. Almost all baseball movies, whether they deserve the viewing time we give them or not, usually reach for and achieve the incredible on some level. And why not? Baseball is the sport which invites its fans and media to anticipate the improbable great joy, but to also find something magical about it.

For example: Once Upon a Time, the greatest legendary slugger, a fellow named Babe Ruth, not only blasted a home run to center field at Wrigley Field to deaden the spirits of the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, he apparently also “called his shot” on the way to leading the New York Yankees to another victory in Game Three of a Four Game sweep of the World Series. ~ And there’s never been any argument that he didn’t forecast his actions either. …. Right?

These just happen to be nine of the many baseball movies that effected me deeply as a kid, but most-to-all of them required me to make a little credibility stretch that was vital to me loving them too.

My favorite baseball movies aren’t even on today’s list. In no particular order, my favorites include: The Natural ~ Field of Dreams ~ Bull Durham ~ League of Their Own ~ Eight Men Out and Major League. There were others, but this is more than enough for today.

Let us hear from you if you’ve ever been put off by bad acting, bad script, or the absence of baseball ability by an actor in a key role. I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.


9. Gary Cooper
as Lou Gehrig
Pride of the Yankees (1942)


Gary Cooper had the physical resemblance and personality for his role as Lou Gehrig and he did a masterful job of acting in both his delivery of Lou’s famous “happiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium and his portrayal of how this horrible disease that killed him takes over the body in the early stages.

Credibility Stretch: Cooper was not a ballplayer. We’ve all read the stories of how they reversed the jersey and allowed him to swing right-handed and run to third from home for film that would later make it appear that he had been hitting left-handed. He was just more at home riding horseback than he was hitting a horsehide ball.




8. Robert Young
as “Larry Evans”
Death on the Diamond (1934)


Well named. Ballplayers are dying faster than the guys pulling hamstrings, but this one ends well when the club’s star player, Larry Evans, both helps the club solve the crimes as he also leads his team to the championship in one of those typical fast-moving and fast-talking film adventures of the early tinny sound years of movie history.

Credibility Stretch: It’s a little hard to believe that ballpark security was that poor at the big league level, even if it is “only a movie” and the year was way back in the depression culture 1934. They could have renamed this one as “The Gashouse Gang Gets Gassed”.




7. Dan Dailey
as Dizzy Dean
Pride of St. Louis (1952)


I’ve always loved the fact that this movie features Dailey as Dean playing at a stadium that is supposed to be Buff Stadium in Houston (but is not) and that it features Dailey as Dean wearing what appears to be a ’51 Buffs uniform (about 20 years past the 1931 time of Dizzy’s big year in our town.)

Credibility Stretch: Dan Dailey was no Dizzy Dean. Speaking in “twang” is not enough to make an actor credible as this unique and funny personality. And Dailey’s movements on the mound are not enough to convince me that he could have thrown the ball for 60 feet, six inches on every pitch at any speed. The script also sucked.



6. James Stewart
as Monty Stratton
The Stratton Story (1949)


Jimmy Stewart does a good job as the small town Texas boy who sees his MLB pitching career ended by a hunting gunshot injury that costs him the loss of a leg. The movie is the story of the man’s rise from depression and despair to pitch again on a limited basis with the help of a prosthetic leg and a whole lot of heart and help from family and friends. And he does it at kind of semi-pro All Star Game, again, at another venue that is posing as Buff Stadium.

Credibility Stretch: On one leg or two, the Jimmy Stewart version of Monty Stratton just shows up again as proof that great actors are, more often not, pitchers who would not last more than a game or two at the Grade D ball level. Stewart, at least, has the power to convince his audiences to forget their “lying eyes” and to buy into what he’s trying to sell as the powers of the character he’s playing.


