The Hall of Very Good has added four, and I helped by honoring Jose Canseco’s Bizarre Baseball Cultural Life

The Hall of Very Good has added four new members: Bill Buckner, Jose Canseco, Russ Grimsley and celebrity inductee Thomas Ian Nicholas (AKA Henry Rowengartner), with the Glenn Burke Memorial Courage Award set to be revealed on Friday.

As part of the celebration of this eclectic group, I did a rundown of Jose Canseco’s many bizarre appearances in Pop Culture, from Reading Rainbow to the upcoming movie Slamma Jamma. Check it out.

Advertisements

(Blogathon ’16!) The Sliding Scale of Fictional Baseball Realism

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Earlier today, in my look at Touch, I mentioned that you can make a 0-10 scale of baseball realism in works of fiction, with zero being baseball-in-name-only and ten being actual footage of a game.

Well, I’m going to expand upon that:

0: Baseball In Name Only

In this category, it’s not really baseball at all. They may call it baseball, but it certainly isn’t the actual sport that we know. The Moe Cronin version of baseball fits here.

1: Utterly Absurd

In this category, while it’s clearly meant to be baseball, the rules of the game and the laws of physics have clearly taken a vacation. Some classic cartoons fall into this category.

2: Very Absurd, but still with some realism

In this category, the work might have cartoonish physics and occurrences, but it still is grounded in reality enough to have the rules of baseball still be mostly the same. In theory, a baseball movie where the rules are not consistent or are wildly different but where everything else is played straight could also qualify here. Classic cartoons that aren’t “utterly absurd” usually fall in this category.

3: Absurd, but mostly consistent

Works in this category are clearly absurd and cartoonish, but are at least consistent: the laws of physics may not be what they are in the real world, but they don’t suddenly change mid-game, nor do the rules suddenly change simply because the story demands it. Most “cartoon” baseball video games, like Backyard Baseball and the Mario Baseball series, fit in this category.

4: Many absurd elements

While clearly meant to be a realistic world that has our baseball’s rules and our laws of physics, the amount of absurd, cartoonish or unrealistic elements in the work make it more strange than realistic. Consider Mr. Go, for example, which has two baseball-playing gorillas, a little girl acting as a first-base coach and a finale that involves the baseball coming undone into a million pieces, which sort of overwhelms what would probably otherwise be a 6 if, say, it only had one gorilla.

5: Equal Mix of Realism and Fantasy

A work that sort of teeters between being realistic and being bizarre. This is more of a transitional spot on the scale, as it’s rare that anything ever stays at 5, inevitably going to 4 or 6 instead.

6: Realistic, but with one or two “big lies”

This is mostly realistic but it has one or two big elements (or the equivalent of one or two big elements made up of lots of smaller elements) that keep it from being something that you can honestly expect to ever happen in the real world. Sidd Finch could fit here, as could most of the movies in which a kid becomes a big league skipper or ballplayer.

7: Realistic, but highly unlikely

There’s nothing in this work that couldn’t happen, but it’s highly unlikely and any real event like this would probably instantly become one of the most notable things in baseball history. You could argue that Major League fits here, sort of.

8: Near total-realism

While some rules might be bent or not enforced on a strict basis, and some things might happen that are unlikely (although not nearly as unlikely as things that fall at seven on the scale), this is pretty realistic. Casey At The Bat, the classic poem, could be considered as this, with only the ability of everybody to seemingly hear everything keeping it from being a nine.

9: Utter realism

The only things that are not realistic in works of this category are omnipresent techniques like camerawork and editing for time, or stylish touches added in to indicate, say, that a player is angry. Bull Durham could, in theory, fit in this category, as could most (but not all) fairly true-to-history biopics and most realistic baseball video games.

10: Actual Baseball Footage used/Documentary

If you are watching an actual baseball game, or watching a documentary that uses baseball footage and does so without changing things for dramatic effect, you are watching a 10.

 

Feel free to consider where on the sliding scale your favorite piece of baseball fiction would fall!

6 PM: First References

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

(Blogathon ’16) Mr. Go, if adapted for American audiences

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Mr. Go. The classic tale of a girl, a gorilla, and the Korean Baseball Organization. Truly, one of the greatest Bizarre Baseball Culture entries of all time, and one you should totally consider purchasing if you are a fan of such things. But what if it was brought to American screens? How would it be adapted?

I have a few ideas:

The cute little Chinese girl, Weiwei, would stay, as would the backstory of her and her gorilla, Ling Ling. Similarly, the main antagonist of the film would be Liao Xiaogang, AKA “Tianjin Guy”, a corrupt nouveau-rich businessman/gangster.

This is a purely economic move. China is now one of the leading movie-going countries in the world, and the only way a baseball movie is going to get any attention there is if it has a Chinese person in it. Also, so much of what drives the plot is the fact that Weiwei is an outsider just trying to keep her friends and circus at home from being folded up.

The jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold scout, Sung Choong-Su, would instead be an American named Samuel “Sunny” Chance, played by James Franco.

