If players, owners refuse to play ball, summer hits bottom

June 27, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

If you haven't heard, there's a baseball strike looming. I love baseball strikes myself, if just for the humor.

Millionaire ballplayers walking picket lines. Rapacious owners not walking (they take limos) to the luxury hotel where they whine about how you can't get good help these days. Puts you in mind of "Grapes of Wrath."

But, for some folks, this is deadly serious. If there's no baseball later this summer, what's a sports fan to do -- watch World Cup soccer, a game in which so little happens that C-Span was bidding for the rights?

Of course, soccer is not necessarily boring. It's the one sport in which you actually try to hit a ball with your head. And then there are the stories. My favorite is the one about the Colombian player who left the team because the drug cartel that sponsors one of the clubs back home said they'd blow up his family if he played. That's show biz.

Speaking of which (for you segue fans), if you don't like soccer, there is an alternative: baseball movies. I've heard about two scheduled for this summer.

Do you love kids? Sure. Do you love baseball? Of course.

Do you love baseball movies with kids? I didn't think so. Somebody must, though. Otherwise, how do you explain "Little Big League" and "Angels in the Outfield"?

"Little Big League" is about a 12-year-old kid who inherits the Minnesota Twins. Then he becomes the manager. Then, unless I'm mixing this up with another movie, his parents forget him on their way to Europe and he beans Joe Pesci.

The plot of "Angels in the Outfield" is so compelling they had to do it twice. The first movie came out in 1951, but apparently Tony Danza wasn't available then, so they made a new one. If there's anything I like more than a kid movie, it's any movie with Tony Danza in it.

I don't want to give too much away, but in order for an orphaned boy to have a family of his very own, the California Angels have to win the pennant. Surprisingly, winged angels intervene.

"Saturday Night Live" once did a great takeoff on this particular genre (that's movie talk). It was a while back. To give you an idea, it was during a period when SNL was actually funny. Anyway, there's this kid in the hospital visited by Babe Ruth, who promises to hit a home run if little Johnny agrees to get well.

The game's on the radio in the hospital room when the announcer says, "Babe has promised to hit a home run for a little dying boy."

And the kid sits straight up: "I'm dying? Who said I was dying? Nobody told me I was dying."

Of course, since this is the '90s, you don't have to visit an actual movie theater to see a movie. All you need is a video store. A consumer guide:

* "The Natural": Loved the book, the best ever about baseball. Hated the movie. In the book, you are left to imagine all the pain and glory of Joe Hobbs. In the movie, you actually see Robert Redford. You like him with a horse or with a girl, but not with a baseball bat.

* "Field of Dreams": Liked the book. Hated the movie. Couldn't have been any sappier if it had starred Mrs. Butterworth.

* "Eight Men Out": Great. If you want to know about Shoeless Joe Jackson, watch this one.

* "Bull Durham": Kevin Costner played baseball, and you can tell. Meanwhile, Susan Sarandon did for candles and bathtubs what Ingrid Bergman did for airports.

* "Major League": Didn't see it. I've got some standards.

* "Major League II": Was there a Major League II or was that just a bad dream?

* "The Babe Ruth Story": Didn't William Bendix look just like the Babe?

* "The Babe": Starring John Goodman. Might have been better with Roseanne.

* "The Winning Team": Ronald Reagan plays president/pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. Look for George Bush cameo.

* "A League of Their Own": Collectors' item. Madonna fully dressed throughout.

* "Pride of the Yankees": I cried. You did, too.

* "Bang the Drum Slowly": Ditto, only harder.

* "The Slugger's Wife": Ditto. Problem was, it's a comedy.

* "Bad News Bears": Liked the original and first sequel. Hated the next 10.

* "Fear Strikes Out": The problem is, if you know the rest of the story, fear would later get a double, a homer and knock in four runs.

I'd like to see a movie about a baseball strike. Call it "Mendacity (Or the Year Ken Griffey Jr. Didn't Hit 60)."

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