Friday, February 18, 2011

Flick Friday: Bang the Drum Slowly

This week's flick may not be one of the most popular baseball movies, but in my opinion, it is one of the best. Bang the Drum Slowly was released in 1973 and is based on the novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Mark Harris, the author of the novel. That is always a plus for me, when the book and movie are written by the same person.

The movie tells the story of the friendship between New York Mammoth's ace pitcher Henry "Author" Wiggen (Michael Moriarity) and third string catcher Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro). The movie starts with the pair leaving Mayo Clinic in February, as Pearson has just been told that has an incurable disease. The movie then shows us how Wiggen tries to protect his friend and make his final season a good one.

In some respects, the movie is a baseball version of Brian's Song. It has the star rooming with a dying bench warmer; though the racial overtones are missing from Drum. Instead, we've got a sophisticated, insurance-selling pitcher and a southern bumpkin catcher.

As the movie progresses, it becomes harder for Author to protect his friend's secret. As others on the team find out, they begin treating Pearson nicer, and Pearson becomes a better player. In fact, he is having a career year. Eventually this causes the team to bond and in the process, become a better team. The Mammoths go on to win the World Series, though, Pearson misses it as his disease made him unable to continue playing.

We don't have any "I love Brian Piccolo" moments in Drum; Author keeps his emotions to himself. But we do see the genuine love a teammate has for another, and that can still bring a tear or two to your eyes.

Both Moriarity and De Niro do an adequate job of portraying ballplayers. They both look like they played some ball when they were younger. The Mammoths uniforms are based on the Yankees, with a slightly different NY logo. They played teams from both the American and National League, which was strange. Another oddity is that while the opposing teams seem to use authentic MLB uniforms, they were old uniforms. The baseball scenes were shot at Shea and Old-pre-renovated Yankee Stadium in 1972, though the Pirates were wearing uniforms from 1970, the Indians from 1969, and the A's from 1971.

Finally, here is something eerie. The doomed catcher Bruce Pearson is wearing #15...

to match the action shots that the real Yankee catcher wore (this action scene was in the movie)....

....the doomed Thurmon Munson

Last weeks movie, the Natural, had a bunch. This movie....none! Though several MLB teams were shown in the movie, the Cubs were not.

This is a baseball card blog and I feel an obligation to show a couple baseball cards. Since there are no Cubs to show, instead I've got a couple of custom Mammoth cards from the 1973 season, the year the movie was released.

If you haven't ever seen Bang the Drum Slowly, or if its been a while since you last saw it. I recommend you do something about it, Redbox it, Netflix it, buy it, download it illegally...but see it!


  1. This was my dad's favorite movie when I was growing up. I've even read all the books. Great post!

  2. great cards and when i saw #15 Munson's death came to mind. :(