In this series, I will watch one of the many, truly terrible baseball films available, and write about them. Also, there will be gifs, so there’s that! All in the hopeful conclusion of finding the Worst Baseball Movie Ever.
It is the beginning of summer, the pandemic has yet to plateau, and while some normalcy is coming back into play, as well as professional sports slowly coming back into effect, baseball can’t come soon enough. There probably will be some sort of MLB season in the end, but if the players are disheartened about the fairness and conditions being offered to them, then the season as a whole could end up being extremely underwhelming.
Which perfectly segues into the 1992 biographical film about baseball legend Babe Ruth:
And spoiler alert, it sucked!
This movie starts off like a Star Wars prequel. Only, instead of a running screen of text to get the sense of context, we get a near seven-minute opening scene of a desolate Polo Grounds at dusk. Wistful music plays so faintly in the backing, you almost want to fall asleep before any of the actual story begins.
Cut to a generic Catholic boarding school. A seven-year-old Babe Ruth hovers near the school gates watching his father beg a priest to let Ruth into the school. This is the part of the movie where I can imagine the screenwriter jotting down *audience feels empathy* as we watch Babe Ruth’s dad repeatedly call him names like “fatty” and describes him as an “animal” due to skipping school. The priest in all his holiness questions if Ruth is really only seven years old as he looks older since…y’know he’s quite large for his age. That’s the first real scene of the movie, and we really are feeling empathetic.
Months go by as the Not-Yet Great Bambino attends the Catholic boarding school. His family never visits him and Ruth is constantly made fun of for being fat and oaf-like. A different priest played by James Cromwell (who tries his best to be the ‘cool priest’) puts together a batting practice for the kids. This is actually one of the better scenes in the movie as Brother Cromwell continuously strikes out these little kids, ridiculing them as they wildly swing through that Holy HeaterTM. Unfortunately for the priest, he has no idea who he’s dealing with as the rotund Baby Ruth comes up.
Strike 1: Ruth swings so hard he falls to the floor.
The entire group of kids all howl in laughter. They all simultaneously resort to childish mocking, well because they’re children. Ruth gets angry and reminiscent to Pedro Serrano’s “F*** you, Jabboo” moment, with absolutely zero knowledge of baseball or any athleticism in general, he magically changes his posture, chokes up on the bat, and clobbers the ball out of the neighborhood.
Upon realizing that ball ain’t coming back, Brother James Cromwell replies with a banger of a line: “I’ve been waiting 30 years for God to send me a miracle.”
12 years later. The Babe has grown (A bit too much even, as John Goodman, is 40 playing 19). The owner of the “Baltimore Baseball Club” as he literally calls it wants to sign Ruth. Unfortunately, Ruth is not allowed to leave at this time. The Baltimore owner mentions a loophole though, that he’s definitely thought over. What if the team adopts Ruth? As they talk back and forth, Brother James Cromwell (with a twinkle in his eye) does his best to pump up Ruth’s ability with just another incredible line: “you should have seen him yesterday. He pitched nine perfect innings…and then hit a ball 327 feet. We measured it ourselves.”
Side Note: This might be the most awkward baseball movie of all time. As evidenced by this goodbye scene where Goodman weirdly nods repeatedly at Brother James Cromwell without saying any words before leaving his home for the last 12 years.
Cut to Ruth’s first game with the Red Sox as we learn through exposition that he was traded for cash after only three weeks with Baltimore. [But, I thought they adopted him?! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!] His new teammates instantly make fun of him for being awkward and…you guessed it a big boy. That is until:
Yep, Ruth can hit. The entire team and fans instantly change their tune and suddenly, the world loves him.
BONUS: after he finishes rounding the bases, Ruth heads past some greeting fans, straight to the closest vendor to order up a couple hot dogs. It’s delightful!
Between now and the “big game” as it’s mentioned multiple times, we get some insane, random sequences.
-Babe Ruth eats an entire breakfast for five along with five bottles of beer all alone in under an hour.
-Babe Ruth hits on a waitress, Helen, with his go-to pickup line of: “You got more curves than the train tracks.” What’d the nosy ladies in the back think about that one?
-A silent commercial that advertises Ruth as some enigma that hits more home runs than the rest of the league combined.
-A dinner party at a literal castle where Ruth gives a speech about how everybody is so nice.
-Getting yelled at by the team’s owner for calling him Dad in front of strangers (yea, this is real).
-Getting a girl (dime piece) to go back to his place by calling her “one fine dame.”
This sequence of events feels like five years have passed. But, it actually brings us to just the next game. By the time Babe shows up, he’s incredibly late. In fact, it’s the last out of the game. He’s as drunk as an English sailor during the 17th-century Anglo-Dutch War. His uniform is unbuttoned and untucked. This does not look like the GOAT of Major League Baseball. Babe Ruth stumbles into the box, his vision is undoubtedly off, his sweat is profuse, and as the pitch comes in—he somehow smacks a long ball straight over the center-field wall. The Babe’s arrived.
By the next game, Bambino gets Helen, his favorite waitress, to come to the stadium to watch him play in a fashion that Charlie Kelly from “Always Sunny” would smile upon. That is by creepily following her down an empty, unlit street. Cornering her to tell this woman he barely knows how obsessed he is with her. And after staring softly into her eyes like Dahmer in a courthouse, he reaches in a bag and gives her a music box. She’s smitten and shows up to watch him play. And Babe shows his soft side, by getting thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes, resulting in a fight.
