Baseball is a never-ending source for popular culture storytellers whose tales tap a range of emotional veins in fans of the National Pastime.
We cry when Gary Cooper reenacts Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech in The Pride of the Yankees.
We cheer when Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn strikes out Clu Haywood to win the American League East pennant for the Indians in Major League.
We laugh when the Chico’s Bail Bonds team from southern California’s North Valley League travels to Houston for a game at the Astrodome in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.
One of baseball’s biggest fans in the popular culture arena is Rob Reiner, who became a household name for his portrayal of Mike “Meathead” Stivic on the 1970s television show All in the Family. He became one of Hollywood’s A-list directors.
In 1982, Reiner starred in Million Dollar Infield, a CBS television movie featuring challenges of middle age against the backdrop of a men’s softball team. Reiner, Bruno Kirby, Christopher Guest, and Robert Costanzo play the core four characters, each with his own dilemma. Guest’s character obsesses over baseball, ignores his son’s emotional issues, and prizes winning above all else. Reiner’s character deals with divorce. The team gives the men an outlet where they bond over a common goal of winning games. Reiner co-wrote the script for Million Dollar Infield.
Reiner co-wrote the premiere episode for Happy Days. Airing on January 15, 1974, the story revolves around Richie Cunningham—the main character—pursuing a bubbly blonde named Mary Lou. When Richie’s friends want to know “how far” he got on a date with Mary Lou, the conversation takes place during batting practice.
A similar male bonding scene takes place in When Harry Met Sally, directed by Reiner. During an outing at the batting cages, Harry confides to his best friend, Jess, that his platonic relationship with Sally is wonderful because there are no miscues, expectations, or hurt feelings that may happen if the relationship escalates to a romantic level; ultimately, Harry and Sally become a couple.
Reiner voiced a baseball named Screwie in the 2006 animated movie Everyone’s Hero. In an interview with Alan Schwarz of the New York Times published on September 17, 2006, Reiner compared being a baseball manager handling players to being a movie director handling a cast. “You have to know, based on their personalities, which ones to push and which ones to back away from,” said Reiner. “Managers, it’s the same thing. It’s managing personalities so that you get the best out of your players.”
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on March 1, 2014.
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Tags: 1974, 1982, A-list, All in the Family, Astrodome, Bad News Bears, Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, Bail Bonds, baseball, Bruno Kirby, California, Chico's Bail Bonds, Christopher Guest, director, divorce, Everyone's Hero, Gary Cooper, Happy Days, Hollywood, Houston, luckiest man, Meathead, Million Dollar Infield, New York Times, North Valley League, Pride of the Yankees, Rob Reiner, Robert Costanzo, Screwie, The Bad News Bears, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, When Harry Met Sally, Yankees