Yes, the offseason has finally driven me into the arms of classic baseball films. Tonight, it was AMC’s showing of For Love of the Game with Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston. I have to admit, when it comes to baseball movies, I always assume they’ll be geared towards male viewers. After all, men play the game, and for the most part, support the teams who play it. But For Love of the Game isn’t just a love story between a man and his sport.
Rather, it combines what men love most–playing baseball–with what women love most–romance. Kevin Costner is Billy Chapel, a fictional hero of the Detroit Tigers, and an ace of a pitcher that is losing his magic touch. On the cusp of a trade from Detroit to San Francisco, Chapel pitches his last game against the Yankees to spoil their anticipated pennant win over the Red Sox.
When he’s not facing New York’s spry, young hitters, Billy is courting his less-than-baseball-obsessed girlfriend, Jane Aubrey. Jane, played by Kelly Preston, is an intelligent, put-together businesswoman who seems to have life figured out. Through a series of flashbacks, Billy spends his downtime during the game mulling over the course of their relationship, recalling the various ways baseball–okay, and his character flaws–pushed the two lovers apart.
As far as the ratio of baseball to romance goes, this film weighed more towards the latter. Most of the flashbacks center around Preston and Costner’s rendezvous as he visits during away games or in the offseason months. However, the parts that struck me the most were of Chapel’s struggle to hold onto a sport he loves, even as he battles a hand injury, weak arm, and the negativity of those who doubt his pitching ability. It made me think about my favorite pitchers right now, like Lincecum and Hernandez, and where they’d end up in 10 years or so.
Speaking of the love of the game, the Phillies picked up Cliff Lee today for 5 years at $100M. While this was surprising after the incessant pursuit by both Texas and New York, I have the feeling Lee made the right decision. Sure, it would have been nice to see him stick with the team he enjoyed the World Series ride with, and I’m positive a lot of Yankees fans are just a tad disappointed not to see him in blue pinstripes next season. In the end, though, Lee chose a team he loved playing for and, if all the news reports are true, wants to be a part of for years to come. In an age where players switch teams without batting an eye and money talks louder than loyalties, this is a refreshing and welcome change. (However, this doesn’t mean I’m okay with former Giants players wanting to play for L.A. Just saying).
So what’s next on the list of holiday sports films? I’m thinking Field of Dreams, reportedly the only movie that makes men cry. That alone is enough to pique my interest in a film, even if it’s a little weird.