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On "Angels in the Outfield" + A Lament on Too Many Strikeouts In MLB Playoffs + More TCM Tips

This coming Monday October 17 at 930A EDT, the original "Angels in the Outfield" (1951) airs on the Turner movie channel TCM.  Rarely mentioned in the pantheon of baseball films, "Angels" has many fine performances starting with Paul Douglas as the profane manager of the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates who

is humanized by Janet Leigh, a manners reporter for a local newspaper.


Bruce Bennett - born Herman Brix, a silver medalist in the shotput at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and briefly a movie Tarzan - plays a key supporting role as a gritty starting pitcher. Some of the film was shot on location at Forbes Field during Branch Rickey's first of five unsuccessful years trying to turn around the undermanned Pittsburgh franchise.


The film was originally entitled "Angels and The Pirates" but the producers decided it would be false advertising if overseas viewers thought they were getting a swashbuckling adventure movie.

Uncredited, James Whitmore plays the voice of the angel who does his part in taming Douglas's

explosive temper.


I won't spoil the film any more if you haven't seen it. I'm not saying you might find it too hokey and

corny. I must admit that Keenan Wynn's sportswriter is over-the-top and the orphaned Donna Corcoran might be a little too cute.


But I do want to mention that director Clarence Brown was a major Hollywood player, dating back to his role in guiding Greta Garbo to her first stardom.  You also don't want to miss cameo appearances by Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, and the baseball-obsessed songwriter Harry Ruby.  


Am interested in your opinions on the film.  So please post comments on the blog page.


While watching the endless parade of pitchers in the MLB playoff games, I thought a lot about Bruce Bennett's Saul Hellman, the starting pitcher in "Angels" who yearns to complete his games. In

today's baseball, it is a minor victory for baseball traditionalists when a starting pitcher goes into the 6th inning let alone completes it.


I'm not against new information on pitching and hitting, but there is definitely such a thing as Too Much

Information (TMI) and PBA (Paralysis By Analysis).  Maybe it is inevitable given the power arms that every team seemingly posseses these days, but I am saddened if not downright angered by the number of strikeouts that are accepted as the norm in today's game. 


I'm posting this blog with the Cleveland AL team (aka the Guardians, formerly Indians) having knotted the best-of-five series with the Yankees.  They could advance to the ALCS by the end of the weekend but they'll have to score more runs than usual.  


They do strike out the least of all the playoff teams and play good defense with solid pitching so they have a chance. They wil have to contain Aaron Judge who is ready to break out after striking out a lot in

Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS before the impatient if not downright boorish home Yankee fans.  


I am drawn by nature to underdog teams with the most hunger and the most to prove. Take a player like Phillies second baseman (once shortstop) Jean Segura, the position player who had appeared in the most MLB games without appearing in the post-season.  


The Phillies can dethrone the Braves later today but that is hardly a gimme.  Even if they lose today, I predict they won't go down easily in a game 5 at Atlanta.  


The Mariners hadn't been in a playoff since 2001 when winners of 116 games, Seattle bowed to the

Yankees in the ALCS.  They lost two close games in Houston and before a packed house at home today,

I think the can handle the battle-tested Astros.  I kinda doubt they can do it twice, but that's why they

play the games, to find out who's best.


I still want Houston's Dusty Baker to earn his first World Series win as a manager, but I don't want underdogs ever to be embarrassed. The Padres have a chance tonight to exorcise the dominance of their haughty big brothers of the North, the LA Dodgers.


Behind proud local boy Joe Musgrove, they may have the pitcher to lead the way. Whatever happens,

like the upstart Phillies, the Padres should make a winner-takes-all Game 5 very competitive. 


Before I close, here are a couple of more TCM tips for the next week or so.


Tues Oct 18 back-to-back early 1940s Hollywood anti-Nazi films.  

4p "The Mortal Storm" with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.  My most vivid memory of this one is

watching CBS TV's "The Early Show" before dinner and Dan Dailey - years before he played Dizzy Dean

in the utterly forgettable "Pride of St. Louis" appears as a Nazi bookburner sitting afire Heinrich Heine.


6p "So Ends The Night" written by Erich Maria Remarque who shot to fame with the book

and later movie "All Quiet on the Western Front". The haunting Ms. Sullavan appears in this one, too.

This is Hollywood after all, but on my first viewing I thought two Gentiles, Sullavan and Glenn Ford, gave creditable performances as aspiring Jews escaping from eastern Europe. Also with Fredric March.


