Kang: Where did the great Hollywood baseball movies go?

From Jay Caspian Kang at the New York Times Magazine on May 23, 2017:

This spring, trying to bring some routine to my life as a new father, I made a pledge to watch a lot more baseball. It started out well enough: The Mets, my adopted team, ran out to a reasonably strong start before the injuries and losses started piling up in late April. But my attention also wandered, much more so than it does when I watch basketball or football. My pseudoscientific interest in the sport has long since passed — there was a time when I would dive into any statistical study with the same delight as a biology student first dissecting a frog and seeing how all the organs connect beneath the surface. Now that baseball has become more of a therapeutic diversion, I find myself wishing I knew how to put the frog back together.

This fitful watching is caused, at least in part, by the informational clutter that accompanies every baseball telecast. Of all the major sports, baseball benefits the least from high-definition technology: The greens are nuclear, and the extreme close-ups really aren’t good for much beyond showing you the path taken by a sweat bead as it runs down a pitcher’s face. Even supposedly helpful viewing aids, like the box that demarcates the strike zone or the cometlike streaks that show you the path of a pitch, take baseball out of its familiar, comforting settings — the laconic pacing, the simplicity of one player throwing a ball that another player tries to hit with a stick — and places it within intensely focused frames that promise, but rarely provide, some new insight into the game. No room is left for the imagination.

The silent spaces in baseball used to be filled in by novelists and filmmakers. They supplied quick-witted, slang-driven repartee that felt both revelatory and reassuring for dugout conversations and meetings on the mound. The makers of films like 1989’s “Major League” and 1988’s “Eight Men Out” gave us the thoughts of the batters as they dug into the box, the catcher’s mantras and occasional trash talk, the umpire’s endless exasperation. And while all that may have been fantasy, it convinced you that what you couldn’t hear or see while watching a baseball game could be translated directly into cornfed American English.

Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/magazine/where-did-the-great-hollywood-baseball-movie-go.html

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Originally published: May 23, 2017. Last Updated: May 23, 2017.