5. Edward G Robinson
as Hans Lobert
Big Leaguer (1953)


As former big leaguer Hans Lobert, “Edward G” conducts a spring training camp for young prospects of the NY Giants, managing to get into all kinds of mentoring ship problems the young 18-22 year olds may be having finding the key to their futures. Lobert weaves his way into becoming the Darth Vader of either their success or vexation paths as serious baseball players. Edward G’s character is cool, calm and deliberate. Very convincing in a soap opera kind of way. They could have titled this one “Days of Our Diamond.”

Credibility Stretch: Remember. This is Edward G. Robinson in the lead role. Whenever one of the rookies reacts by word or action in opposition to leader Lobert, you keep waiting for him to light up a cigar and hit back with that famous, “Oh, a wise guy, huh?” It simply never happens. But neither does the story line. You can’t fix all their aches and pains by helping them find a girl.


4. William Bendix
as Babe Ruth
The Babe Ruth Story (1948)


We’ve been over this road in mind and print here more often than I care to remember, but this first animated version of my 10-year old lives still contains points that make me cry in sadness, appreciation and longing for Babe Ruth. That closing scene in which Ruth is in the hospital, the kids are singing the baseball anthem outside his window, and they are now wheeling the Bambino out of his room and down the hall for experimental drug treatment ~ and the whole thing ends on scenes from a kids’ sandlot game while an angelic chorus concludes “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” As the film ends, even now, it’s still hard for me to type and also think about that moment too much at the same time.

Credibility Stretch: What stretch? Everything in the movie looked absolutely real to me. And that includes the time a teenage Babe left a round hole in a St. Mary’s School window glass with an errantly thrown baseball and, a few minutes later, throws it back outside through the same hole from 60 feet away inside ~ without shedding even one extra sliver of glass.


3. Ronald Reagan as
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1952)


One thing can be said for Ronald Reagan for sure. He may not have been able to act like Lawrence Olivier, or worse, even come close to pitching with all the ability of the real Grover Cleveland Alexander, but. like him or not, he was keen enough as a major politician to have gotten himself elected President of the United States and the worldwide leader of the real “Winning Team” ~ The United States of America.

Credibility Stretch: It’s the same one that came with every film we may have watched featuring Ronald Reagan. ~ As a viewer, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you will have to admit that you never really get over the fact that you are watching Ronald Reagan in any movie he makes ~ and not the character he is supposed to be playing. By looks, behavior, or skill, Reagan was no Alexander.


2. Ray Milland
as Mike “King” Kelly
It Happens Every Spring (1949)


A baseball fan/university research chemist accidentally invents a wood-repellant liquid. He cuts a quarter size hole in the pocket of a baseball glove and loads it up with the “stuff” in a sponge placed strategically behind the glove-pocket-hole and then rushes off to the big leagues with a few bottles of his magic to try to win a World Series for “St. Louis” under an assumed name. Although the movie never clarifies if Mike Kelly’s team is NL or AL, assume it to be the Cardinals. This kind of luck never fell into the hungering laps of the old Browns club.

Credibility Stretch: Not once do the befuddled batters ask for or simply receive any help from the umpires on a requested inspection of Kelly’s glove and that doozy of a pocket hole. For that matter, the St. Louis management or other players ever seem to notice or raise any question about Kelly’s possible use of a foreign substance.


9. Anthony Perkins
as Jimmy Piersall
Fear Strikes Out (1957)


Jimmy Piersall: “Pop, I hit .346 at Birmingham this year. (1951)

Piersall’s Father: “Well, that’s not Boston, is it, Son?”

That paraphrased exchange between Piersall and his dad was pretty much the dynamo of “Fear Strikes Out.” Piersall keeps trying to please his dad, but never quite makes it. Then finally explodes from his mortal fear of failure and has a full-blown psychotic mental breakdown ~ one that includes running the bases backwards on the heels of a home run and then climbing the screen behind home and yelling all the anger that had been building. Perkins’ ability to act far out runs his inability to play baseball with even a smidgeon of credibility.

