Every Wednesday between now and the end of baseball season the Cru Jones Society brings you a new baseball movie examined for both overall entertainment value and treatment of our favorite game. To suggest a film, email us at staff [at] crujonessociety.com. Otherwise, pour yourself an $8 beer, crack some shells, and let’s play ball.
Date Released: July 9, 1993
Box Office Total: $ 53,615,089
Team Featured: Chicago Cubs
“F-F-F Funky Butt Loving!” – Dr. Kresten
“Did he say ‘funky butt loving’?” – George
This really has nothing to do with the story or the plot nor does it have any real significance at all, but dammit if it didn’t make me laugh and it does set the tone for the movie. In addition it helps to understand that children do not take anything, from a broken arm to the NLCS, too seriously.
Henry Rowengartner is your typical 12 year old boy. He loves hanging out with his friends, building a boat, and most of all playing baseball. The only problem is Henry is not what the world would call coordinated. After being on the little league team all summer he gets to play right field after a kid leaves for Hebrew school and another kid has an asthma attack. A fly ball is hit towards him and he promptly hits the fence, falls forward knocking his hat down over his eyes. He comically stumbles around for the ball and when he finally gets it he blindly throws it over the fence.
The following day, at school, one of the other kids mocks Henry into chasing a fly ball. Henry pursues and doesn’t see the other ball lying in the grass. Henry steps on it and flies into the air like Elmer Fudd on a banana peel, landing on his arm and breaking it. He is confined to a cast the rest of the summer.
When its time to remove the cast, the doctor notices (without the help of an x-ray, amazingly) that Henry’s tendons have fused with the muscle. As Henry rotates his arm forward he notices remarkable speed and strength. After the doctor’s office, Henry and his two friends attend the day’s Cub’s game, sitting in the outfield bleachers.
We are then treated to a game of the Cubs doing what they do best, losing. Dan Hedaya is poised to become the new owner the following season, but there is a stipulation that if the stadium doesn’t sell out the rest of the season the team reverts to someone else. This is in August, by the way. So they have to sell out 30 to 40 games for this stipulation to be voided, less than half. So it wasn’t brought to Dan Hedaya’s attention sooner, I don’t know.
Cub’s pitcher Gary Busey just gave up his second home run in so many hitters and is retrieved by Henry’s friend. As is custom in the Wrigley bleachers, opponents’ homers are thrown back. Henry’s friends, worried about throwing the ball like a dweeb on TV, give it to Henry. Henry winds up and we hear his tendon fussed muscles creak and he throws the ball. The ball travels at unheard of speeds towards home plate and the catcher is aware enough and ready to catch the ball. Dan Hedaya realizes he has a gimmick that will fill the seats.
Henry’s mom’s boyfriend quickly sells Henry and his amazing arm to the Cubs, and the league is apparently ok with a 12 year old boy playing pro ball, while guys in the minors are left to wonder WTF?
In his first game, Henry is thrown in to save the game and as we all expect he has no control. And despite giving up a home run and hitting a batter he gets the save. And because this is the Cubs, they put him in the next day even though they still haven’t worked with him to gain control. But he again gets a save. At which point announcer John Candy says that the Cubs have their longest winning streak of the season, 2.
Finally pitcher Gary Busey starts teaching Henry some things about pitching, pitching coach Daniel Stern teaches Henry about how to live it up as a 12 year old pro ball player, and Henry teaches the entire team that baseball is great and they should enjoy it.
The Cubs go on to win a lot more games and look playoff bound despite the fact that it was August when they had their longest winning streak of 2. And Henry’s mom’s boyfriend is doing his best to exploit Henry with as many endorsement deals as possible. This however causes a rift between Henry and his friends.
Although Henry has a job most 12 year old boys would love to have, he would much rather be playing with his friends. He tries to tell his mom’s boyfriend that he doesn’t want to do the endorsements or play ball anymore, his mom’s boyfriend essentially says, “F*** that, I half own you and I sold you to the Yankees. We’re going to live like hell-damn-ass kings! Now you will do as I say!” Henry says he doesn’t because his mom’s boyfriend is not his dad. Causing his mom’s boyfriend to say some derogatory things about Henry’s mom like she has no idea who Henry’s dad is and basically calling her a whore. Henry’s mom over hears this and kicks the boyfriend out. She is now free to have a relationship with Gary Busey, more on that later.
