Friday, February 11, 2011

Flick Friday: The Natural

This week's baseball flick is The Natural, the story of Roy Hobbs. Again I don't think I need to go into any depth in telling the story. Most baseball card collectors have probably seen the movie several times.

Set in 1939, the movie is about baseball phenom Roy Hobbs, who as a teenager was shot by a crazed woman as he was on his way to a major league tryout. Sixteen years later Hobbs returns to baseball for the last place New York Knights. His booming bat lead the Knights out of the cellar and on to the pennant.

Hobbs even got his own baseball card (though someone should tell the producers that they don't print sheets of single cards) Along the way, Hobbs reconnects with his true love, Iris, whom he left behind when he was shot. Hobbs hits a climactic, pennant winning home run in his last game, quitting because hit gunshot wound didn't completely heal.

The film makers did a nice job of capturing the feel of baseball in the 1930's. Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium was used as the Knights home park and it had a gritty, old-time look perfect for the movie. Redford was also very believable as a ballplayer, though he did look a bit old for the part; he was 46 when the movie was filmed.

The movie is fantasy, yet believable. And who doesn't love a happy ending? Actually, the author of the story the movie was based on doesn't; in the book, Roy strikes out instead of bashing a lights-blowing homer.


Wow, where to begin?? There are several of them....

**The story is loosely based on the shooting of major leaguer Eddie Waitkus. A Chicago girl named Ruth Ann Steinhagen developed a crush on the Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus. The crush turned into an obsession. When Waitkus was traded to the Phillies for the 1949 season, Ruth Ann couldn't deal with the fact that Eddie would be in Chicago for only 11 games. When he came to Chicago with the Phillies, Ruth Ann checked into the Phillies hotel. She got Waitkus to come to her room and she shot him. Though he nearly died, he recovered and played again the next season, instead of missing 16 years like Roy Hobbs. He was the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1950.

**Young Roy Hobbs was shot in Chicago, there to try out for the Cubs.

**While on his way to Chicago, Roy meets up with "The Wammer," a character based on Babe Ruth. While batting against Hobbs, the Wammer calls his shot, ala Babe Ruth against the Cubs in the 1932 World Series.

**One of the climactic scenes in the movie takes place at Wrigley Field, as the Knights take on the Cubs and Roy again sees his old flame, Iris.

Clearly the scene was not filmed at Wrigley Field. A Buffalo high school stadium was used, with fake ivy planted on the wall to resemble Wrigley. And while the Cubs uniforms do look very old school, the producers got some of the details wrong.

You can see that the striping should have been blue, not red. The colors on the Cubs logo aren't correct. And the font on the numbers is not right, either. The Cubs use a unique font, and have used the same font since they first put numbers on their jerseys. It's a detail that many non-Cubs fans overlook, and for me, its the easiest way to determine how authentic a Cubs jersey is. Finally, the got the Cubs hat wrong. In 1939 the C on the Cubs hat was a wishbone C; they didn't start wearing a rounded C until 1957.

**The movie was released in 1984. That season was a magical year for the Cubs, who made the postseason for the first time since 1945. The best game of the season became known as "The Sandberg Game," which saw Ryno twice homer off of Bruce Sutter to tie the game. During the NBC broadcast, Bob Costas compared Sandberg to Roy Hobbs. After that game, Sandberg picked up the nickname "Kid Natural."

It was fun to spend a cold winter night watching some baseball fantasy, seeing the good guy triumph, and even seeing the Cubs.


  1. As someone who saw a couple games in War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, it was perfect for giving the feel of a stadium in the '30s.

    It was located in a terrible neighborhood. The first time I went to a game, I spent half of it hoping my car would be there when I returned.

  2. Great movie! I think you've inspired me to pop this in the DVD player over the weekend.