Credibility Stretch: Anytime actor Perkins was shown throwing a baseball.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher









A Century Ago in America

December 10, 2018

Sigmund Freud, The Father of Psychiatry
Steven Spielberg should produce, direct, and star in
the bio-movie of Freud’s life.


Thank you, fellow St. Thomas High School classmate Ed Szymczak from the Class of 1956 for sending me this list of everyday data on different aspects of Life in America back in 1917. Even though these reports are from an era that transpired only a little more than 100 years ago, it’s still hard to wrap the mind around how much life has changed since that version of everyday life was regarded as someone’s “good old days” ~ and even more mind-staggering to consider how things may be from now ~ for those heading into the Christmas of 2118. ~ Do you think there will still be something called “Christmas” that people celebrate a hundred years from now? ~ Well, if Christmas remains tied to the retail gift industry, or whatever they call it in another hundred years, and why would it not be still so joined, my guess is “yes” ~ there will be.

Here’s The 1917 List of Facts about their era. (I have no idea about their efficacy, or who put them together, but they do sound credible):

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years

Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of homes had a telephone.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 & $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year

A dentist $2,500 per year.

A veterinarian between $1,500 – $4,000 per year.

And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as “substandard.”

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were:

  1. Pneumonia and influenza
  2. Tuberculosis
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke

The American flag had 48 stars …

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.

There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.

Two out of every 10 adults could not read or write

And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstore. Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!”

(A TPPE Addition): Back then, Dr. Sigmund Freud prescribed cocaine to patients suffering from depression.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help…

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Rest In Peace, Joe Hardy

July 10, 2018

Rest In Peace


Born: July 11, 1931 in Hannibal MO

Died: July 09, 2018 in Bethesda, MD

Age: 86, 2 Days Shy of 87th Birthday.

Batted: Right ~ Threw: Right

Height: 6’1” ~ Weight: 185

Position: Center Field

Major League Batting Record, One Season ~ Washington Senators:

23 1954 100 423 105 178 122
57 11 59 76 1 12 4 23 .421

Shoeless Joe ~ He ain’t, no mo!

The legendary Joe Hardy passed away at his home in Bethesda, MD earlier today from apparently “natural” causes. In so doing, his death turns out to be about the only observable thing that has come about naturally from Joe before our curious eyes during his lifetime in the Washington DC area.

Are you old enough to remember the 1954 season? That was the year that the Cleveland Indians played most of the AL season as the heir apparent to the benefits now befalling to another good team as a result of an age crack that seemed to be opening up in the five-year (1949-53) championship run of the New York Yankees.

The Washington Senators, as expected, were busy in the early season, simply settling into their usual cellar door spot and squat work, and probably wondering if the relocation of the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore as the Orioles might result in an over-supply of losing baseball in the now closer-to-each-other general physical area – generating concern that a saturation of losing might hurt the home crowd gates in both neighboring cities.

Little Benny Van Buren was the Sens manager in 1954, but he really didn’t have much talent on that club. All he could tell the fans is what he told his players: “Boys and Girls, this game of baseball is only one part talent. – The rest is heart. – You gotta have heart! ~ Miles and Miles and Miles of Heart!”

The Senators seemed doomed to their usual doldrums spot at – or very damn near – the absolute lowest spot in the American League cellar. But then, one day in late May, a magical thing happened.

A very powerful, swift, and athletic young man named Joe Hardy showed up with his agent ~ a sinister, but always smiling and polite fellow named Applegate. Applegate wanted an impromptu tryout for Joe Hardy and – given the fact that the Senators were still reeling from a live and ongoing 13-game losing streak, it didn’t take much to convince Benny Van Buren that he had nothing to lose by giving Joe Hardy a look-see.

Long story short. – Joe played like a direct gift from the baseball gods. Even though they weren’t much for talent, Hardy killed everything the Senator pitchers threw him at the tryout over the fence. Not a single pitch stayed at home. They all left the yard and disappeared into the dark capitol night.

