Baseball Ideas for Hollywood
1. The 2004 Red Sox
Sorry, Fever Pitch does not count. However, ESPN did put together a 30 for 30 film about the improbable Boston Red Sox comeback against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Boston went on to sweep the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series to win its first championship since 1918, but the climax was the seven ALCS games.
There were so many memorable events throughout the 2004 season but the entire story can begin with Game 7 from the 2003 ALCS when Grady Little decides to leave Pedro Martinez in the game with a 5-3 lead in the 8th. The Yankees tie the game two batters later and at the bottom of the 11th, Aaron Boone and his 0.173 batting average hits a walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield that reminds Red Sox Nation about the Curse of the Bambino.
In the off-season, Theo Epstein invites himself to Curt Schilling’s home for Thanksgiving Dinner while Johnny Damon decides to do his best impersonations of Jesus of Nazareth and a car-chasing dog, all at the same time. During the season, there was the Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek throw down, Pedro Martinez proclaiming the “Yankees are my Daddy”, and the Manny Being Manny show highlighted by his diving cut-off of Johnny Damon’s throw (one of the most amusing baseball plays ever!).
In Game 1 of the the ALCS, Curt Schilling’s injured ankle leads to surgery and 55 stitches. The Red Sox lose 3-1 in Game 2 and are embarrassed 19-8 in Game 3. Prior to the start of Game 4, Kevin Millar repeats his prophetic “don’t let us win this game” speech to anyone who would listen.
Down 4-3 at the bottom of the 9th, Dave Roberts steals second even though the
entire world knows he was running, then subsequently scores the game-tying run. Big Papi wins the game at the bottom of the 12th with a walk-off homer, then repeats his MVP heroics less than 24 hours later with another walk-off hit at the bottom of the 14th. Game 6 is the famous Curt Schilling bloody sock game in which he pitches 7 innings of 1-run ball on a sutured ankle, A-Rod slaps Bronson Arroyo’s glove like a little girl, and the Red Sox win 4-2 to tie the series at 3-3. The Red Sox complete the comeback with a convincing 10-3 win in Game 7 to advance to the World Series.
Ah, all the subplots of the 2004 Red Sox season… so juicy, so good, so ripe for Hollywood.
2. Steroids and Baseball
The plus? There’s already a book, Game of Shadows, written about this so it’s ready for movie adaptation. The negative? There’s no underdog or hero to root for. There’s no doubt that steroids has had a profound impact on the game of baseball, but this subject would probably make a better documentary than a feature film.
If a movie was made however, baseball could come up with some really amusing scenes:
- Recount the many absurd feats accomplished during that era, like the Sosa versus McGwire home run chase of 1998 or this epic matchup between Cy Young Eric Gagne’s 100+ mph fastball and 7-time MVP Barry Bonds’ flaxseed oil:
- A few comical testimonies at the congressional hearings, like Rafael Palmiero pointing his finger and stating that he has never taken steroids, Period. Or, Mark McGwire stating again and again that he’s not here to talk about the past.
- Jose Canseco proclaiming himself as the “godfather” of steroids and setting out to educate players on the positive effects of steroids.
3. 9/11 and Baseball
Like the Japan Earthquake of March 2011, the events of 9/11 was a nationwide tragedy for the United States as well. And in many of the same ways, sports was an important factor in helping the country heal. Baseball, more than any other sport, brought back a sense of normalcy at a time when nothing was normal. September 9, 2001 was a Tuesday and as soon as we understood what was taking place, Commissioner Bud Selig canceled all games for the day and eventually for the week. Some players drove home to be with their families during that time. The Mets were out of town, but the Yankees were at home and many reached out to support their hometown and lift the spirits of those around them. Tom Verducci, co-author of Joe Torre’s book The Yankee Years, tells this story:
The Yankees were a part of their community at a time of great need. Williams, for instance, walked up to one grieving woman.
“I don’t know what to say,” Williams said, “but you look like you need a hug.” And the center fielder of the Yankees reached out and embraced her.
When baseball resumed the following Monday (Sept 17), many players were uncertain or indifferent if the season should continue. Jack Buck, the legendary announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, was 77 years old at that time, retired, and sick with lung cancer. However, he returned to Busch Stadium that night to answer that very question: “The question has already been answered,” Buck said. “Should we be here? Yes!” He ended his speech with a poem he wrote for the occasion.
Whether the players themselves were ready seemed secondary, because the nation was ready. Taking the field was a way for baseball to lift the spirits of the country and, in a way, show the country’s resolve and resiliency. Baseball, as a whole and as individual teams across stadiums in America, honored the victims and showed support for all rescue workers who helped in the recovery. In New York, both the Mets and Yankees donned NYPD hats instead of their traditional hats. At every single baseball game since, “God Bless America” is played prior to Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch. Playing baseball again wasn’t just a distraction from the disaster that had just occurred. It was also an outlet to escape the sorrow, medicine to start the healing, an opportunity to honor those lost, and a step towards moving on.
If Hollywood could change the script, the Yankees would have beat the Arizona Diamondbacks that year to win the World Series. It almost did happen in real life, as the Yankees had a 1-run lead at the bottom of the 9th in Game 7, but the Diamondbacks scored 2 runs for an amazing comeback against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees to win. Despite that, it’s one of the most memorable World Series in recent history because of its tie to one of the most memorable seasons in baseball history.
MLB Productions created an one-hour, 7-part documentary called 9/11: Baseball Remembers that aired on the one-year anniversary of the September 11th event. The story is certainly compelling enough for Hollywood to make it into a feature film.
Are there other significant baseball sports events or personalities that would make a great Hollywood movie?