One day last summer, I was changing channels on the television when my kids were in the room. I’m not sure why the television was on, but I’m guessing that what I wanted to watch and what they wanted to watch had no relationship to each other. But I had the remote in hand, and they were probably waiting for me to leave the room as quickly as possible.
One of the cable channels had just started playing Rookie of the Year, and I wanted to watch it. It had all the needed ingredients for some summer escapism: baseball, Wrigley Field, the Cubs, and a silly plot. And when my kids protested against watching it with me, I threw in the best enticement of all: I might be in the movie.
The premise is pretty far-fetched, about a kid who breaks his arm and it heals funny, so that he can throw 95 mile an hour fastballs and play in the majors. Every kid’s fantasy, right? And if it didn’t inspire the Li’l Bow Wow movie “Like Mike” in a big way, then I can’t tell a plot similarity when I see one.
The film was made in the early 90s, during what seemed to be a golden age for baseball movies. It started with 1984′s The Natural, and extended through Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, Major League, The Babe and Angels in the Outfield, which just squeezed in before the players’ strike took its toll on the game in 1994. I would even throw a chunk of The Naked Gun in there for good measure. Rookie of the Year wasn’t the best one of the bunch, but it was still pretty enjoyable.
I’m not going to run through the storyline here, but I will tell you it was amusing enough to hold my kids’ interest. And then, toward the end of the movie, came the scene I had told my kids about. The Cubs went to New York to play the Mets in the championship series, even though both team were in the NL East at the time and the Wild Card was still a few years away. And, in true movie fashion, the scenes for these games were filmed in Comiskey Park in Chicago. If you avoid the wide-angle shots, any stadium will do, right?
My wife and I were at a game in Comiskey Park late in the 1992 season, I think, when an announcement was made that some filming would take place after the game. We decided to stick around, but weren’t really close enough to the field to be in any of the shots. But my kids didn’t know that. I had kind of forgotten it myself. Watching the scenes on TV did bring back some nice memories, though.
We watched the scenes filmed in “New York” intently on the high-def TV, and paused on several occasions, hoping against hope for a glimpse of a much younger me. But it was not to be. It was still a fun experience, just the same. And I think the kids liked the movie, too. I would say everyone went home happy, but we were already at home so it doesn’t quite fit this situation. It was a couple of hours of baseball-related escapism, and I’ll never find anything wrong with that.