Baseball movies adhere to a common trend of characters, plot, setting, action, scenes and dialogue that determine the thematic elements they protract. By use of basic taxonomy, baseball movies can be classified into; primary, secondary and tertiary films. Primary films are fundamentally driven by the baseball themes, actions and characters. Secondary films incorporate one or more baseball elements that are important to the story, theme or setting or apply to the characters. Tertiary films involve a brief, deliberate use of baseball that has meaningful effect on the characters, theme or setting. The exceptional manifestation of the envisaged message is castigated to the audience in various dimensions which depict baseball as an all-involving game.
Baseball impacts greatly on the lives of the players as well as the coaches. In the same way, the film industry tries to elicit similar lines of thought through their production. Most baseball films assume knowledge of the game and thus tend to narrate to the audience the exact feeling of a committed career in baseball. This leads to an integrated common framework of thematic elements. This study incorporates ideas and concepts gathered from the films; Eight Men Out, For the Love of the Game, A league of their Own, The Pride of the Yankees, Natural, Soul of the Game, Bull Durham. The selection of these movies hopes to provide a common framework for the formulation of the crosscutting thematic elements.
Known as the American game, baseball films adopt a characteristically common approach to their production. The characters and their behavior reel around the lifestyle of American players. In most cases, the movies tend to appreciate the great names of the game as well as emphasize the essence of good baseball play. Whether primary, secondary or tertiary, baseball movies revolve around the player’s lives in and outside the pitch. This depicts a strategic plot embraced by the most of these films. The tangle between the real life and the sporting life brings the audience in touch and thus enthralling him/her into further questioning. This prompts an intrusive investigation into the thematic elements.
Themes common in baseball films are; phenom, the based-on-a-true-story, the oddball-clubhouse comedy, the aging veteran, the stand-by-her-man girl and the manager-and-players-against-all-odds success story (Ernst, 1). Phenom refers to a remarkable or outstanding person, event or occurrence. Most of the films tend to depict the truth as it was told in a fable whereas others try to integrate the comic parts into the real film leading to a masterpiece of a comedy. They also try to narrate the experiences of the outstanding players of the game in their old age as well as the social lifestyle of the players, coaches and scouts. The basic story line could also involve a struggle for success against the tide.
1.1 The stand-by-her-man girl
This is the most dominant theme in all baseball films. The storyline tends to revolve around a baseball generated affair between a male actor and a female actor. The motivation to play as well as the passion for baseball is shared culminating in a bond brought by nothing else but baseball. This story line dictates proceedings in the comical, dramatized as well as autobiographies works of the film industry. Most of the off pitch action is centered on the binding forces that bring together the players and their girl/boyfriends.
This theme is common to all baseball movies. ’Bull Durham, a 1988 American comedy, revolves around the romantic live of Annie, Nuke and Crash. Depicting the fans and players of a minor baseball team, the comedy shows the ups and downs of lives surveying the trends love dictates on their lives as players resulting in a love triangle. In For the love of the Game, 40-year old pitcher, Billy Chapel, is engrossed in thoughts of his girlfriend who is watching the play from the airport. In an intriguing turn of events, the two rejoin at the airport and reconcile as the movie comes to an end. In "The Pride of the Yankees" is the blueprint for the sports biopic, and is generally considered to be the best movie about baseball ever made. Teresa Wright stars as his wife Eleanor and alongside Gehrig; they produce a masterpiece which can be typically labeled as American. The rags to riches story as well as well as the poetic lines of the farewell speech about his destiny characterize the American culture. All this time, his wife astutely stands behind him in a strong manner.
A league of their Own is a typical American classic that shows the feminine appeal. Crazy stunts pull together unimaginable numbers of fans to the stadium. This does not erode the moral ethics that bind the American people and eventually the star player, Dottie, retires to her married life on the return of her boyfriend who was away at the war.
The outstanding contribution of individual players to the game of baseball is a common line of production. The great names of the game inspire movie production with the significant actions they are attributed to. Running across all genres of sports related movies, the recognition is marvelous for sporting greats as manifested in the staged production of biographical works. Baseball is no exception to this. A good example is the film ‘The pride of the Yankees’ which depicts Gehrig as the main character. The film focuses on his tragically short life (Rooney, 86). Inspired by his determination to live and play baseball, the man who passed on due to a disease named after him is well represented in the film. Details of Gehrig's baseball as well as his record of 2,130 consecutive career games are represented by montages of ballparks, pennants and Cooper swinging bats and running bases.
