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Baseball movies have been so berry berry good to me.


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Jonah Goldberg

Now, for the last decade I haven’t followed baseball closely enough to write a single word about the topic with any credibility. One of the reasons I haven’t followed the game is that I’ve been too busy watching The Simpsons and Star Trek five thousand times more than necessary ( I know, I know: “Define necessary”). But I’ve also been watching baseball movies. I love baseball movies; everything from The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (who can forget the stirring, “Let them play!” scene in the Astrodome? Okay, a lot of people probably) to Bingo Long and the All Star Motor Kings.

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Almost every kind of film has been set against the backdrop of baseball, including stalker/serial-killer flicks such as the fanless flick The Fan.” My Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever — the best movie guidebook — lists 81 baseball-themed movies. The Internet Movie Database counts 112 films with baseball in the plot summary.

One of the reasons baseball movies have been so berry berry good to me, is that baseball has been so berry berry good to America. It is perhaps the one thoroughly American cultural institution. It’s not borrowed from another country, an improved-upon import like our best food or all those Canadian stand-up comics. Instead, it’s a homegrown institution which transforms immigrants — and domestic former-outcasts like Jackie Robinson, who played himself in the movie — into Americans. The Pride of the Yankees isn’t just a great baseball movie, it’s a great immigrant success story about the poor son of poorer German immigrants. The man who was born Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig gets to give the “I’m the luckiest man in the world” speech.

As James Earl Jones says in Field Of Dreams: The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for this stuff. Which is why I hope they never make a movie called The Peter Angelos Story. Earlier this week, Mr. Angelos — the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles — announced that he will not hire Cuban defectors. Now, Mr. Angelos is a shady asbestos lawyer (a bit redundant, no?) who has Maryland legislators on his payroll and uses Cal Ripken as his personal lobbyist. He is also a huge donor to Bill Clinton. And, of course, he is an ears-past-the-sphincter sycophant of Fidel Castro. He organized an exhibition game between the Orioles and the Cuban National Team a while back, and ever since then he has been an unredeemable fan of the Communist dictator.

Roger Clegg, the general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, reported in NR Online earlier this week that Angelos’s position is probably illegal. You’re not allowed to discriminate on the basis of national origin. It’s one of those laws good liberals are supposed to support. But, alas, good liberals are also supposed to do everything they can to provide moral and economic comfort to the worker’s paradise, and Mr. Angelos determined that encouraging defections would be damaging to US-Cuban relations and be “disrespectful” to a country that tells children that if they misbehave Uncle Sam will come in the middle of the night and eat their brains.

It used to be that the classic baseball story was one of personal triumph. An immigrant or hard-luck kid struggles with adversity and makes it to the big leagues with his own pluck. That is the story of the Hernandez brothers, for example (see Nick Schulz’s piece). But the Angelos story completely turns that on its head. This story is about a rich fat cat and political schemer who gets his jollies from being friends with a tyrant who enslaves a nation, killing dissidents and crushing entrepreneurs. Add to this the fact that Angelos is an awful steward of his own team. He’s sort of a George Steinbrenner without the brains or the charm — and that’s saying something.

Perhaps that’s why Angelos is backtracking a bit, saying instead that while he would be interested in signing Cuban defectors, “we would not solicit or encourage anyone to defect — rather we would discourage that.”

Ah, that’s so much better.

Roger Clegg points out today that this still probably doesn’t cut it. Regardless, I don’t think I have ever used the phrase “un-American” without irony or jest. But in this case, I think this is the most un-American story I’ve ever heard. As the Field of Dreams speech goes, baseball “reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.” Well, if Angelos is an indication of the future it ain’t going to be good again for a while.

DEAR READERS
Sometimes in life we face questions which seem to have no answer. Can God create a boulder so heavy even he can’t lift it? Can we ever know if our free will exists? Which film was more unjustly denied an Oscar, Cop and a Half or Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot? Which would produce more sweat: Jerrold Nadler in a marathon or Al Sharpton eating his weight in hot wings?

Well, if you’re tired of pondering those imponderables, you should scope out everything that’s going on at NR Online.

If you’re only coming to our site once a day it must be because you’ve passed out from inhaling too much glue. All day long we are constantly updating the site (see today’s coverage of Rudy Giuliani’s withdrawal, for example), adding links to breaking stories and having a grand old time. Why just the other day, Mike Potemra passed an entire glass of milk through his nose — now that’s humor!

While the traffic numbers for NRO are fantastic and getting fantisticker every day (for some reason, the suits say they will take away my oxygen and the Kleenex boxes I use for shoes if I tell you what the numbers are) and I have you people to thank for it. But too many of you guys are just coming by once a day and I have you to blame for that too.

So, when you come back from lunch and you’re too bloated and tired to actually work, let alone breathe easily (or maybe that only happens to me when I get back from lunch) you should browse NRO. Every morning we link to the important stories of the day. And we update them until we unhandcuff the acting webmaster from the radiator. We’re gonna give you guys a chat room soon enough so you can lounge here smoking and gossiping. But in the meantime you should get fluent with everything we’ve got (yes, this means you might have to scroll down on the homepage). That includes the following: exclusive-to-NRO columns by George Will, Larry Kudlow, Robert George, Michael Potemra [Link defunct] and the Pope. Okay not the Pope, but that would be pretty cool. But we do have the constantly updated list of Vice President Gore’s lies. We expect that by November it will be long enough to stretch to the moon and back.

If you look down the right side of the homepage you can see what’s fresh and there’s usually a lot there. Also, our new search engine allows you to see how many times phrases like “lesbian love goat” or “cheese eating surrender monkey” have appeared in our pages. There’s also lots from the magazine itself including Florence King’s column, and several choice articles from each issue, including — this week — Ramesh Ponnuru’s excellent cover story on Social Security and my impassioned defense of McDonald’s. In short, unless you’re spending an hour or more in one sitting with NRO, you’ve got to come back more than once.

SHAMELESS-SELF-PROMOTION FRIDAY
Okay, enough with the tasteful promotion. Some readers ask where else they can find my writing. Some of my earliest work can be found under forty coats of industrial bathroom paint at a bar called Cannon’s in New York City, or more recently in the bathroom of the Toledo Lounge in Washington, D.C. There’s also a bar in Prague called… huh? What’s that? Ohh… my couch tells me that readers were referring to published work. Well. There’s my regular column for Brill’s Content. There’s also my “Beat the Press” column for The American Enterprise. This month I offer my only comments on the feckless bandersnatch formerly known as Jeffrey Toobin. I also write regularly for the excellent online publication IntellectualCapital.com. But the most important non-NR writing I do is my syndicated column. I had hoped that you people would have pestered your hometown newspapers into picking it up by now. But hey, there’s still time (hint, hint, hint).

Have a great weekend.



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