The Perfect Game (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Run Time 118 minutes.
According to the story
(which was completed in
2008, but not released until now),
Cesar Faz (Clifton Collins, Jr.) is fired by the St. Louis Cardinals and
returns to Monterrey to take a menial job and drink a lot. He gets sort
of conned into coaching a bunch of little tykes who love baseball.
Whatís rewarding about the film is how it shows these impoverished,
enthusiastic children going across the border to take on their bigger,
richer, American opponents, the trials they faced and their dogged
Although this is an
entertaining film, there are lots of factual gaffes in the film that
seriously mar it. For instance, at the end of 1957, 21-year-old Brooklyn
Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax was a little known bonus baby whose three
year career showed a record of 9 wins and 10 losses. Hardly a household
name, only the most dedicated baseball fan knew who he was. Yet director
William Dear and screenwriter W. Wiliam Winokur, have these impoverished
Mexican 11-12 year olds idolizing him. Thatís just one of the grossly
inaccurate Hollywood touches that mar what is otherwise a rewarding
story of this group of inspirational children from Monterrey, Mexico,
who reached the 1957 Little League World Series under Faz, their
Adding heart to the film is
their priest, Padre Esteban (Cheech Marin).
But Dear and Winokur really
reach for it to emphasize the racism of their opponentsí coaches and the
police, and the way the young Mexicans reach out to a black opponent who
is being ostracized by his teammates in the American South. Frankly, I
doubt if there were any Little League teams in the South in 1957 that
had a black player, so these scenes are probably unnecessary fantasy. It
is hard to lend credence to the heartwarming incident in the film.
There is also a reference
to Rogers Hornsby having been connected with the St. Louis Cardinals
while Cesar was working for them in the mid-50s. As far as I know, the
Cardinals traded Hornsby to the Boston Braves in the spring of 1927
(after he managed them to a thrilling 7-game World Series win over Babe
Ruthís Yankees in 1926) and he never returned.
The movie apparently didnít
receive permission from the Cardinals or Major League Baseball to use
the Cardinals distinctive uniform, the best in baseball, with a bat with
a red cardinal sitting on the end of it across the chest. The bat and
cardinal are missing from the St. Louis uniform in the film.
Another thing that you
would never have seen in 1957 is pitchers always pitching from a
stretch. I was a pitcher in 1957. Itís easier and more effective to
pitch with a normal windup. Pitching every pitch from a stretch started
maybe a couple of decades ago when the use of relief pitchers as
specialists became so widespread that now starters only pitch 6 innings
and three other guys finish the last three innings. The cockeyed
thinking is that they will be pitching with base runners, so they should
always pitch from a stretch. This is just one of the idiotic theories
that have become common practice in todayís baseball, a microscopic
imitation of the game I grew up with. But in this film every pitcher
pitches from a stretch. Itís not only stupid for todayís pitchers to do
that, but in Little League the base runners canít get a jump on the
pitcher because their foot canít leave the base until the pitcher
releases the ball, so thereís no ďholding a runnerĒ on base (which is
the purpose of the stretch).
All this adds up to people
making a picture about the game they love but donít come close to
understanding. This film is an example of filmmakers taking a terrific
story and, instead of telling it straight up, adding false touches to it
that are unnecessary and degrade the final product. Even so, the germ of
the factual story is told and the film is touching and entertaining.
Stick around for the closing credits because they are shown with
interesting archival photos of the actual team and players.
July 18, 2008