For one thing, James Franco has experience with apes, and also he is able to do both comedy and drama, which this film would require. Also, I think civilization in general needs to see James Franco make drunken confessions to a baseball-playing gorilla who is also drunk.

Instead of going to the Doosan Bears, Ling Ling/Mr. Go would be a member of the San Diego Padres.

Don’t try to argue with me on this, you aren’t going to win.

The general manager of the Padres will have an expanded role and be played by John Goodman.

Because, really, imagine John Goodman delivering this line:

Jonah Hill would make a cameo as a sabermetrics expert who suggests how they can best use Mr. Go.

Both because he’s always in movies with James Franco, and as a reference to Moneyball.

There would be a subplot about how some people think Mr. Go isn’t playing the game the right way after he unleashes an epic bat-flip.

It’d provide realism to the affair.

After Mr. Go’s rampage, Weiwei and him would go on Jimmy Kimmel to prove he isn’t a monster.

Of course they would.

Instead of a bidding war between the Chunichi Dragons and Yomiuri Giants, it would be the Red Sox and Yankees.

Because of course it would be.

The veterinarian’s role would be expanded and made into a female love interest for Franco’s character, probably played by somebody quirky like Zooey Deschanel or wittily sarcastic like Anna Kendrick.

Because every goddamn movie, it seems, needs a love interest of some sort, and it sure as heck isn’t going to be Weiwei and Franco.

The NC Dinos, the main opponent of Doosan, would be replaced by the Dodgers. Also, the Division Series at the end of Mr. Go would be replaced with a final regular season series where the NL West title is on the line.

This both would better explain why every game is a home game for Mr. Go (in the Korean movie, they come up with an excuse about renovations at NC’s stadium) while still providing plenty of drama.

Leiting, the evil pitching gorilla who faces Mr. Go, will be renamed “Lightning” instead of “Zeros”.

Because Zeros was a dumb name.

The ending would be left more open to the “Football-playing Gorilla” sequel than the original movie was.

Every movie needs to have a opening for a sequel.

And, finally, it goes without saying that Andy Serkis would be playing Mr. Go.

Duh.

At 4 PM: AAA.

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

Coming later this month: “International Baseball Culture”

Bizarre Baseball Culture is perhaps my most popular segment on the Baseball Continuum. In it, I, as I say: “…take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.” It’s seen comic books, video games, novels, TV episodes, animated shorts, a radio drama, and even a full-length movie. They’ve ranged from the well-known to the hyper-obscure, leading Michael Claire to dub me the “Indiana Jones of baseball comics“, which I guess isn’t the worst thing to be put on a tombstone.

Anyway, in search of good material, I have recently began to look overseas. Some of my favorite Bizarre Baseball Culture posts have been from elsewhere in the world. The Pokémon episode, for example, was pretty popular. Mr. Go might have been the most fun I’ve ever had doing Bizarre Baseball Culture (well, until you see what the 50th installment is). My most recent installment was, of all things, an episode of an Ultraman TV series.

However, here’s the thing: it is stupid to assume that everything foreign is bizarre. Oh, to be sure, plenty of it is, just like how the American-made works of fiction I’ve covered here on the Continuum have been bizarre (intentionally or not). I mean, no matter what country it was made in, a movie about a gorilla playing baseball would have been bizarre.

But to say it is all bizarre, simply because it is foreign, would be highly ignorant and also disrespectful. These are places with their own traditions, not only in baseball but in their popular culture. To immediately dub a fairly mundane (i.e. no baseball-playing gorillas or evil glove monsters) baseball comic from Japan or a baseball film from Korea “bizarre” would be like being the baseball entertainment equivalent of the crotchety old columnist who claims that Latin American players aren’t playing the game the “right way” despite the fact that that’s the way they’ve played all their lives. And, guess what, I am not a crotchety old columnist, although I wish I was being paid like one.

So, with that out of the way, I am proud to announce that, starting with a piece in this year’s blogathon, there will be a new recurring feature on the Baseball Continuum: International Baseball Culture. It will cover baseball entertainment from outside the United States and sometimes Canada* that isn’t “bizarre”. Now, there will continue to be foreign-sourced baseball works in Bizarre Baseball Culture, but they will only be those that would qualify for the series due to their content. If it turns out that there’s a Mexican movie in which luchadores play baseball against mermen from Atlantis, that’s still going into Bizarre Baseball Culture. But if it’s a serious drama about a baseball team called the “Luchadores” who are playing a team called the “Mermen”, that would be International Baseball Culture.

So, please join me during the Blogathon when I begin my International Baseball Culture travels with the beginning of a series of articles on Mitsuru Adachi’s Touch, a baseball dramedy/romance manga and anime that won awards, set viewership records in the 1980s, and was in 2005 named one of the ten greatest anime ever… and yet has never seen an official release in North America.

*I’ll be taking Canada on a case-by-case basis. For example, you could argue that the works of W.P. Kinsella are Canadian because Kinsella is from Canada, but you’d be ignoring the fact that most of his baseball stories are set in America and deal pretty specifically with American baseball. But if somebody were to make a French-language drama about a man and a woman who fall in love over their shared longing for the return of the Montreal Expos, that would probably fall under International Baseball Culture.

