Review: Bang the Drum Slowly
I just saw the 1973 movie Bang the Drum Slowly for the first time, and truly enjoyed it. The title comes from a slow-paced mournal folk song, and the sight of a baseball player strumming a guitar in a locker room was certainly novel. The basic plot is a familiar one: A promising young player is struck down in the prime of his life by an incurable illness. In this case it's Hodgkin's Disease. Unlike most other such movies, you learn about the impending tragedy in the very first scene. It stars a young and wiry Robert De Niro, who plays the part of the catcher who tries to hide his illness from everyone but his teammate, the pitcher who is played by Michael Moriarty. Gradually more and more players find out, and everyone is caught in the dilemma of whether to help the ailing player to feel like everything is normal, or to express sympathy. How do you treat terminally ill people? The agony suffered by De Niro's character is interwoven with the ups and downs of the team during its pennant race: The "New York Mammoths" play against Baltimore as well as Pittsburgh in this pre-interleague era, so there are no connections to any teams or leagues from real life. Those alternate-universe sports movies grate on me a little bit, I'm afraid. There are a fair number of action scenes of games being played, but they mostly gloss over the drama of the particular game situations, a minor shortcoming. It's one of the few sports movies that a female companion is likely to appreciate, and that alone makes it worthwhile.
The movie credits state that the game action scenes were filmed in Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium -- in its last year before it was tragically remodeled. I don't believe any other New York team is identified in the movie, however, which makes me wonder whether the director expected the audience to recognize those well-known landmarks. In addition, there is a brief "cameo appearance" by RFK Stadium, in a rained-out game with the tarp being pulled over the diamond. (That reminds me of the April 30 game!) That scene showed very clearly the large scoreboard in right field. Based on this movie, I have updated the Movies section of the Civic religion page.
Mets sweep Nats
Just a week ago, when visions of an inaugural-year pennant still danced in their heads, the Nationals swept the Mets in three games at Shea stadium. Today the Mets got their revenge, doing likewise at RFK Stadium, as Mike Piazza got two home runs. At least this game provided lots of exciting back-and-forth action. Interestingly, both the winning pitcher (Juan Padilla) and losing pitcher (Travis Hughes) were charged with blown save opportunities. Rookie Ryan Zimmerman started in the cleanup position for the first time, but went 0 for 5, bringing his average down to .412, from .483 yesterday.
End of an era in N.Y.?
In their final home series of the regular season, the Yankees completed a sweep of the Blue Jays today. Given the (remote ) possibility that they might not make it to the postseason, and given the fact that their veteran centerfielder's contract is about to expire, this just might be Bernie Williams' final game in pin stripes! See MLB.com. Bernie's one of those unassuming, unsung heroes of the 1990s championship teams, like Tino Martinez. He would be sorely missed. The Yankees head to Baltimore and the Red Sox host the Blue Jays, and then the two rivals will face each other in Beantown to close out the season...
UPDATE: "What if?"
Given the tight races in the AL East, AL Central, and both leagues' wild card spots, it is interesting to ponder some of the strange scenarios that might arise in case of a tie or ties after the final regular season games are played next Sunday. See MLB.com.