Bats have cracked a new season on diamonds across the country, even around the world.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans open their 16th season – their fourth as the Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers – this weekend at home as well.
Movies about “America’s favorite pastime” let baseball fans enjoy some extra spark at any time of year from this truly national game.
Kevin Costner has ties to multiple baseball movies, and all three major ones earned accolades in this feature package.
The choices from the silver screen are vast, from box-office blockbusters to maybe forgotten or more obscure titles such as “It’s Good To Be Alive,” from 1974, directed by the late Michael Landon, about a real-life Brooklyn Dodgers catcher’s rebound after his career was ended in an auto wreck; “The Pride of St. Louis” (1952), recounting Hall-of-Famer Dizzy Dean’s life on the mound and in the broadcast booth; and “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973), with Robert DeNiro playing a catcher stricken by Hodgkin’s disease, with a pitcher rallying for him in their final year as teammates.
Here’s a snapshot of what some baseball and movie industry professionals and buffs ranked as their favorites:
MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS• Nathan Barnett, new media relations manager/play-by-play broadcaster (all games on WRNN-AM 1450 “ESPN Radio”): “Major League” (1989) – “Runaway favorite for me. This is my family’s favorite, and it stars one of the greatest radio voices of all time in Bob Uecker. That alone is enough. Throw in some of the greatest one-liners in sports movie history – ‘Hats for bats. Keep bats warm’ – and it’s a home run.”
• Joe Mikulik, new team manager: “Field of Dreams.”
• Andy Milovich, vice president and general manager since 2013: “Bull Durham,” with “Field of Dreams” as “a close second.”
• Ray Wurm, starting his 16th season scoreboard operator since the Pelicans’ start in 1999: “Bull Durham” (1988).
• Mascots – For Splash, “Bull Durham,” and for Rally Shark, “The Sandlot” (1993) – “because he still a kid at heart,” said Jen Borowski, Pelicans senior director of community development.
General manager of Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox affiliate in Triple-A International League, playing at newly built BB&T Ballpark) and former general manager of Myrtle Beach Pelicans (2010-12).
“ ‘Major League.’ Bob Uecker is the funniest man alive, and it mimics the fun of minor league baseball.”
Sports director for Cumulus Myrtle Beach, a Coastal Carolina University radio play-by-play sports announcer, and host for “The Drive,” 6-9 a.m. Mondays-Fridays on WSEA-FM 100.3 “Sports Radio – The Team” (652-3776 or www.teammyrtlebeach.com).
“ ‘Field of Dreams’ (1989) came out when I was a younger, so it’s one of the first sports movies I watched and really had an understanding of. Today when it comes on, I’ll sit down and watch it again. It’s one of those movies that drives my wife crazy that I can pick up right in the middle of it and watch the rest.
“I don’t think I need to get in to why it’s so great – a story of faith and belief and how sports can bring a fractured relationship between a father and son together. My relationship with my dad was based on a lot on the sports I played growing up. It’s where we had our best connection, and to this day, is the basis of the majority of our conversations.
“But for me, it has some more ties. Growing up in Richmond, Va., I used to frequent the Byrd Theatre, a historical landmark in Richmond, and it still shows movies today. They would do a ‘Throwback Thursday’ and show classics, and I remember going to see ‘Field of Dreams’ there. Talk about a perfect situation to watch it in that theater!
“Also, my first-ever college broadcast gig was calling the Virginia Tech Hokies baseball team in its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. I actually was assigned to their first ACC series vs. Maryland. Our regular play-by-play guy, Torie, used the James Earl Jones monologue about baseball in the intro. It still gives me goosebumps to this day, and it’s a monologue that I hope will always be relevant.”
Executive director, Grand Strand Miracle Leagues, which with volunteers gets people with disabilities on the diamond to play, all for fun. More details at 448-7712 or www.grandstrandmiracleleague.com.
“ ‘The Bad News Bears’ (1976) – the original one.”
Owner of Harbor Light Batting Cages, 631 U.S. 17 Business N., Surfside Beach, just north of CVS and across from Surfside Bowl and Entertainment Center, open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily (477-8385).
“ ‘Major League’ and ‘A League of Their Own’ (1992).
“I didn’t see [‘Major League’] in the theater, but I rented it when they had the baseball strike in the early 1990s. ... I was a little upset at the players about the strike; I didn’t like what the players were striking about.
“ [‘A League of Their Own] goes back the old ‘40s, when the country was at war. ... It was a walk back in time.”
BILL OBERST JR.
Georgetown native who in Los Angeles has starred in various movies and TV productions such as “The Shunning,” “Sherman’s March,” “Children of Fear” and the Daytime Emmy Award-winning “Take This Lollypop,” and he returns home once or twice a year for solo performances at such places as Brookgreen Gardens, and the Strand Theater in Georgetown.
“ ‘The Natural,’ (1984), hands-down. If that last scene with Robert Redford knocking out the lights to Randy Newman’s great American past-time soaring score doesn’t thrill you, you’re dead. It’s a great film to me because it dealt with themes of lost potential and redemption – so universal.”
Author of the book “50 Classic Motion Pictures: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of – A Selection of Vintage Films from Hollywood’s Golden Age,” and when wintering in Conway from Jamestown, N.Y., host of the annual “Friday Night at the Movies” classic film festival January-March at Georgetown County Library’s Waccamaw Neck branch in Pawleys Island.
“ ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ (1942), with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright, in the story of Lou Gehrig. I lived in New York and I followed him, and I remember the time when he made his speech in Yankee Stadium – ‘I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth,’ and that he didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. ... He had contracted a disease and was facing death. ... Years later, I met Teresa Wright, who played Lou Gehrig’s wife in the movie ... and interviewed her. That was one of her favorite movies. ... And I told her ... that I had fallen in love with her, and there was silence, and she said to me, ‘No, you have not fallen in love with me; you have fallen in love with a character I played in the movie.’ ... She said ‘in “Pride of the Yankees,” I was a sweet, lovely young lady. I’m a more willful person.’ For that story, I wanted to see her reaction; she did take it seriously.”
Owner of Dalton Pictures and founder/director of the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, for which the ninth annual edition is April 23-26 at Carmike Cinemas’ Broadway 17, at Broadway at the Beach (www.myrtlebeachfilmfestival.com).
“ ‘Field of Dreams.’ It’s about pursuing what you feel to be the right thing to do, even when others feel it is foolish. ‘If you build it, they will come’ – although it rarely works in real life in this day and time, you have to hand it to someone who has a dream and goes after it in a big way.
“In real life, many who invent the product never see a dime or get recognition; many who pursue their dreams crash and burn. Many of those who come up with new ideas or new ways to do things are ahead of their time, or have their ideas stolen, or hijacked by those that have the financial capabilities that the inventor lacked. These are all tragedies in real life, but, in the movies, 99 percent of the time, it works out. That is why we go to the movies, it is where the impossible, becomes possible, where the against all odds, beats the odds. If only life was that way, but then again, if it was, we would not have a reason to go to the movies!”
Formerly of WBTV-TV 3 in Charlotte who later was known as the “Voice of CBS Sports” for 30 years in introducing programs, and his voiceovers stating, “This is CBS.” He lives just north of Myrtle Beach.
“ ‘Pride of the Yankees,’ with the story of Lou Gehrig. I also liked ‘The Natural.’ ”
Knuckleball-throwing pitcher and Ohio native elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame who won 318 Major League games from 1964-87, playing for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, including 3,342 strikeouts, a 3.35 earned run average, and a no-hitter. In 1984, the Atlanta Braves retired his team uniform number, 35.
“ ‘Field of Dreams’ is one of my all-time favorite baseball movies because it captures the family dynamic and family legacy of the game. Every kid, as they grow up, remembers those special times when their dad took time out of his schedule to throw the ball around with them. I remember those times with my father, and as a father and grandfather, I cherish the time I get to spend sharing my love of the game with my kids and grandkids.”
General manager of The Ripken Experience-Myrtle Beach (913-5278 or www.ripkentournaments.com/myrtlebeach.cfm) – which also will welcome Niekro as ambassador to its annual “Beach Blast” summer tournament, June 22-27, and as assistant coach for the Lanier Longhorns from Sugar Hill, Ga., for whom Niekro’s 12-year-old grandson plays.
“My favorite baseball movie, hands down, is ‘Field of Dreams.’ I could write a column (and probably should), for my father was an retired Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch op-ed editorial writer for 30 years and had at least one baseball column a year – which sometimes involved me and our escapades going to Richmond Braves games when I was a kid, winning the Colonial Athletic Association title game at Old Dominion in 1996, etc.
“ ‘Field of Dreams’ was a true game changer for me, for lack of a better term. I broke my dad’s heart when I was 11 and quit baseball to instead participate in skateboarding – this following a year in which I made the all-star team in Little League and had an exciting, memory-of-a-lifetime moment for my dad ,who was the coach when I slid into home to win an area elimination game in Little League all stars. My dad was crushed, but he was a good sport and let me do it anyway.
“So I started skateboarding, hanging out with the wrong people, wasn’t doing well in school. One summer – I guess the year when the movie came out – I was skating on a friend’s half pipe in my neighborhood and I remember my mom and dad pulling up in the car and telling me I had to go see a movie with them. I wasn’t very excited, obviously because I was skateboarding.
“After watching ‘Field of Dreams’ and crying in the movie theater, the movie influenced me to try to play baseball again. I was not an athlete but had a good arm. I was the last kid to make my freshman junior varsity baseball team in high school and played sparingly my freshman year but didn’t give up. In my sophomore year, my pitching coach discovered I had a natural “sidearm/submarine” arm slot. I went from being the last kid off the bench to getting called up to varsity, to being the star pitcher all-region my senior year, and getting a full tuition scholarship to Old Dominion University in Virginia, which at that time was in and out of the top 25. I am the last pitcher to win a CAA championship game at Old Dominion (beat James Madison University in 1996) and went on to have a successful college career, played in a number of wood-bat summer leagues, and hung it up my senior year, for it was time to graduate and move on to a job.
“I owe everything in my baseball career, and in my life and family that I have because I was able to find the importance of an education, earn a degree – majoring in sports management – and have worked in the baseball industry professionally for almost 15 years.
“I still cry every time I watch the scene where Ray Kinsella’s dad asks his dad for a catch at the end of the movie.”