Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Long Gone
2008-02-19 10:30
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Considering the fact that there are so few good baseball movies, it's inexcusable that Long Gone, a made-for-HBO baseball movie from the mid eighties (1987 to be exact, the year before Bull Durham was released) is not available on DVD. It isn't a great movie, but it is a very good one, one that offers numerous satisfactions, particularly the performances by William Peterson (Stud Cantrell), Virginia Madsen (Dixie Lee Boxx) and Durmot Mulroney (Jamie Donn Weeks), who have rarely, if ever, been as good. In a wonderful bit of casting, William Gibson and Teller play the father and son ownership team of a low-minor league team in the 1950s (these two alone make the movie worth watching.)

The script is based on the short, but lively baseball novel by the veteran journalist and Hank Williams biographer, Paul Hemphill. The screenplay isn't as sharp as the book. Subplots involving a black player posing as a Latino, and a young player knocking up a local girl, as well as the standard big-game finish, are weak points, but the movie retains the inherent charms of the book all the same. The locker-room scenes here are looser and more vulgar than the ones in Bull Durham (though they aren't as lewd as the ones in Slap Shot).

Jack Nicholson was reportedly interested in playing Stud Cantrell for years. It's too bad he didn't make the movie because it would have been great to see Nicholson play a ballplayer when he could still get away with it. (Something tells me he'd be far more belevable than DeNiro was in Bang the Drum Slowly.) That said, Peterson is more than credible, and he's got that same, over-the-hill spark that made Paul Newman so winning in Slap Shot. Moreover, the role of Cantrell was a welcome departure from the heavy roles Peterson played in To Live and Die in L.A. and Manhunter.

Unfortunately, HBO has not aired the movie in years and, again, it is not available on DVD. The only way to see it is on an old VHS tape. Perhaps one day, HBO will decide to re-run it. I don't know why they wouldn't. It's a little gem. Not the great baseball movie that we know can (and will) be made one day, but still, a very appealing one.

Anyhow, here's an excerpt from Hemphill's book, where Cantrell dispenses wisdom to Jamie Weeks, his rookie second baseman:

"What's wrong?"

"Me," Stud told him. "That's what's wrong. Me."

"I don't understand."

Stud rolled his eyes. He leaned back and lit a cigar and looked at Jamie. "Fuckin' thirty-nine years old, sitting in a goddamn diner ins some piss-ant town like this, reading about myself in the Birmingham News on a Sunday morning before going out to play the fuckin' Fort Walton Beach Jets. Class-D. Goddamn bottom of the line."

"Well, hell, Stud, we got a chance at the pennant."

"And a goddamn kid who in two months' time has learned to say 'goddamn' and "Jesus' and 'hell' and 'by God' sitting in front of me."

"What's that mean?" Jamie said.

"It means everything, kid." Stud was in a melancholy mood, which Jamie and the others had noticed more and more in recent days. "You know why me and you get along so good?" He didn't wait for a response. "It's because you've got what I want and I've got what you want. I got experience and you got innocence. Boy, I tell you." Stud swept a kerchief over his face. "All those years. Jeseus. When I'm eighteen, living on a farm in North Carolina, the Yankee scouts come up there and promise me the world. I go off to spring training and I damned near make it before the war starts. Then I get this bad leg wehn I get shot up in the Pacific. Then my old lady leaves me for some goddamn four-F. Then I can't run no more. And so I start doing the only thing I can do, which is to play baseball, all over the fuckin' world. You name a town, I been there. You name a broad, I fucked her." Somebody played a Rosemary Clooney song on the jukebox. "I've picked grapes, sold used cars, coached basketball, been a father, and screwed a sheep. I've lived in Ardmore, Eastman, Hopkinsville, Amarillo, Pocatello, Hazard, and Thibodaux. I've hit an umpire at Big Stone Gap, caught the clap in Galveston, and been run out of Waterloo for knocking up the club owner's daughter. I got a great future behind me."

"But goddamn, Stud."

"Kid. You got a lot of time to get 'experience.' Take your time."

I found a clip from the movie on You Tube: here.

2008-02-19 10:52:28
1.   JL25and3
Teller in a speaking role?

Something else I've been looking for for years: an old SNL sketch with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest as two old Negro League players, the Rabbit and the King. It was absolutely hysterical, and included a cameo by Yogi Berra (commenting on Smelt Night). I haven't been able to find it in any of the anthologies.

2008-02-19 10:58:29
2.   Alex Belth
Teller was GREAT. Lorne Michaels et al won't release any of the Short-Guest-Crystal-Shearer SNL years (maybe it was just two seasons), because that is when Michaels was on hiatus from the show.
2008-02-19 11:01:06
3.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Hmm, perhaps a female lead named Boxx accounts for not releasing it to dvd? Too funny. Did the screenwriter give her a best friend named Rackk?
2008-02-19 11:13:13
4.   rsmith51
A few years ago, I picked this movie up at a video store after remembering really liking it when I was younger. I was a little disappointed when I watched it again. It is still a decent baseball movie, but not quite what I had expected.
2008-02-19 11:49:37
5.   Alex Belth
Virginia Madsen as Dixie Lee Boxx. Man, what a dish.
2008-02-19 12:36:22
6.   Josh Wilker
0 : "it would have been great to see Nicholson play a ballplayer"

He once did, sort of, I think. I never saw the movie Ironweed, but I read the book, and in the book the main character, played by Nicholson in the movie, is a former star baseball player from the deadball era.

