MY FAVORITE SPORTS MOVIES-PART 1
Growing up a scant 72 mile drive from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I was always a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates hapless as they were in the 1950’s. They used to have a victory celebration when they got rained out (or so Joe Garagiola said on the Today Show), but I loved my Buccos anyway. At least they had slugger Ralph Kiner and he could knock a baseball a country mile. There were a few seasons when Kiner was en route to breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, but the Pirates had no other hitters to protect him and he got walked and dashed his hopes for immortality!!!!!!!! It would take all of the 1950’s and a change of manager to Danny Murtaugh to bring the Buccos to Major League supremacy.
REDEMPTION IN A MOVIE
Back in 1951 Hollywood made a movie about my Pirates. It was entitled “Angel’s In The Outfield”. There was a more recent remake but this is about the original black and white version and the story behind its significance. I can remember we had a running joke at my home that this movie was going to be on TV. I finally saw it advertised about mid-summer of 1957 and no one in my family would believe me that it was actually on TV that evening, but I wasn’t lying.
I finally convinced everyone in the family the movie was showing and it was that very evening so we made popcorn and had Dad bring Pepsi home from the B&K Market, and prepared for the adventure of watching this epic about the Buccos.
This is not your standard rah, rah assessment of sports movies I want to give a more important message than sports movies can ever convey in their normal presentation. The message of redemption is key to my assessment. It’s the redemption of a team and of personal redemption, which is of prime importance in this world of turmoil to a person’s soul. This redemption can be found in “Angels In The Outfield “ if you’re looking and paying attention.
PIRATES OF THE 1950’S AND THE MOVIE
I stated earlier that my Buccos were a sorry lot during the 1950’s they finished 8th which was dead last in the National League five years and 7th three times but in 1958 they ascended to 2nd for the first time in my memory. We were ready to “Go All The Way” to the World Series in 1959 but that was put on hold for one more year when we thumped the mighty Yankees thanks to Maz’s dramatic 9th inning homer we won the 1960 World Series.
Back to the movie “Angels In The Outfield” sorry I got carried away. The movie was set in Forbes Field also known as The House of Thrills or so dubbed by The Gunner, Bob Prince Pirates Broadcaster during those later years. The plot of the movie was much like the plight of the real Pirates of that day who were perpetual losers on the baseball field.
A little orphan girl, Bridget White loves the pirates and said a prayer that her Pirates would become winners for her. Now the Pirates of this movie had a manager, Guffy McGovern who had a propensity to use salty language. An angel (actually the Archangel Gabriel) appeared to him because of Bridget White’s prayers and told Guffy the manager the Pirates would become winners if Guffy would curb his salty language. This situation progressed until the Pirates found themselves in the middle of the pennant race.
One game during the pennant race Bridget White attended a Pirate game and she could see the angels assisting the Pirates to help them win the game. Bridget White told of her angelic vision to reporter Jennifer Page who turned this vision into a national story. When Guffy confirmed Bridget’s story this empowered his nemisis sportcaster Fred Bayles who wanted Guffy banished from major league baseball. This predicament along with an umpire’s terrible call causes Guffy to unleash a stream of salty language that would make a sailor blush.
After his outburst when Guffy blows his top the Pirates have to win without the Archangel Gabriel’s help. His old time pitcher "over the hill" Saul Hellman has been ailing but he’s determined to give it a try. After all it’s only one more game and the Pirates will win the pennant. The Archangel Gabriel’s tells Guffy that the pitcher Saul Hellman will be playing on the Heavenly Choir Nine next season, but Saul comes through and wins the crucial game. The Pirates win the pennant after all is said and done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
To top that off Guffy won Jennifer’s heart and they adopted Bridget as their daughter!!!!!!!
This account can be found on Yahoo.com.
“This delightful baseball fantasy stars Paul Douglas as Guffy McGovern, the most hard-hearted, foulmouthed, dictatorial baseball manager in the entire league, who has almost hit rock bottom with his losing team. His Pirates are in seventh place and getting worse. His hard-nosed training methods just aren't paying off. But one day he hears an otherworldy voice telling him to "look for a miracle in the third inning." It turns out that the Archangel Gabriel and his ball club, the Heavenly Choir Nine, want to help McGovern's losing team as long as he promises to stop swearing and fighting. Sure enough, as McGovern cleans up his act, his team starts to improve, and with the help of the invisible ghosts of baseball legends, the Pirates' chances for the pennant begin to look brighter. But things become more complicated for McGovern when a young orphan girl (Donna Cocoran) tells a reporter (Janet Leigh) she has seen angels in the outfield giving the players a hand, and McGovern's bizarre secret for success makes national headlines. Plenty of stars from baseball (including Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio) and Hollywood’s (Bing Crosby) make cameo appearances in this charming film.”
MESSAGE OF THE MOVIE
So what you may ask is the message of this movie? I originally thought that the message was keep on trying and you’ll prevail, but now that I’ve grown up I find a deeper message. In fact I’ve found multiple messages in this movie, which I’ll enumerate below:
- Bridget’s message: Have the faith of a child and good things will happen.
- Guffy’s message: Obey the Lord thy God and good things will happen.
- Jennifer’s message: Keep your stories straight and good things will happen.
- Saul’s message: Never count an old dog out because he will become a member of the Heavenly Choir Nine next season.
- Fred Bayles message: Things done in spite never turn out right.
- Overall message: Have faith in God and Jesus and you may be happy like Guffy, Jennifer and Bridget!!!!!!!!!!!