Joe Hardy had a great season before he mysteriously disappeared. His 9th inning home run to deep center field at the Polo Grounds won the 1954 World Series for Washington over the New York Giants. Willie Mays was inches away from a “catch” that would have been celebrated forever, but … you just don’t catch flying balls that seem to defy the laws of both gravity and inertia.

Hardy also caught Willie Mays’ game and series ending long fly to center and kept right on going to the clubhouse. It was probably a half hour later that the Senators all returned to their dead center clubhouse under those stands and realized that Joe was missing. A couple of bat boys were sent out the back stadium exit to look for Joe and they came back with a curious report.

“We didn’t find Joe,” one of the boys said, “but we did find this old guy about two blocks down the street, hobbling away in a Senators uniform. He looked enough like Joe to have been his grandfather, but it could not have been Joe. That guy looked like he was older than dirt.”

How Joe disappeared for a half century and was discovered living in Bethesda about twenty years ago is another story for another day, but we plan to seek out a follow-up interview with Joe’s wife, Mrs. Lola Hardy, and see what she’s willing to tell us about the mystery of her now late husband, after a reasonable period of mourning.

This just in. – One of our reporters says he earlier today went to see Mrs. Hardy at her home and was turned away for an interview. While he was there, he snapped a photo of Mr. Applegate as he was coming out of the Hardy home from his own meeting with Mrs. Hardy.

Mr. Applegate’s new photo now simply fans the flames of mystery. – The guy doesn’t look a day older than he did back in the mid-20th century, when he and Joe Hardy showed up for the latter’s 1954 tryout with the Senators.

Rest in Peace, Joe Hardy (if possible)!

And Rest in Peace too, Tab Hunter! You did a great job as Joe Hardy in the movie version of “Damn Yankees” and you should be remembered favorably for it forever.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle




Today’s Leaders and Look-A-Likes

June 23, 2018

“We Represent – the Back-To-Back-To-Back Guild!
We Wish to Welcome You To – Minute Maid!”

2018 American League Batting Average Leaders

 Through Games of 6/22/2018:

# Leaders Team G AB H BA
1 Jose Altuve Astros 77 306 106 .346
2 Mookie Betts Red Sox 58 225 77 .342
3 Jean Segura Mariners 71 296 99 .334
4 Mike Trout Angels 75 259 86 .332
5 JD Martinez Red Sox 73 278 90 .324
6 Matt Duffy Rays 59 234 75 .321
7 Eddie Rosario Twins 71 282 89 .316
8 Michael Brantley Indians 63 258 81 .314
9 John Jay Royals 73 293 91 .311
10 Andrelton Simmons Rays 65 238 73 .307
  • Astros Above shown in bold type.



Actor Ed Harris

New Rice Baseball Coach
Matt Bragga

Matt Bragga is the new Rice baseball coach. Proving yet again, in spite of our seemingly almost infinite capacity for looking differentially separate from one another, that there are still only a relatively few archetypes from which all these variations we occupy all evolve. Then along comes a face, smile, body type, and language/speech pattern that is DNA-remindful that Matt Bragga may be somehow related to a generationally older, but still working actor named Ed Harris.

If Bragga is anything as a coach that is remindful of a typical Harris movie character, Rice baseball foes better prepare to take a few slugs to the gut in seasons to come.


People watching. It’s still our most popular universal pastime, but that’s also another reason why baseball is so big and now growing as an international sport. More than any other sport we know, baseball offers the observer a better long-time look at both the face and character of its players through the unfolding of each three-act play we fans call “the game.”

It even helps us survive games like the 1-0 Astros loss to the Royals last night. The Astros didn’t simply lose a winnable game at MMP Friday night. More accurately tuned to the way the whole contest played out, from the start of an Astro fan perspective, in the end, the Astros failed to win a losable game. They just played their part through 27 outs as a team that was on its way to losing until that final result was the one they reached – in spite of a gazillion aborted chances they failed to grasp as happier ultimate alternatives.

