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July 1 2000: Cinema In The Rain

(This column originally appeared at, Yankees Xtreme. Reproduced here by permission of Ultrastar.)
I looked at my boyfriend. “You know, the video store closes in five minutes,” I said.

“What did you have in mind?” he asked.

“We could rent a baseball movie…” He tossed a five dollar bill to me, and I ran out the door (literally) and two blocks to the local rental shop, hoping I could make it there before they closed. It had begun to rain here, too, and my cap got wet as I jogged down the street.

It wouldn’t be the first time we’d turned to cinema to get us through a rainout. Last August when there was rain in Cleveland, I think, we rented “Bull Durham.” A week later, on an off night, we followed it up with “Field of Dreams.” And on the next rainout, we actually went to the movie theater to see “For The Love of the Game” to complete the Kevin Costner triple play. But what would we see this time?

I made it to the store just before they locked their doors. When I first walked in, I wasn’t sure what movie to get. Maybe “A League of Their Own?” But during the filler ESPN had been showing, Bob Costas had made a comment about how great the movie about Lou Gehrig “The Pride of the Yankees” was. “That’s gonna be in ‘classics'” the clerk at the counter told me, and it was, right next to “The Pride of St. Louis.”

For those of you who haven’t seen “The Pride of the Yankees,” starring Gary Cooper, I recommend it. There’s not a lot of baseball play in it–oh, some home runs here and there, some shots of guys in the field–so it won’t really satisfy your jones to see a game. But my desire to see my heroes on the screen was fulfilled admirably. First of all, the movie tells a pretty inspiring story when it comes to the life of Lou Gehrig. Sure, a lot of it is Hollywood-ized, like the bit about him hitting a ball through the window of the coach’s office at Columbia University. But so much of baseball, and especially Yankees history, is so storybook as it is, you don’t feel like they had to change very much. And to see those interlocking NY caps, and pinstripes, it really drives home the feeling that the Yankees are the embodiment of baseball history.

The movie also has the only extended camera appearances I’ve ever seen of another Yankee legend, Babe Ruth. Oh sure, I’ve seen lots of grainy footage of home runs and the Babe rounding the bases in that speedy, stubby gait old films always have. But this is better.

The box promises a cameo by Ruth “as himself,” but he’s really a major character, appearing in about ten scenes with a lot of dialogue. When you think about it, what actor could they possibly get to play the part of Babe Ruth? I don’t think there’s been a decent portrayal of the Babe on film yet. Ruth was then, as now, one of the most recognized sports figures in history, and who else could express his irascible and commanding personality? Ruth banters with his teammates and handles a bat with authority–even the way he knocks the dirt out of his spikes, it’s obvious it’s something he’s done a million times. Ruth adds the real baseball to the Hollywood production. Catcher Bill Dickey, the man to wear the number 8 prior to Yogi Berra, also plays himself in the film. All of which makes me wish that they also made those “The making of….” documentaries back then.

Two hours later, we walked home in the rain feeling somewhat better than we had when Cone’s three no-hit innings had come to an end. The way the weather has been going, though, we’ll soon work our way through all the baseball movies at the store. After that, I guess we’ll borrow my Dad’s World Series videos (which, thanks to the Yankees’ winning ways, have solved the question of what to get Dad for Christmas three out of the past four years). And after that, we better just hope for good weather!

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