With spring training 2013 just around the corner, here are a few baseball-centric DVDs you might want to try out. They could just become MVP (Most Video Preferred) material.
Ballplayer: Pelotero. color. 77 min. In Spanish & English w/English subtitles. Ross Finkel & others, dist. by Strand Releasing, www.strandreleasing.com. 2012. DVD UPC 712267320523. $24.99. Closed-captioned. SPORTS
Players from the Dominican Republic (DR) comprise 20 percent of players in Major League Baseball (MLB) although that country’s population is about two percent the size of the U.S. population. How does that happen? The filmmakers spent a year in the DR focusing on top prospects Miguel Sanó and Jean Carlos Batista as they approach July 2, 2009, MLB’s international signing date for 16-year-olds. Miguel and Jean Carlos, their trainers, agents, and families expect each will sign with MLB teams and reap multi-million-dollar bonuses. Big money fuels an industry that preys on impoverished teens. Big money invites doping and age fraud on the DR side, maybe coercion and conspiracy on the MLB side. John Leguizamo narrates this intriguing exposé that looks at a dark side of professional baseball.
Verdict This video is highly recommended for general sports audiences and a must-see for even casual baseball fans. [Sanó is currently in the Minnesota Twins minor league system. Batista plays minor league ball for the Houston Astros.—Ed.]—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH (LJ 9/15/12)
Baseball’s Greatest Games: Derek Jeter’s 3000th Hit. color. 3+ hrs. Major League Baseball, dist. by A&E Entertainment, AETV.com. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422987544. $19.95. SPORTS
This simple, straightforward release includes the entirety of the July 9, 2011, game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, a 5–4 Yanks victory made memorable by featuring Derek Jeter’s game-winning home run, the beloved and squeaky clean Yankee captain’s 3000th hit. Viewers are able to listen to either the original television broadcast or original radio broadcast and easily jump to innings of interest. There are a bevy of Jeter-oriented extras, including his postgame press conference, his speech at the 2008 closing of Yankee Stadium, and the star’s career milestones such as his first hit, first home run, and so on. A documentary on Jeter’s life and career or the inclusion of more varied bonus footage would have made this a more interesting production and a worthwhile purchase beyond the most dedicated Jeter fans.
Verdict Recommended for Jeter fanatics who can’t get enough of their hero and want to relive this milestone moment.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (LJ 2/1/12)
Baseball’s Greatest Games: 1960 World Series Games 7. 2 discs. color & b/w. 244+ min. Major League Baseball Properties, dist. by A&E Television Networks c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781422916537. $29.95. SPORTS
If your patrons ever had a hankering to see the 1960 World Series but missed the A&E broadcast in December 2010, here’s your chance to make their day. This package has everything but broadcast host Bob Costas. The showpiece is a colorized restoration of Bing Crosby’s kinescope recording of the game seven TV airing, with play-by-play by Mel Allen and Bob Prince, complete with Prince’s postgame locker room interviews with the victorious Pittsburgh Pirates. Alternatively, viewers can watch the game and listen to the nationwide radio broadcast. But that’s not all! The second disc includes a filmed overview of the full series, two newsreels covering the entire series, interviews with nine Yankee and Pirate players, and 1960 Pirates Season Highlights, a boon to Pirates fans.
Verdict Overkill perhaps, but highly recommended for sports collections.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH (LJ 7/11)
Boys of Summer. color. 95+ min. In English & Papiamento w/English subtitles. Keith Aumont, Tribeca Film, Putty Division in assoc. with Reno Prods., dist. by New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781422974971. $26.95. Closed-captioned. SPORTS/INT AFFAIRS
The island of Curaçao (population 138,000) has dominated the Caribbean competition in the Little League World Series in recent years. Boys of Summer shows Curaçao’s team of 11- and 12-year-olds trying in 2008 for their eighth trip in a row to Williamsport, PA, for the final round of competition. We meet several of the players and their 27-year-old coach, a former player himself. The coaching appears entirely motivational, rather than technique-based. To a rollicking soundtrack, viewers see some nice action montages of the kids practicing, goofing off in their spare time, and coping with a degree of celebrity. There are also some intriguing glimpses into their home life. While Curaçao’s players did, indeed, make it to Williamsport that year, they ran into their nemesis, the Japanese team that had beaten them ten of their last 11 meetings, and lost. (Curaçao did beat Japan in 2009, which might have made for a more engaging documentary.)
