Director Billy Crystal captures the sixties zeitgeist in this made-for-Cable movie about a key season in the history of America's favorite pastime. As baseball enthusiasts cheer Mark McGwire's record-breaking batting rivalry with Sammy Sosa in 1998, older fans recall a similar frenzy back in simpler, steroid-free times. In 1961, the Yankees headed for the pennant race with two dissimilar star players, Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Maris (Barry Pepper). Everyone's fair-haired boy, Mantle was charismatic enough to deflect criticism about his boozing and womanizing. Straight-arrow Maris, a recent addition to the team, played by the rules but didn't make for good copy, and lacked the social skills to galvanize the press on his behalf. Badmouthed by the media and booed by the fans, Maris remained an outsider. Neither baseball Commissioner Ford Frick (Donald Moffat) and Ruth's widow (Renee Taylor) wanted to see Babe Ruth's home-run record broken, but if the inevitable were to occur the cry from the newsrooms and the bleachers was, "Let it be Mantle!" No rivalry existed off the field. Maris and teammate Bob Cerv (Chris Bauer) became Mantle's house-mate in Queens and Maris encouraged Mickey to curb his self-destructive carousing. Maris and Mantle both wanted glory, but for Yankees rather than for themselves. When Mantle's injuries caught up with him, Maris stood poised to outdo the Babe and ignored death threats and bad vibes to break the Babe's home run tally in only one more game than it took Babe Ruth. Screenwriter Hank Steinberg tries to cover all the bases, using baseball fandom as a metaphor for the insularity of the American public. Though Crystal doesn't entirely realize the script's social
ramifications, he does a stunning job of recreating the Yankees' corps d'esprit and of resurrecting a less crass era when major league players were both human and heroic.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: Director Billy Crystal captures the sixties zeitgeist in this made-for-Cable movie about a key season in the history of America's favorite pastime. As baseball enthusiasts cheer Mark McGwire's record-breaking batting rivalry with Sammy Sosa in 1998, older… (more)