Last week I hit upon some hockey movies, rarer stuff from Canada for the most part, and at the same time suggested this week it would be a few baseball movies.
This of course is a terrible time for baseball fans. April is the month of eternal optimism in baseball. It’s the start of a new season, and even the lowliest of teams is within striking distance of first place, even if it’s a mirage.
Of course COVID-19 kiboshed the start of the season, and so in a world without baseball, a movie about the great game is one viable option as we try to self-isolate as best we can.
To start pop over to www.nfb.ca where there a few excellent baseball documentaries which focus on the game in Canada.
Arguably the best of the group is ‘Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story’ which was a Yorkton Film Festival entry a few years back.
From the NFB site; “This feature-length documentary tells the story of the Asahi baseball team. In pre-World War II Vancouver, the team was unbeatable, winning the Pacific Northwest Championship for five straight years. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all persons of Japanese descent in Canada were sent to internment camps. The former Asahi members survived by playing ball. Their passion was contagious and soon other players joined in, among them RCMP officials and local townspeople. As a result, the games helped break down racial and cultural barriers. This remarkable story is told with a combination of archival footage, interviews and dramatic re-enactments.”
Next, click on ‘King of the Hill’ a doc focused on Ferguson Jenkins who is easily the greatest player to ever come out of Canada.
The film follows Jenkins, through the 1972-1973 season.
“From the hope and innocence of spring training to the dog days of an August slump, the camera gets up close and personal at the home plate and records the intimate chatter on the mound, in the dugout and in the locker room. It provides a glimpse into the rewards and pressures of sports stardom and the easy camaraderie of the quintessential summer sport,” notes the site.
A final NFB offering I’ll mention is ‘Baseball Girls’.
“This feature documentary uses animation, archival stills and live-action footage to detail the history of women’s participation in the largely male-dominated world of baseball and softball. Zany and affectionate, it features 7-year-olds learning the rules and skills of the game and 50-year-olds hitting home runs, from the early days of the Bloomer Girls to the heyday of the Colorado Silver Bullets,” notes the site.
Of course women playing the game received some attention with the Hollywood release of ‘A League of Their Own’. The movie revolved around the short-lived All American Girls Professional Baseball League which attracted a number of Canadian players.
The league operated from 1943 through to 1954. More than 600 women played in the league – including 64 Canadians -- which consisted of eventually 10 teams located in the American Midwest. In 1948, league attendance peaked at over 900,000 spectators.
The Canadian contingent included the likes of Anne Surkowski (Deyotte) from Moose Jaw, Thelma Josephine Grambo [Hundeby] from Domremy, and Mary Geraldine ‘Bonnie’ Baker (née George) from Regina.
One more movie with a Canadian connection I must include is ‘Field of Dreams’ my personal favourite baseball flick.
The movie is based on the novel ‘Shoeless Joe’ by Canadian author W. P. Kinsella. The book was written when Kinsella attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and decided to incorporate the stories he told about the Black Sox Scandal, imagining if Shoeless Joe Jackson came back to the same city Kinsella was living in, Iowa City.
They aren’t baseball with a home team to cheer for, but they are a taste of the game we can enjoy now.