Friday, January 20, 2012

Flick Friday: 61*

Spring Training doesn't start for another five weeks, which means five more weeks with no baseball to watch! To get me through, I'll be watching a baseball movie every Friday night for the next several weeks. It's a great way to keep my mind off of all the snow and cold.

Tonight's flick is 61*, Billy Crystal's homage to his boyhood heroes and his favorite team. It tells the story of Roger Maris and his chase of Babe Ruth's single season home run record during the 1961 season. Crystal did a great job of showing the pressures that Maris faced, plus the relationship between him and the true Yankee star, Mickey Mantle. It's a great story and it's well-told.

But even better than his storytelling was Crystal's attention to baseball details. You can tell that he is a baseball fan. He wanted to make sure everything looked right and he succeeded.

The casting was great. He got two actors who not only looked like the players, but also looked like athletes. Nothing is worse for me in a movie than to see an actor that is playing a major leaguer but throws like a gi....sorry ladies, but you know what I mean!

I made 1961 Topps cards of both actors and you can see the resemblance. In fact, on the Maris card, it looks like they tried to copy the same pose as on the actual Maris card.

In addition to the actors, they nailed the uniforms, not only of the Yankees, but of all of the team shown. A combination of a green spray painted Tiger Stadium and some computer generated images gave a nice looking representation of old Yankee Stadium.

CUBS CONNECTION:In 1961 the Cubs were the anti-Yankees. They finished near the bottom as often as the Yanks were near the top. There is no mention of the Cubs at all in the Maris story. But they are prominent in the McGwire story that wraps the front and back of the movie.

McGwire hit #61 against the Cubs on September 7, 1998. The Cubs catcher is Scott Servais...

....who also congratulated McGwire after he hit #62 the next day. And of course, never one to let a national audience go to waste...

....Sammy also got into the act.
One last Cubs / Maris connection, though I didn't know it until I started working on this post. Maris was traded to the Cardinals after the 1965 season and finished up his career in St. Louis. Any idea who the Cardinals sent to New York? It's not a name you'll recognize.

The man traded for the single season home run king was...

....Charley Smith, who would end his very mediocre career with the 1969 Cubs (two games, two at bats, no hits). Note the respect that Topps shows Charley by misspelling his name.


  1. As much as I enjoyed 61*, it was the 'Making Of...' documentary on the dvd that really drew me in.

    You can tell immediately by listening to Crystal that baseball, the Yankees and Mantle just mean the world to him.

    A true labor of love. A definite must-watch.

    Nice stuff.

  2. WW,

    That's a great idea to pass the time. I also have 61* (loved it), as well as The Natural, Major League, Bull Durham, AND I taped the game where McGwire broke Maris' record. Between my DVDs and the MLB Network's frequent showing of vintage World Series games, I'm all set!

  3. Love this movie... and I thought the exact same thing when I saw who Crystal chose Pepper and Jane to represent Maris and Mantle in the movie.

  4. You didn't know Maris played for the Cardinals? I had to laugh at that because as I was growing up I never knew he played for anyone else. Even when records started getting mentioned I always thought of him as a Cardinal first and foremost.

  5. I knew he played for the Cardinals; I just didn't know that the Cards had to give up so little (sorry Charley) to get Maris.