Films such as Bull Durham, a league of their own and the Pride of the Yankees are a true manifestation of this theme. The desire to live the best and the lively moments of the game led to the production of the first two which are comic works that revolve around the American game. The Bull Durham depicts the players and fans of the Durham Bulls, a minor league baseball team base in North Carolina. The elements of the game are comically highlighted as “Crash” teaches the rookie pitcher “Nuke.’’ A League of Their Own is a 1992 American comedy-drama film that tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). This is a manifestation of the film industry to deploy to the attention of the audience the ins and outs of life as a star for a team in the baseball league. The combination is perfectly brought out by the lived moments in the pitch as well as the acted forms and intriguing lifestyle lived by the stars.
The game has also had its dark moments as dramatized by Eight Men Out. In 1919, eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to lose the World Series. This is replicated in this primary baseball drama which is purposefully filmed at the old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis (Lardner 45). The events that transpire in this conspiracy/gambling drama and the ensuing aftermath led to a permanent stain in the game as well as modification of authorities that govern the sport. The management structures had to be changed in order to avert future occurrence of such events (Lida, 14).
1.4 The oddball-clubhouse comedy
Most of the baseball films are dramatized comedies of baseball. This category carries films such as; A League of Their Own, Bull Durham, Eight Men Out and Natural. In A League of their Own, comic characters like Dottie who cannot leave their sister behind pitch the mood for the film. The goofs that bring male fans to the stadium are comical as well as the possible interpretation of the life of ‘Girls’ in the game. Equally comical scenes are found in the movie Bull Durham which comically integrates the romantic life of ‘Annie’ who is involved in an affair with ‘Nuke’ but finds herself increasingly attracted to ‘Crash.
1.5 The aging veteran
Every sporting event needs new and fresh blood. This only happens if it is wary of the dangers it is exposed to after the retirement of the veteran players. Baseball is no exception. The trials and tribulations of the veteran coupled by the needless to say little effort in winning matches is a marvelous as well as an intriguing sight. This case is well presented by the movie For Love of the Game, a drama based on a fictional work of the same title by Michael Shaara.
The film follows the final game of an aging baseball pitcher. In the movie he seems more concerned about his on and off girlfriend Jane. In this season ending game, 40-year-old Billy Chapel is reflecting on her girlfriend who should have met him in his hotel. Flashbacks of their meeting and interesting life are interspersed within the game. Indeed, he is less concerned about the game. Unknowingly, he is probably having the best game of his career. He reminisces about his career and all that he is going to lose after retirement in full appreciation of the absence of Jane in his life. The events that follow underline a perfect retirement for one of the game greats it is a happy ending to a 19 year long tenure.
1.6 The manager-and-players-against-all-odds success story
From riches to rags is the common trend in American life. This is the story of Gehrig in ‘The Pride of the Yankees.’ The film traces the rags-to-riches story of Gehrig, as his childhood dream comes true when he's signed to the New York Yankees, and his untimely retirement when he is stricken with the fatal, neurological disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which was afterwards simply called "Lou Gehrig's Disease". The endeared, dignified and heartfelt performance of this movie makes it a classical must-see. This is coupled with Gehrig’s hospital visitation of a boy who was sick and the promise that he makes and fulfills for the sake of the boy. The iconic life of Gehrig is celebrated via this movie which is as inspirational as ever, especially from the game dubbed all-American.
In Eight Men Out, when the game hots up and losing seems imminent, the coach decides that Ciccote will not play the game, it simply becomes mission impossible. The turn of events however lead to a win which the gambling conspirators must counter. They capture his wife and he has to lose the game. When the scandal is revealed, the eight are indicted and declared to be innocent yet they are banned from baseball. The court cites their failure to reveal approach from gambling firms. This is a movie based on true events and illustrates the baseball scam of 1919.
To conclude, it is essential to note that baseball in a sense depicts the American lifestyle. This is compounded with the fact that most production is centered in the American way of life as well as the culture and values that define the American people. However, it is essential to note that not all phenomenal characters have been used effectively, a flaw that runs across all the films. The timing and application tend to be poor and execution can be questioned on the basis of records and known application times. As much as the efforts of the producers need to be appreciated, the game of baseball has been underlined as an equal source of entertainment, thanks to the primary, secondary and tertiary baseball movies. Thus, it is notable through the themes that the movies conform to their target standards as well as effectively convey the intended message.