BTW I highly recommend Scott Eyman's, "Hank and Jim" (Simon and Schuster, 2017).  Subtitled

accurately "The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart."  Fonda was briefly married

to Sullavan and  Stewart held life-long affection for her (as seen in the original "Shop Around The Corner").  In an adversarial age like ours, their friendship despite political disagreements is good

to know about and learn from.


Tues Oct 20 630p documentary on film director Val Lewton

8p "Salt of the Earth" 1954, about an union organizing effort in Mexico directed by Herbert Biberman            

10p "A King in New York" Charlie Chaplin's 1957 return to the screen in USA


Fri Oct 21 930A "College Coach" (1933) In a rarity, pre-Noir Dick Powell morphs into fiery football coach

         6p "Knute Rockne" (1940) Pat O'Brien in title role, Ronald Reagan as the Gipper 


That's all for now - always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and especially these days:

Stay positive, test negative. 

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"There Are Times When Both Teams Should Have Won" + Thoughts on Baseball Voting and College Basketball + TCM Tips (updated for some boxing classics on Feb 8)

The Kansas City Chiefs' gripping overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday night Jan 23 kept me from getting too involved with TCM's showing of Joseph Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning "A Letter To Three Wives" (1949).  I had seen it before and will see it again.

More on Douglas and TCM upcoming films in a moment.


I felt bad for Buffalo and the ardent fans of western New York State.  They were only 13 seconds from hosting an AFC championship game this coming Sunday against the surprising Cincinnati Bengals and their growing-before-our-very-eyes young quarterback Joe Burrow.  


Whatta duel Buffalo's young QB Josh Allen engaged in against Kansas City's equally youthful QB Patrick Mahomes. Time to forget about the forty-something QBs Tom Brady and the insufferable anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers. Time to give props to these youngsters still in their mid-twenties.  


And let's give a shoutout to the good parenting they received. Patrick Mahomes' father, Pat, pitched for the Mets in 1999 and 2000.  Hard not to believe that Patrick's poise and remarkable calm under pressure had its roots when he was only five years old and he shagged fly balls at Shea Stadium before the 2000 Subway World Series.


A quick Wikipedia perusal led me to a nice tidbit from Josh Allen's mother.  "You bloom closest to where you plant," she said in explaining why her son never switched high schools in their small home town 40 miles outside Fresno, Calif.  


Neither did Josh go to a fancy QB camp. He played all sports in high school that left him further off the radar of the modish top football recruiters.


After a year of junior college, only Eastern Michigan and Wyoming were interested in Allen, and he chose the latter.  Interestingly, EMU beat Allen's Wyoming team twice.  


In an interesting side note, now that the transfer portal is brimming with activity, EMU has lost its top two QBs and their ace kicker who helped them beat Illinois and Purdue in 2021. It is the Wild West in college recruiting now on so many levels. 


As for the big games this Sunday to decide the Super Bowl contestants on Feb 13, it is a rare if not unprecedented rematch with teams who met on the last day of the regular season.  


After all his years toiling for the woebegone Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford might be a sentimental favorite leading the LA Rams.  I would guess that his Texas high school battery mate Clayton Kershaw will be rooting for him.  Love the story that Stafford not only caught Kershaw in baseball but Kershaw centered the ball for his classmate in football.


Stafford must cut down the needless turnovers because the San Francisco 49ers will be ready to capitalize.  As the home team the Rams are slight avorites.


In the other matchup, I would think the Chiefs and the magical Mahomes should end Cincinnati's surprise run.  But even in close football, youneverknow, youneverknow.  Just hope the refs don't needlessly decide the outcome.


Turning to baseball - and I'll believe spring training starts on time on Valentine's Day when

plaayers and owners truly work out their differences  - I thought David Ortiz's election into the Hall of Fame was a foregone conclusion when he became the powerful voice of Boston Proud after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.  


That Ortiz wrapped up the year with a third World Series triumph cemented his enshrinement in the hearts and minds of the 77% of the 400-plus writers who voted him in.


That Ortiz's life in the Dominican Republic has not been exemplary was not a concern to the American voters. He was almost shot to death a couple of years ago in some kind of drug dealing incident.  Only the finest medical treatment here in the States saved hs life.


I don't share the indignation that some sportswriters are spewing that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were not elected after ten years on the ballot.  Now only a veterans committee can elevate them.


