Monday, July 19, 2010

You May Run Like Mays ...

TigerBlog was in the car last night when he heard on the news that James Gammon had died. It was one of those tease intros to a story where the announcer says that someone had died who was recognizable to most people in every way except for name.

TB's first reaction was, of course, "who died?" Then, when the announcer mentioned that Gammon was a longtime actor whose most famous role was as Lou Brown, the manager of the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 movie "Major League," TB knew exactly who he was.

And TB was sad.

Who couldn't have been a fan of James Gammon, even if you never knew his name? He had a distinctive face and the deepest voice of any actor other than perhaps Sam Elliott.

Gammon's acting career, at least according to his bio on Wikipedia, began in 1968 and continued basically until his death. Along the way, he played characters with names like Peanut John, Clate Connaloe, Ironbutt Garrett and California Joe.

He also played three U.S. Presidents - Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant and Teddy Roosevelt. Is that the record?

TigerBlog remembers his small role in the movie "Silverado," a Western that TB saw when it first came out in 1985. Basically, Scott Glenn tries to trick Gammon's group into thinking that Glenn's group is a bunch of outlaws, when they're clearly the good guys, and everyone falls for it except Gammon, who says "they're gettin' away with the horses" in a way that TB has always remembered.

Of course, he's best known for playing Lou in "Major League." Like most of his characters, Lou is a bit crusty, a bit rough around the edges and completely lovable. He is hired to have the team finish last, but instead they end up winning the division, beating the evil Yankees in a one-game playoff at the end.

As an aside, even Roger Dorn is a more popular athlete in Cleveland these days than LeBron.

Back in his newspaper days, TigerBlog wrote a story about sports movies on the day of the Academy Awards of, probably, 1991 or 1992. Basically, there were two pieces to it. First, TB talked to some film makers and film critics about making sports movies, the problems that are usually encountered, the history and such.

Then, for the second one, TB did his Academy Awards of sports movies, taking the five main categories of Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress, putting down his five nominees in each and then selecting a winner.

The best sports movie of all-time is, of course, "Hoosiers." TB also had "Rocky," "Raging Bull," "The Natural" and "Heaven Can Wait" in his best picture group.

In addition, TB wrote how "Field of Dreams" was one of the worst movies he'd ever seen (he still believes that) because 1) it was too ridiculous, even by fantasy standards and 2) it glorified the Black Sox scandal. He also wrote that "Major League" was a very underrated movie and that it was among the best sports movies ever made.

In his 11 years in the newspaper business, TigerBlog received as much mail for his sports movies stories as he did for every other story he wrote combined. This was back when people had to write actual letters, as opposed to emails or comments on a blog.

Through the years, TB has thought that there has to be a great sports movie waiting to be made about something to do with Princeton sports.

You can actually go two ways with this, one a documentary or two an actual movie. For a documentary, there are endless possibilities, though TB thinks building one around the 2001 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game between Princeton and Syracuse would be a good place to start.

In that game, you had any number of storylines and angles for both teams, especially the emotion of Bill Tierney as he won an NCAA title with his two sons. And aren't great documentaries the ones that take a singular moment and explore it in considerable depth from all sides? It's not the moment itself that is most important; it's the people who went into the moment.

If not that, then perhaps one on Bill Bradley at Princeton? Or how the 1998 men's basketball team came to be together at Princeton? Or the 2004 women's soccer team? Or the very first competition involving women at Princeton?

As for an actual movie, TB is sure that there's an Academy Award out there waiting to be given to the Hobey Baker story, which TB went into a bit last week. Think about it. The story has everything - sports, war, a handsome leading man, some love angles and ultimately a tragic death.

Who wouldn't want to go see that? It would be better than any movie out there lately that isn't "Toy Story 3."

Maybe TB should start writing it and selling it to Hollywood. And get casting on the line.

Oh wait. Sadly, James Gammon can't be in it.


CZ said...

So I guess neither "Eddie" nor "Leatherheads" made your best picture cut, huh?

Anonymous said...

Hoosiers, Rocky, Raging Bull...I agree.

I'd take any of the following movies as the other two:
Brian’s Song
Chariots of Fire
Friday Night Lights
Longest Yard, The
Bad News Bears
Pride of the Yankees
The Hustler
A League of Their Own
Breaking Away
The Natural
Slap Shot