Ah, baseball! The crack of the bat. Popcorn. The sound of the projector. Peanuts. The small of . . . What? The sound of the projector? Sure. Hollywood has never really forgotten about baseball. In between the westerns, musicals and war films they always found room for a baseball movie. At least now and then, when people began to take the world too seriously.
Harold Lloyd dreamed about baseball in "Speedy." "Experiment in Terror" and "The Enforcer" used its stadiums as backdrops for some scenes. And Spencer Tracy even tried to explain the game to Katherine Hepburn in "Woman of the Year."
But these films just touch on Abner Doubleday's grand old game. The real baseball movie digs in at third and dives for fly balls. And although the recent "Bad News Bears" film might not be in the same league with "Casey at the Bat" or "The Jackie Robinson Story," their success at the box-office proves that interest in the sport still carries over from the diamond into the theater.
So, let's put on the thinking cap, er, batting helmet, and take a look at the movies' baseball Hall of Fame. There's a question for each player on the field. And for the American Leaguers, there's a tenth spot for the designated hitter.
1. Ray Milland discovered a chemical that avoided any contact with wood. He rubbed it on a baseball and proceeded to become a famous pitcher.The film was:
A-"The Kid from Cleveland"
B-"It Happens Every Spring"C-"Slide Kelly, Slide"
2. Gary Cooper played a down-and-out pitcher with a sore arm who was used by a publicity campaign in "Meet John Dee." But both arms were fine when Coop played a baseball legend in:
A-"Fear Strikes Out"
B-"The Winning Team"
C-"The Pride of the Yankees"
3. "The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings" painted a nostalgic picture of the barnstorming days of a black baseball team. Which pair of actors guided the team?
A-Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones
B-Sidney Poiter and Bill Cosby
C-Richard Pryor and Yaphet Kotto
4. Heavenly messengers helped which team win the pennant in the 1951 movie "Angels in the Outfield"?
A-The Chicago White Sox
B-The St. Louis Cardinals
C-The Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly sang and danced their way across the diamond in this baseball musical. The film:
A-"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
C-"The Pride of St. Louis"
6. This character actor played in "The Babe Ruth Story" and "Kill the Umpire." He also had a popular TV series. Who was he?
7.Joe E. Brown romped through sports films from track to bicycle racing. But in which film did this comedian with the cavernous mouth wear a baseball uniform?
A-"Elmer the Great"
B-"Fireman, Save My Child"
8. Who's on first? I thought I knew until I saw Abbot and Casello perform their hilarious baseball sketch. What was the film?
A-"The Naughty Nineties"
9. This actor starred in "The Stratton Story" as a pitcher who refused to give up on life after losing a leg. The actor was:
10. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were definitely stars on the field. But what was the film in which they played themselves as they befriended a runaway boy?
A-"Safe at Home"
B-"The Kid From Left Field"
Here are the answers to the baseball-movie questions on page 14. Give yourself extra points if you knew all about Jimmy Stewart and "The Stratton Story" right off the bat, as it were, when you saw the photo, and didn't have to see No. 9 or check its answer.
1-B: "It Happens Every Spring." Milland caused trouble not only for opposing batters, but also for his catcher, Paul Douglas, with the elusive baseball that danced around bewildered bats.
2-C: Gary Cooper starred as Lou Gehrig in "The Pride of the Yankees." Babe Ruth even played himself in this moving story of the Yankees' Iron Man.
3-A: Billy Dee William and James Earl Jones played it for laughs on the diamond, but they also revealed the plight of the black player before color barrier was broken.
4-C: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Paul Douglas managed one team and Gabriel managed the other.
5-A: "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Not only did Sinatra and Kelly perform the title song of this 1949 film, but they also did a number with Jules Munshin entitled "O'Brien to Ryan to Goldberg" - shades of Tinker to Evers to Chance.
6.-B: William Bendix was the star of both films. And the star of TV's "The Life of Riley."
7-A, B & C: This one is a gimme. Joe E. Brown was a baseball player in all three films.
8-A: "The Naughty Nineties." And don't forget that What's on second and I Don't Know's on third. Oh, you Don't Care? Well, he's the shortstop.
9-C: Jimmy Stewart turned in a stellar performance as Monty Stratton in a movie that won an Oscar for its story.
10-A: "Safe at Home!" The M&M boys were criticized for their acting in this comedy. But then, how many actors have ever played in a World Series?