As for Bang the Drum Slowly, my main problem was Hank Wiggen as a righty. Moriarty did a good job in the role, and I think he's the son of a major league ump or something, but still. A righty playing The Southpaw himself? Sacrilege.

2008-02-19 12:58:07
7.   Sliced Bread
I thought DeNiro was great in "Bang The Drum Slowly." I forget it's him, and he makes me cry every time I see it. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the story.
It's such a heartbreaking role you'd have to be, I dunno, Ben Affleck to fuck it up. Actually, I think he could pull it off.

6 I didn't see Ironweed either, but read the book, and was going to school in Albany when the movie was shot. I remember hearing or reading that Nicholson went out of his way to rent the only house in the city that had an indoor pool and basketball court. Paid the family a ridiculous amount to move out temporarily so he could play inside.
I also remember hearing Streep was so convincing on set as she slipped into character playing the depressed drunk, people around her were worried about her. She'd just sit, curled up, not saying anything for an uncomfortably long time before the cameras rolled.
I remember the reviews weren't that good so I never bothered checking it out, but maybe I will now that I'm thinking of it. Some talent in that cast.

2008-02-19 13:14:24
8.   Just fair
I feel like I just read liner notes from a Johnny Cash song. I know I must have seen that movie before. I'm an 80's HBO movie junkie, if there is such a thing. After reading all the IMDB info, though, it still does not set off any memory bells. The vhs box looks vaguely familiar.
2008-02-19 13:33:13
9.   yankee23
Well it seems HBO put all their eggs in the LaserDisc basket with this one:

2008-02-19 14:26:11
10.   RIYank
Up here in Red Sox Nation the talk (when it isn't about football video tape) is all about Curt Schilling.

"Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made it clear to a small group of handpicked media members yesterday morning that he remains unhappy that he cannot proceed with the shoulder surgery recommended by his personal physician, even though the Red Sox privately contend that the procedure, known as biceps tenodesis, has never been done on a major league pitcher and would eliminate any chance of his pitching this season."

RSN isn't too happy with Curt right now. The general sentiment seems to be that if he really thinks he needs the surgery, he should void his contract (which the Sox would be very happy to do) and get the surgery. And if he's going to keep the Sox' $$$, then he should shut up and rehab.

2008-02-19 20:06:24
11.   Bruce Markusen
Alex, right on about Long Gone. A terrifically underrated baseball film that has long been one of my favorites. I've always liked it better than Bull Durham, which was good, but a little overhyped.

Back in the 1980s, HBO didn't have the influence or respect that it has today. Maybe that's why it's been overlooked. Petersen is excellent (long before his CSI days), along with Madsen, Gibson, and Teller.

My favorite baseball film? A League of Their Own, though maybe I'm biased because a small part of it was filmed here in Cooperstown. I love The Sandlot, too.

We're kind of due for a really good baseball movie.

2008-02-19 20:16:51
12.   OldYanksFan
Mr. Brian Bruney is looking good.

Bruce... nice to hear someone else give high kudos to a league of their own (I feel a little like a girly man when I admit my love for this move). I loved seeing the original old gals playing at the end of the movie while the credits rolled. They actually looked better then the older Yankees at Old Timers Day.

And man... sliding in skirts?
You won't catch me doing that.
(I'm OK wearing a skirt... but sliding?)
And while there are a number of classic lines in the movie, it's hard to beat "there's no crying in baseball".

2008-02-19 21:40:11
13.   Chyll Will
Great... now I'll have that stupid yodeling in my head all night...
2008-02-19 21:45:43
14.   Bruce Markusen
Indeed, there are a lot of great lines from A League of Their Own. My favorite isn't one line, but series of lines from an exchange between Tom Hanks and Geena Davis on a bus ride, when Davis' character is thinking about quitting. I don't remember the exact words, but it culminates in Hanks saying: "Baseball is supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everybody could do it. The 'hard' is what makes it good."

I'm sure those aren't the exact words, but they're something to that effect.

2008-02-20 08:39:45
15.   OldYanksFan
Bruce... you might enjoy this.

One of my favorites between Rosy and Madonna:

Doris Murphy: Hey Mae, Mae, your date's here.
Mae Mordabito: How do I look?
Doris Murphy: Where'd you get that dress?
Mae Mordabito: Borrowed it.
Doris Murphy: It don't fit you, Mae, it's too tight.
Mae Mordabito: I don't plan on wearing it that long.
Doris Murphy: Ohh. I don't know why you get dressed at all.

And a classic line that I have to wonder if it was ever said on a MLB field:

Batter (after a called strike): That was clear inside. That was clear inside...
Umpire: Listen, yesterday that was a ball, tomorrow it might be a ball, but today it's a strike.

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