Lincicome: Tim Anderson's walk-off homer wasn't exactly Hollywood on the farm
Baseball is not a movie but it wishes it was. That's why the White Sox and Yankees were playing in a pretend cornfield (the field, not the corn) the other night, trying to -- well, I'm not sure what they were trying to do.
By somebody's count there have been 102 movies about baseball, and while the number seems low I have no reason to doubt the total nor to count them up myself. The first one I remember seeing was "The Kid from Cleveland" about a punk teen saved from a sorry future by his love of the Cleveland Indians. Russ Tamblyn was the kid and Bill Veeck was himself, not always a sure thing since Veeck was more character than person.
Most of the folks in that film are gone as is old Municipal Stadium, and as is Chief Wahoo, that political innocent who got me through many a boring geography lesson as I sketched him into the margins of The Amazing American Continents (excluding Antarctica).
The Indians, of course, became a movie industry of their own, fronting for three "Major League" films, any one of which took itself much less seriously than "Field of Dreams," an original book written by a Canadian about an American outcast. And the movie is the most breathless bit of overwrought gibberish that ever included an infield. The problems of the world can be cured with a game of catch? I think not.
As any Cub fan knows, Wrigley Field had always been the Field of Dreams until that movie set in Iowa came along, and then the Cubs themselves spoiled it in 2016, winning a World Series with clear cosmic assistance.
So, now Wrigley is just another neighborhood erector set, losing charm and baseball games, settling into another century of fantasy ahead. Wrigley does have its own extensive movie history, the best being "A League of Their Own," and providing minor wallpaper for Ferris Bueller.
Kevin Costner is the go-to guy for baseball movies, having made three, one of them as a Detroit Tiger, another as a perpetual minor league catcher, and each superior to the one that caused all that manufactured hoo-has in Iowa, which seems to be the stand-in for America, faith and proper parenting.
I give Jackie Robinson a nod for playing himself in his own movie story. Robinson's acting makes Madonna seem like Meryl Streep, and while the later film, "42," had all the production values, the original was Robinson's life and there was no mistaking who that was stealing home against the Yankees.
Babe Ruth once starred in his own movie. This was after the 60-homer 1927 season, but it was not a talkie so Ruth can't really get even for what has been done to him by speaking actors.
Still, the plot is worth recounting because it is pretty much the plot of every baseball movie ever made. In "Babe Comes Home," Ruth has promised his new wife that he will give up chewing tobacco. Trying hard to change and to be something he is not, Babe goes into a horrible batting slump without that chaw in his mouth.
When Babe steps into the batter's box, needing a home run to win the pennant, the bride tosses him a plug of tobacco, Babe pops it into his mouth and hits a home run. Substitute steroids generations later and you see nothing in baseball ever really changes.
Or substitute tobacco for the love of a good woman and you have "The Natural," commonly assumed to be the greatest baseball movie ever made. Uh, spoiler alert. In the book, Roy Hobbs takes the bribe and strikes out.
The truth is, there are no great baseball movies. "Bull Durham?" That bit of randy gymnastics was about baseball the way "Silence of the Lambs" was about diet. "Eight Men Out" gets my vote, thumb sideways, and the same Shoeless Joe was not a figment in a cornfield. He took the money.
The reason there are no great baseball movies is that baseball is already its own best movie, every game a complete drama, unscripted and untidy. While it might have seemed that Tim Anderson's walk-off homer was Hollywood on the farm, it was not Bill Mazeroski beating the Yankees in the World Series.
Emotions that are gripped by the real thing cannot be edited in later. Memories that are made on the spot cannot be equaled by reproductions. The real thing cannot be improved.
And there is no reason to go to a cornfield in Iowa to confirm it.