Henry is now free to enjoy his childhood. And after a day of boating with his friends and the weirdo looking girl he has a crush on, he decides he will not play ball next season. But before he can hang up the cleats he has to play in one last game, the game that could win the Cubs the division and send them to the World Series.
Gary Busey and his old balls throwing arm take the mound and he is playing like a new man. Until age and time take their toll and he throws out his arm. Henry is put in in the 6th inning and appears to strike out every batter he faces. The Cubs are up going into the 9th, and as Henry takes the mound he steps on a ball and goes ass over kettle, like in the beginning, and loses his super power of amazing throwing.
The team has no choice but to revert to trickery in order to win the game. This includes the hidden ball trick as well as taunting a player into stealing and culminates with a strike-three underhand pitch. And Henry is now free to move on and try to get more than a blow job out of Tara Reid.
Treatment of Baseball/ Quality of Baseball Scenes
The movie starts off taking baseball very sincere and continues it for a while. There is a lot of emphasis on playing because you love the game and there is nothing better than being a pro baller. There is a very charming scene when Henry takes the field for the first time and is first thrilled with being out there, then in awe as he watches a ball fly out of the park.
A nice touch was Henry getting fined for being late to practice as well as the bleacher fans throwing homers back. But there were a lot of problems. Most notably was the time frame and what the Cubs record actually was. Or that the managers tell Gary Busey he won’t be coming back next season before a string of important games. That is the kind of thing that should be left to the off season so the player can focus on the games. Especially considering Busey appears to be one of two pitchers on the roster.
As far as the play itself, we don’t see much. There is a lot of Busey looking like a washed up old pitcher trying to throw his old heater. Henry looks like a kid trying to throw like a major leaguer. Everyone slides head first into every base when they slide. And every strike has the player falling to their knees like they are not only swinging for the fences but for the damned moon. The very little fielding we saw did look good though.
And seriously, how are we supposed to believe a big league player is not going to be able to hit a floating ball like the slow under hand pitch that is lobed out there?
Annoying Romantic B-Story/ Stiffing Spouse
There were two of them, kind of. The first one involved Henry’s mom and her boyfriend and Gary Busey. Henry’s mom started dating this new guy that Henry didn’t really like but he put up with him for her. Then he became Henry’s manager and there was a new dimension. But that relationship ends when Henry’s mom punches the boyfriend and kicks him out of their lives.
During this time Henry makes friend with Gary Busey and Henry’s mom show a little bit of interest and desire for him. We never get full closure on this, but as we see Busey coaching Henry’s little league we assume that Henry’s mom and Busey are getting it on.
The other romantic story is a little more fun and funnier. It involves Henry and his raging pre-pubescent hormones. We watch Henry try to socialize and interact with the opposite sex and we are taken back to how awful middle school was. Never knowing fully what their relationship is, Henry and some 12 year old girl try to figure it out on a boat ride, or more likely, while they watch Sleepless in Seattle over the phone together. Neither one of these romantic stories goes very far or takes away too much from the movie, so that is nice. But at the same time, there is no real point to them.
While it may appear that I had a hard time re-watching this movie, I actually enjoyed it. There are gaping holes in it, mainly for those who follow baseball as closely as we do. But if you can suspend disbelieve for a couple of hours then it is fun. It’s the story of a kid who gets a super power that allows him to do what so many kids want to do, play baseball. There is a juvenile wholesome comedy aspect that is just fun. The same kind of trash talking that made its way into The Sandlot can be found here, and who doesn’t love that? This is a movie that I wouldn’t mind having in my collection and watching once a year.
Ruling from the Scorer: A sac fly evens the score, and we stay to play another inning.
23 Sep 2009 Lee S. Hart