Verdict Libraries outside of Curaçao and Williamsport can safely skip this.—John Hiett, formerly with Iowa City P.L. (LJ 3/1/12)
44 Baseball Mistakes and Corrections: Tips for Youth Baseball Coaches & Players! color. 36 min. Marty Schupak, Youth Sports Club, 800-511-2101; www.youthsportsclub.com. 2011. DVD ISBN 9780978945190. $24.95. SPORTS INSTRUCTION
This solid video concentrates on common mistakes in youth baseball fielding, base running, and hitting while providing techniques to enable the coach to teach the game in a manner that is both instructive and fun. Each of the mistakes is handled as a separate chapter and can be easily accessed from the main menu. Since the overall program is brief, coaches may choose to run the video occasionally as a checklist of potential errors to address in their team’s preparation. Parents and players will find the equipment chapters valuable for choosing properly sized bats, gloves, and catcher’s equipment.
Verdict The program is well done, fairly priced, and recommended for coaches, parents, and public library youth sports collections.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH (LJ 9/1/11)
It’s Time: The Incredible Season of the 2010 American League Champion
Texas Rangers. 2 discs. color. 60+ min. DVD ISBN 9781422916605.
The Magic Inside: The 2010 Season of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. 66+ min. DVD ISBN 9781422916643.
ea. vol: color. Major League Baseball Properties, dist. by A&E Television Networks c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2010. $19.95. SPORTS
Fans of the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants will treasure these well-crafted productions, each of which captures the 2010 game highlights of its pennant-winning team. The personality of the teams comes to life throughout its winning season, particularly as viewed by the fans, managers, coaches, sportswriters, broadcasters, and the players themselves. Though the Giants thrilled their followers by bringing them their first World Championship since moving to San Francisco in 1957, the Rangers’ story seems more compelling to the nonaligned baseball watcher, following the team to its first League Championship and first-ever World Series. Bonus features on both discs include moments of pitching, hitting, walk-off wins (including an incredible called third strike RBI), and fan-team postseason celebrations.
Verdict Both titles are highly recommended for libraries in, respectively, Rangers or Giants territory, though fans of each team will want copies of their own. What fun!—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH (LJ 7/11)
Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. color & b/w. 91+ min. Peter Miller, dist. by 7th Art Releasing, 323-845-1455; www.7thart.com. DVD $129; acad. libs. $350. Public performance. SPORTS
Baseball historically has provided a way for Jews to acculturate into American life. As well as being avid fans, they have played professional baseball since the origins of the sport, though there was a tendency to Anglicize their names. The film revolves around two of the game’s greatest players: slugger Hank Greenberg (1930s–40s), who almost broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, and the completely dominating and masterly pitcher Sandy Koufax (1950s–60s). Surely the highlight here for some viewers will be the smoothly presented and edited interview with the notoriously reticent Koufax. Lesser-known players are mentioned, too, and the narrative sweep even includes Jewish ballplayers of the present day, such as former Met Shawn Green and the Red Sox Kevin Youkilis. Some may find fault with the lack of emphasis on how Jews were part of every aspect of the game, from journalism to selling hot dogs. Their wider involvement is touched upon, however (e.g., in the discussion of the origins of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” a Jewish-Episcopalian collaboration).
Verdict This engaging and well-paced overview of Jewish participation in baseball is loaded with action clips. Baseball experts provide historical insight, while rabbinic figures address Jews and American culture. Ably narrated by Dustin Hoffman, this film is a visual delight; a winner that baseball fans especially will enjoy.—Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (LJ 2/15/11
The Open Road. color. 90+ min. Michael Meredith, A Perfect Weekend/AquaFox Prods./Maximon Pictures, dist. by Anchor Bay Films, www.anchorbayent.com. 2012. DVD UPC 013132423999. $9.98; Blu-ray UPC 013132424095. $19.99. Rated: PG-13. F
This heartwarming story of a father and son reconnecting during a road trip features an outstanding cast. Justin Timberlake is a young baseball player struggling in the minor leagues. When his sick mother (Mary Steenburgen) enters the hospital, she asks him to bring for a visit his estranged father (Jeff Bridges). The father, a larger-than-life ex-ballplayer who calls himself Lone Star, reluctantly agrees but hides his wallet to sabotage the flight. Timberlake’s sort-of-girlfriend (Kate Mara, who’s very good here) convinces them they should drive instead. So, with a cast like this (plus Lyle Lovett and Harry Dean Stanton in bit parts), why wasn’t this 2009 movie a hit? Old pro Bridges gets all the good lines and steals every scene he’s in. Timberlake, by contrast, comes across as callow, which is part of the characterization, true, but the suspicion lingers that he isn’t quite ready to carry a movie.