HUMOR: Cable TV descriptions of baseball movies that must be made

You know how when you come across a movie on cable, they give you a brief description?

Well, here are some baseball movies that must be made, and what their cable TV description would be:

BOBBLEHEAD THE MOVIE: A 1960s bobblehead is forced to come out of retirement to lead his team over more realistically-proportioned action figures. Starring the vocal talents of Kevin Costner, Rainn Wilson.

MURDER MOST FOWL: After the shocking murder of Mrs. Met, the San Diego Chicken must lead the hunt for the mascot responsible. Starring Ted Giannoulas and the guy in the Mr. Met costume.

BAY OF PUIGS: A greedy baseball agent finances a invasion of Cuba, looking to open it up in order to find more talent to sign. Starring William Dafoe and Pitbull.

MINOR PROBLEMS: The GM of a minor league baseball team must escape assassins sent to kill him after a disastrous “Russian Heritage Night”. Starring Paul Giamatti and Zooey Deschanel.

HOSS: The tale of the pitching deity and dapper gent is brought to life. Rated NC-17 for language, violence, excessive drinking, opium use and syphilis.

DINOSAUR BASEBALL: Dinosaurs play baseball —*Television explodes from the awesomeness before you can finish reading it.*

 

It’s the 20th Anniversary of “Rookie Of The Year”, here’s what I have to say about that

Pulling the curtain for a second, an admission:

I originally had this big plan where I would watch the now-20-year-old kid-baseball classic Rookie of the Year and figure out the statistics for it’s main character, Henry Rowengartner. But, alas, it was not to be: I inadvertently deleted it from my DVR, ruining my opportunity to bring the world such great baseball scholarship. One day, perhaps.

Still, some thoughts on Rookie of the Year:

Rookie of the Year was part of an early 90s mini-fad of baseball movies sparked by the late-80s success of Kevin Costner’s films and Major League. Other baseball movies from this time period include The Sandlot, A League of Their Own and Little Big League. I saw them on VHS when I was like five or six, possibly more times than was healthy. And, although in hindsight The Sandlot and A League of Their Own* were the best of the early 90s bunch, I think I watched Rookie of the Year and Little Big League more. It makes sense, come to think of it: They were wish-fulfillment tales. Who doesn’t wish to make it to the big leagues in some way? Heck, who doesn’t wish they could be doing it when they are still kids?

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know the story, Rookie of the Year is a semi-remake of an obscure movie called Roogie’s Bump. In the film, Henry Rowengartner, a baseball-loving boy in his early teens, suffers a strange injury that heals in such a way that his arm suddenly becomes able to throw MLB-level heat. The Cubs sign him, and, well, you can probably guess how the rest of the story goes.

While the film is unrealistic and pretty formulaic, it still is a fun watch, especially with John Candy as an announcer for the Cubs who opens up the movie with this ever-so-true line:

Opening Day at Wrigley, and oh what a sight! The diamond, the decorations, and the dread of yet another losing season.

 

Really, there isn’t much more that can be said, other than that as part of the Anniversary there have been a few articles about it.

For example, Yahoo!’s Mike Oz talked a bit to star Thomas Ian Nicholas (who has since gone on to star in the American Pie films) and director/supporting actor Daniel Stern about it. From it, I learned that, for example, John Candy was not originally involved with the film, but the studio liked the close-to-finished product enough that they let the producers hire John Candy to film a few scenes and voiceovers for the film.

Meanwhile, as a extra to Sports Illustrated‘s “Where Are They Now” issue, screenwriter Sam Harper revealed what happened to Henry after the film. Turns out that similar injuries led to him having brief careers in football and bowling.

So, if you see Rookie of the Year on cable in the coming days, feel free to think back to this post and those other articles. And also think how funky-buttloving (you’d get it if you saw the movie) awesome my look at Henry Rowengartner’s stats would have been.

*True story: I almost had a cameo in A League of Their Own as a redheaded toddler grandchild in the Cooperstown scenes at the end. But according to family legend, my parents didn’t want to drive all the way to Cooperstown for the shoot, especially since if I cried they’d probably just have some other 1-year-old do it and they’d have driven all the way to Cooperstown for nothing. And that, friends, is why Daniel J. Glickman doesn’t have an IMDB page noting his uncredited cameo in A League of Their Own.

Off-Topic Thursday: Summer Trailer Spectacular

During the off-season, I occasionally had a “Off-Topic Tuesday” where I talked about stuff outside of baseball- usually something related to popular culture. Well, during the season, look for “Off-Topic Thursdays”, in which, well… you’ll see stuff that is off-topic. Like this:

Okay, so the summer slate of movies is coming, and while I have yet to see 42, it looks like it could be a fun summer with lots of interesting movies to go see. So, below the jump, I go through some of the trailers and give my thoughts. Note that I’m only going to look at traditional summer movie fare (action, adventures, maybe a comedy here and there)- if you wanted to hear my thoughts on the upcoming Great Gatsby movie, well, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Continue reading