It’s around the halfway mark of the film (even though it feels like six hours) where “The Babe” turns the corner from being a baseball movie, and gets really, soulfully deep into his personal life. Which, mainly consists of partying, drinking, eating full family-sized meals, affairs with older women, and a car crash with an underage girl. All this while trying to keep his new bride (that’s right he marries the waitress Helen) happy at their newly bought farm/house. Also, he’s on the Yankees now!
The next scene of actual baseball is incredible.
The Great Bambino is on top of the world. He’s the king of New York. And he has everything he could ever want. At least to the public. Ruth refuses to work out with the team, only showing up in a mink coat with a cigar to hit dingers at batting practice. He continuously parties, drinks, and has affairs. And it gets to the point where Helen argues with him on the train to the next game, and bursts out of the room ready to end their marriage.
As Ruth sits in his private train car, in a sleeveless jersey, with a fashionable top hat, he cries. And in a moment of vulnerability, the general manager threatens to fine Babe for misconduct, and what else can he do other than maybe: threaten to throw the GM off the train?
It’s 1925. Ruth is struggling with drinking and is in a serious hitting slump. He’s jealous of any teammate that hits a home run, because, at this moment in the season, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a steamboat. Of course, that leads to some interesting hardships on the field.
Rock bottom. The fans think he’s washed. His teammates think he’s a bum. This is the part of the movie, where a redemption arc is absolutely a necessity.
Like clockwork, there’s a Rocky Montage (minus the fun).
-Babe gets re-married.
-Babe promises on national television not to have another drink until after the season ends.
-Babe begins a heavy workout routine of hitting a stump with an axe, shadow-boxing, and a bunch of cardio that helps him lose 20 pounds.
It’s now 1927. The Sultan of Swat is back to hitting homers with ease. The fans are back to adoration. He gets along with his teammates. His new wife even comes to watch him every game. There’s also a really “neat” scene where Lou Gehrig pops one out to deep center, and Babe gives him the sound advice to only aim for left or right field, because center is too far.
And wouldn’t you know it’s that kind of direction that turns Gehrig into an all-star slugger.
The season chugs on and the Yankees are in first place with both Gehrig and Ruth tied for the home run lead at 45 each. It would seem to the casual baseball fan that this would have turned into some sort of Mantle-Marris home run chase. A feat that would cause fans to go on tour following them around, cause huge promotions, and a rivalry/friendship that would push each other to their peaks. Well, two scenes later and Ruth ends the season with 60 home runs while Ironman Lou only has 47. This movie almost had me.
Now in real life, the Yanks won the world series that year in ’27. And they won again in ’28. But, for probably a lack of conflict, there’s no mention. But, HEY it’s now the 1932 world series between the Yanks and Cubs for I guess—”The Call.”
And with that, the Yanks sweep the series.
Another two-year gap passes, and the Babe is closing on 40. He dreams of being a player/manager, after all “if Ty Cobb can do it, why not Babe Ruth?” Following a failed negotiation with the Yankees Owner, Colonel Jacob Ruppert (hell of a name), the Babe asks for his release and signs on with the Boston Braves. He’s been relegated to nothing more than a bench bat + assistant manager.
After a dramatic turn, learning that the Braves owner thinks of him as no more than a circus act for media exposure, Ruth calls his own number to start the game batting third in the order. Almost like an allegory to his childhood. The announcers mock him as he walks to the plate calling Ruth “fat” and “washed up.” The fans point and laugh at him. The pitcher laughs at him. Every single person in that stadium minus his wife is laughing at him. And to be fair, the mocking is almost warranted, as Ruth’s first swing is uugly with two u’s.
It almost seems like Ruth is done, but come on movie, I know you’re gonna spoonfeed us a satisfying ending. The Babe dusts himself off, gets back in the box, points his finger famously out of the stadium as I guess his “second call,” and follows through with just that—a glorious dong. Babe Ruth would go on to hit three total home runs that game against Pittsburgh, and yet the Braves would still go on to lose 7-11. This would be Ruth’s send-off game (though not his last) as those were the last home runs of his career.
There we have it The Babe. Is it the worst Baseball film of all time? It’s gotta be close.
Some dope things:
-Nothing. This movie literally has no redeeming qualities. It’s not fun, yet not compelling. Super boring, would not even be fun with friends around to make fun of it.
-Usually, I’d say watch it if there’s at least a good actor in it, but even the great John Goodman publicly stated his acting performance was disappointing.
How’d it do?
It’s surprising to see that The Babe actually had mixed reviews from critics and movie-goers because it is such a boring film. It’s possible the movie made back it’s $12 million budget, but the distributors still chose to pull its theatrical run after only a month.
Is this the worst baseball movie ever?
I’m not sure. But, if there’s anything worse than The Babe, I’d be surprised. Just due to how slow and boring it is.
Should MLB Network air this movie during quarantine?
Who would I recommend this?
-Nobody needs to watch this.
Gotta be those darned pearl-clutching seniors.
Featured image by Zach Ennis