Verdict An underrated movie that librarians can feel good about adding to their collections.—John Hiett, formerly with Iowa City P.L. (LJ 4/15/12)
War Eagle, Arkansas. color. 93+ min. Robert Milazzo, Downstream People Prod., dist. by Monarch Home Entertainment, www.monarchhomeent.com. 2011. DVD UPC 723952078605. $24.95. Rated: PG-13. F
This film is based on the true story of two friends coming of age in a small Arkansas town. Samuel (Dan McCabe) has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, but he has an outgoing personality and engaging spirit. He loves to watch the high school baseball games of his best and only friend, Enoch (Luke Grimes), a star pitcher. Enoch is incredibly inhibited and shy; he suffers from a terrible stutter and needs Samuel’s help to draw him out. Though both boys love baseball, the film is much more than a sports tale. Each boy has a strong but antagonistic relationship with a parental figure—Enoch tries to deal with his dominating father (Brian Dennehy)—and they come to view their friendship in a new light when they are forced to make choices for their future.
Verdict Strongly acted and well plotted, this film festival winner is a harrowing and insightful exploration of what it means to grow up in a small town. Highly recommended for general viewers.—Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (LJ 2/1/12)
Yankeeography: The Core Four Collection. 2 discs. color. 3½+ hrs. Major League Baseball & YES Network, dist. by A&E Television Networks c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781422996102. $19.95. SPORTS
This release by Major League Baseball and YES Network collects one new and three previously aired episodes of the Yankeeography TV series of documentaries praising and profiling New York Yankee star players. The titular “core four” were major participants in the team’s late 1990s renaissance: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Narrated by longtime Yankee radio announcer John Sterling, these roughly hour-long minibiographies combine game highlights, interview snippets, and behind-the-scenes footage. Stories focus on the players’ early careers, World Series triumphs, and contributions to the Yankee dynasty. Anything of a controversial nature or that could tarnish the Yankee image is ignored; the players are treated as if they had superhuman talents and hearts of gold. Adult viewers will see through the haze and likely realize that much is omitted from these fawning, superficial profiles, but younger Yankee fans will enjoy the dramatic game footage and entertaining stories of how their favorite players rose to fame. Bonus features include a seemingly random hodgepodge of additional game bits for each player.
Verdict For comprehensive sports collections, especially those in the New York metropolitan area.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (LJ 7/11)
The Yankles. color. 115+ min. David R. Brooks, DZB Prods. & Magnolia Pictures, www.magpictures.com. 2012. DVD UPC 876964004596. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964004602. $29.98. Rated: PG-13. F/SPORTS
Brooks’s (Sunshine Maker) first feature-length film (which he also cowrote) puts an Orthodox Jewish spin on the tired old sports film cliché of a disgraced, down-on-his-luck coach taking over a team of lovable misfits. The trite and threadbare plot centers on a paroled, ex-alcoholic former big-leaguer (Brian Wimmer) who seeks a second chance at life by becoming the manager of a rabbinical school’s hapless baseball team and trying to win back the heart of his skeptical ex-girlfriend. Predictably, he discovers that he needs the team as much as they need him. Demons are chased, past wrongs are made right, and everyone learns some important life lessons. Bonus features include director commentary and deleted scenes. More information at www.yankles.com.
Verdict A League of Their Own and The Bad News Bears got by on big budgets, star power, and clever comedic writing. Sadly, The Yankles lacks all three. A mildly amusing, unoriginal, and unabashedly earnest feel-good flick for undiscerning sports fans of all ages.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (LJ 8/12)