Turning to the exciting college basketball season and my two favorite teams, Columbia's women's basketball team improved to 5-0 in the Ivy League and 14-3 overall with a stirring come-from-behind win on Jan 26 over a longtime nemesis Penn.  


There will be a rematch on the road against Penn on Sat Feb 5 at 6p preceded on Fri Feb 4 at Princeton at 5p against the other undefeated team in the league.  Both games will be on ESPN+ as will the 2p Sat Jan 29 game at Dartmouth.


As for the Wisconsin men's basketball Badgers, they lost at home to Michigan State last Friday.  The absence of junior forward Tyler Wahl really hurt, but there are signs that his injured ankle is healing.  


There's a big matchup at Illinois, last year's champion, on Tu Feb 2 at 9p EST, TV on the Big  Ten Network. Their star center Kofi Cockburn has been out for a few games but they

are still formidable.  


And Badgers can't overlook a game at Nebraska on Jan 27 at 5p. Then come two home battles - first against Minnesota on Su Jan 30 at 1p and another vs. Penn State on 

Sa Feb 5 at 6p.  Then a visit to Michigan State for a rematch on Tu Feb 8 at 7p.


No game in the brutally competitive Big Ten is a gimme and the Badgers are not deep. Johnny Davis, the emergent Player of the Year candidate, has to stay healthy himself.


FINALLY here are some TCM tips for the end of the month and into February: 

"Letter to Three Wives," noted earlier, was Paul Douglas's first big role. 1949 was a big year for the former radio announcer and baseball broadcaster who had a worthy run in Hollywood until his death by heart attack in September 1959.  


On Tu Feb 8 at 1245p, Douglas stars as a grumpy baseball manager in the original "Angels in the Outfield" (1951), much of it filmed at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. The always-excellent


Janet Leigh plays a manners newspaper reporter who tries to smooth his rough edges. 

BTW Douglas was Ray Milland's catcher in Valentine Davies' marvelous baseball fable, "It  Happens Every Spring" (1949).  A year before, Davies created a classic Christmas fantasy, "Miracle on 34th Street," some of which actually was filmed at Macy's. With Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus, Maureen O'Hara, and young Natalie Wood.


Also on Feb 8 at 6p the 1951 "Show Boat" with Ava Gardner/Joe E Brown as Capn Andy

followed by 8p Leon Gast's doc. "When We Were Kings" (1996) about Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire with a lot of great music


945p John Huston's "Fat City" with Jeff Bridges as a mediocre fighter and genuine welterweight Curtis Cokes (1972)


1130p "Raging Bull" (1980) - Scorsese directs DeNiro as Jake LaMotta - followed by:


115A Robert Rossen's grueling "The Set Up" (1949) with the magnificent Robert Ryan


F Feb 11 at 1p "Three Little Words" (1950) about the musical comedy team of Harry Ruby (Red Skelton) and Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire).  Skelton doesn't do justice to Ruby and his genuine love of baseball.


But several ballplayers appear including George Metkovich as onetime pitcher-turned-

comic Al Schacht. Ruby himself makes a cameo as a player as do former Yankee Jerry

Priddy and Pacific Coast League legend Frank Kelleher.


On the serious film front on TCM, I'm curious to see the original "Dillinger" (1945)

Fri Jan 27  at 1015a - Mozart's birthday no less - with an all-star cast of gangsters including Lawrence Tierney in the title role and such classic gangsters as Eduardo Ciannelli, Elisha Cook Jr., and Marc Lawrence.


Sa Jan 29 245p Burt Lancaster, who did all his own stunts, in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962)


Tu Feb 1 Henry Fonda night including 8p John Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939) 


10p William Wyler's "Jezebel" (1938) with Bette Davis


F Feb 4 at 6a worth at least taping "The Breaking Point" (1950) John Garfield's last Warner Brothers film and produced by his own company. With Phyllis Thaxter as the solid wife, Patricia Neal as the noirest of women, and the unjustly forgotten Juano Hernandez as Garfield's boat assistant.


Sa Feb 5 2p Fritz Lang's "Rancho Notorious" (1952) with Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, and Mel Ferrer



Su Feb 6 12M, 10A "The Turning Point" (1952) - Noir Alley presents William Holden fighting

corruption with or without the help of Edmond O'Brien and Alexis Smith.  Don't get confused. This is the "Turning Point" not the "Breaking Point".


12N "Rhapsody" (1954) Elizabeth Taylor must choose between a violinist or a pianist.

Another one of TCM's odd juxtapositions but the classical music is very good in this film.


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and stay positive test negative.







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