The Natural

I love baseball movies. Yes, I believe there are few bad films about the bat and glove, and I even found Major League III entertaining. It’s like a bad Disney sequel. There really wasn’t a reason to make sequels to most Disney animated films, but there are three of each series (Little Mermaid, 101 Dalmatians, Mulan, etc.,) and we are better off for it. One of my favorite Kevin Costner movies is Bull Durham, but I also loved the Perfect Game and most people I talked to thought it was only so so. Yeah, I was cheering each pitch by Kevin Costner to close out the game and probably cried when he did. I made a comment in my last post about the book The Natural being worse than the movie. I had a few folks send me emails on this topic. These varied and most didn’t really know there was a book before the movie. I didn’t either until I was in a Barnes and Noble one day and saw a big banner for the book next to others highlighting To Kill A Mocking Bird, Catch-22 and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Like most, I cringed when Wonder-boy was destroyed by a pitch in the final at bat and cheered when Robert Redford rounded the bases after winning the game. It’s a movie moment as the sparks fly across the field and the Knights win the game. Despite Robert Redford having a mediocre swing, it’s a movie moment.

It was easy to pick up the book. It had to be better than the movie. Almost every book is better than its counterpart. Well, it’s not with Bernard Malamud’s book. His vision of The Natural is a dismal failure. I never spoil the end to a book, but in this case I will make an exception. Roy Hobbs fails. Like Casey, he strikes out. There is no joy in Mudville. No home run trot around the bases while sparks rain down. He gives into greed and takes the money. The book is famous because it follows the story of Percival from King Author lore closely–Hobbs is unable to overcome his shortcomings and has to live with it. Most believe that most baseball players cheat. The Mitchell report, McGwire’s admission, and the government wasting its money on the Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds trial have tainted the game and amazing feats of the 1990s. It’s hard to take that the home run chase was nothing but a con. Last year, Melky Cabrera took a one year contract, used steroids, and made a push to be the NL batting champion until testing positive. If he would have went under the radar, he would been offered a five year deal anywhere in the 60M to 80M range. Instead, he received a 50 game suspension and had to live with a 2 year 16M contract. Oh, the suffering. The problem with baseball is that in measuring the risk vs the reward it’s always better to cheat. I believe Mark Grace actually said, “If you are not cheating, you are not trying.” But it’s always been part of baseball’s creed.

That’s why the Hall of Fame voting results feel like a travesty. I like to remember the Roger Clemens of Red Sox lore mowing down the American League and Barry Bonds willing the Pirates to the championship game. The shadow of steroids blinds the achievement, the talent. What is worse is that the message the Hall of Fame voters sent cost Jack Morris another shot at joining the club. He has been waiting fourteen years and only has one year left on the ballot. The greatest pitcher of the 1980s and early 1990s deserves to be enshrined. He did pitch the greatest game in World Series history with ten innings of shut out baseball in the 1991 World Series against the Braves. It is still considered one of the best games in World Series history. Along with the rest of his career, that is meaningful.

Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs is better than the book. I like that he rewrote the ending. We have enough problems in the world today between government shutdown, natural disasters, and wars on many fronts. I want to believe in heroes. I want to remember Roger, Barry, Sammy and Mark at their best. I prefer the Hollywood ending.


  1. Love the movie and read the short story. The movie is much more fun and up lifting.

  2. Yeah, Roy Hobbs in the book wasn’t as fun to root for either. Just didn’t like the tone of the book-maybe it’s too much like real life.

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