The Natural, the American Dream in Baseball
Who knows the truth - which baseball player, which coach, which owner and lawyer harkens to the furtive call of the meanest demon?
We meet some of them in The Natural.
Was the baseball of our own youth pristine? Did we and our kids rightfully set our clocks by the start of the song Take Me Out to the Ballgame?" Oh yes!
For us, it was better than bedtime stories and baths,
which we neglected to get in one more inning after dusk fell in our small town. Baseball clocked the time of our lives for our neighborhood bunch. Once we were old enough to venture around the block to recruit everyone from 8 - 14 our lives were consumed with baseball in the vacant lot next door to our house.
Occasionally another girl joined in but mostly
I played singly with a crew of guys. Standing taller than most of them, they didn't seem to notice. If others had bats and mitts they brought them to use with ours; if not, we shared ours. No one colluded with another to undercut anyone's success. We pitched, caught, hit, ran and howled in success and pain.
Lucky the child whose dad or uncle bought
tickets to the closest minor league game, and lucky the friends he cajoled them into taking along. I knew that as a child, and reflecting back on our casual games, I still think our baseball experiences were character forming, and so, helped us relate to the intricacies of the movie's story.
And the scenery - who doesn't respond
to the landscape of the early years of the 20th Century, prior to pocking of every block and park bench with advertising for that which diverts our attention from the grace of a natural life confronting challenge with integrity.
After the youthful games, and my husband's job
with which he held a union membership, were set aside we saw the movie. It synced with our days of old, in the starring character of Hobbs (Robert Redford). In him we saw the players and coaches of our youth. But even more than that, we saw the embodiment of our current dream - turning our hand honed skills and dreams into our own family run meat business that would grant the same level of respect for partner, employees and customers, as was formerly practiced by the packing plant owner, prior to his seduction by greed - in a new region of the state.
Still raw from my husband's previously benevolent
employer's sedition, when the small-town meat packer owner fell for his own Meme, we held to our ideals, even living in a tent camp for a while. In the film Meme colludes with the corrupt team owner Judge, and the conniving gambler Gus, whose sticky fingers extend into the Judge's pockets as they strategize to control the game. All they want is for Hobbs to just cooperate and figuratively bust the unions at the packing house. Hobbs' ideals are what propelled him into baseball, and his idealism prevents him from giving up after Meme's assault with a bullet.
Gus, the gambler, thrives on tossing the losers
to the pigeons who scramble to eat up the dirty popcorn the game's patrons abandon when they leave their stadium seats - much the same way that the union busting facilitator lined his pockets with the former meat cutters' wages, as he cheered the owner on to importing illegal workers onto the job site. To me, Gus is the malevolent evil tempter, whispering in the ears of the meat packing house owner, of our day.
Like vacant lot baseball was the catalyst for
Hobbs, and so it formed the underpinnings of our own adult aims to follow our dreams. The Natural ranks right up there with other fables of the American Dream. It's humble and grand, relatable and unbelievable, hope wrapped in a stained picnic tablecloth... and baseball, so much powerful baseball!
I'd say it's drought resistant and every good kid deserves to see The Natural.
Another favorite baseball movie. Yes, it's inconceivable to many that all people are waiting for is for us to get our game on and "do it" but let's just play along, and ask: what do we have to lose by following our passion?
Get these two movies for family fun and discussion during the long Winter Break.
With this bat you can share the game with family and friends gathered for the big dinners of the season.
As an artist, if someone gave me this wood bat I'd get our my woodburner tool and draw and write all over it, stories of baseball and me.
Here's the book on which the movie is based. The starting point, where the two mesh, is the shooting of baseball player of Eddie Waitkus in the prime of his career. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies until a bullet hit his gut.
Then the movie diverges from the facts and brings us a memorable myth for the American Dream, one with just the cost of a baseball bat and ball.