Today’s another day. We won’t begin to see today’s game script face until somebody throws the next pitch that counts.

When we do see it, it will not be the first time we see its ugly to handsome archetype configurations, while it is also establishing itself as like no other game we’ve previously ever seen.

Baseball. Gotta love it.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


My Double Play: Old Movies and Baseball

August 23, 2017



She Said What???

The quote from this early scene in the 1935 movie, “Biography of a Bachelor Girl”, is what some unspecified members of the old movie industry censorship code group (1930-68) thought they heard when they happened to hear them spoken by beautiful lead actress Ann Harding to her old earlier times boy friend, actor Edward Everett Horton.

What Ms. Harding actually said, according to the script, and my numerous replays of that spot on the DVR copy from the movie’s broadcast this past weekend on the Turner Classic Movies channel were exactly these: ““OH BUNNY, WHAT ON EARTH HAS HAPPENED TO YOU? YOU USED TO BE QUITE A NICE BOY – EVEN FUN OCCASIONALLY.”

Close, but no cigar!

Thank you TCM movie host Ben Mankiewicz for alerting us to look and listen for this issue early on in the playing of the film. In a way that is similar to baseball, or in all passions for any area of history, there is always something new to learn. At any rate, it turned out to be a ripple in the stream issue and the movie went forward without editing, but that wasn’t all the case. The movie’s “Hays Code” was named for Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945.

The Code had been in effect since 1930, but serious enforcement of it didn’t go into effect until 1934. It wasn’t surprising that a 1935 movie would get this kind of close attention.

It also brings home how much the advent of “talkies” in the 1920’s increased the fear that some Hollywood producers would now run morally amuck and bring down the wrath of government regulation upon the entire industry. So, in self-defense, the film industry created their own code of righteousness – regulating that criminals had to pay for their film crimes, and that sex had to be kept out of sight and even restrained from suggestion or plays on words by film characters. An actor and actress could not sit down together on a bed unless they each kept one foot on the floor for as long as they remained there.

Of course, the nation was operating under a different moral compass in those days. It was not one I admire, nor one I’d ever like to see us repeat.

Most movies were all white; people never had mixed race relationships; it was OK for major white stars to don themselves in minstrel show make up and act like buffoons; and to present minorities, mostly blacks, but sometimes Native Americans, Asians, and Hispanics as smiling stereotypical servants and sidekicks; and everybody smoked heavily and drank themselves into stupors with no long-term side effects; and if you were non-white, you had earned the right to fight for your country too, as long as you understood that you still couldn’t break bread, live next door, or attend church with whites once you came home, if you came home.

Let’s hope that most of our younger people shall live to see the day in which each of them only has to show up as a decent human being to earn their places at the table of life. Statues cannot put you there – or keep you away – once that day comes.

Watch a few really old movies from the 1930’s, for example, and you will get to see all the reasons we still aren’t there today as the brothers and sisters we all really are. And you really won’t have to work hard to see these missed opportunities. You’ll simply need to be old enough to get them. It’s all there in what they say. And what they don’t say. In what the characters do. And what they don’t do.

At least the old movies work from a dynamic narrative script. And the same cannot be said for The Fast and The Furious efforts of this day and time.

My Guilty Pleasure

Some nights I will double play a DVR movie from TCM with an ongoing DVR of the Astros game. depending upon how much the game grips my early inning attention span. It works best when Keuchel pitches. In a typical Keuchel game, I will watch the whole first inning of a home game. Then watch the movie for however long it takes “K” to retire the side and switch back to watch the Astros hit. I never miss anything because of the replay capacity. And my mind “sometimes” seems to crave the multi-tasking. The other night I got to watch Harold Lloyd as a 1928 New York taxi driver whose job it was to get a late Babe Ruth (the real Babe) to Yankee Stadium on time for his game. What a hoot! I thought the Babe was going to have to change his pants as a result of that little hop over the bridge from Harlem.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle