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TV & Film

Soul of the Game

Ellen Adair September 15, 2021

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This week on Take Me In to the Ballgame:

Ellen Adair and Eric Gilde discuss the 1996 film “Soul of the Game.” They introduce the film (1:16), with an overview of the story, cast, and filmmakers. They review the 20-80 baseball scouting grades for rating the film (4:32). Amount of Baseball (7:50) highlights baseball in credits, some Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Jackie Robinson heroics, and a quick player comp. Baseball Accuracy (10:36) begins with a discussion of Josh Gibson’s erratic behavior and drinking depicted in the film, versus his real-life diagnosis of a brain tumor, with anecdotes from Buck O’Neil, Orlando Cepeda, Don Newcombe, Josh’s sister and Sean Gibson. Gibson’s history with the Pirates and William Benswanger, Wendell Smith and Cum Posey, as well as his meeting with Clark Griffith of the Senators, are discussed. Degree of blame for Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Satchel Paige as Rookie of the Year (Alvin Dark says, Excuse me)? Satchel Paige’s age? What were the mechanics of his hesitation pitch? Context for the team assembled by Trujillo, in addition to Paige’s experience and performance on the team, with reference to Sam Bankhead and Cool Papa Bell. Satchel’s arm pain and the number of teams Paige pitched for are also discussed. Conversation about Willie and Cat Mays in Chattanooga and Harrisburg, the 1945 East-West All Star Game, Satchel Paige sayings, Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, Hilton Smith, Marion Anderson, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Josh Gibson’s power (972 homers?), the absence of Clyde Sukeforth and Wendell Smith, Jackie Robinson’s number on the Monarchs, and the weird Black/white All-Star Game. Storytelling (55:38) considers the mythic nature of the Negro League stars, the opening montage, the dynamic between Paige and Robinson, and the story of why Robinson was the Black ballplayer who was chosen. They discuss the Willie Mays bookends, the girl at the gas station, and Steve Buckley the scout. The Score (1:10:02) includes usage of jazz, blues, and music that gets an entirely disproportionate response from Ellen. In Acting (1:12:52), admiration is lavished upon the ensemble, but particularly on Delroy Lindo, Edward Hermann and Mykelti Williamson. Blair Underwood, Salli Richardson and Gina Ravera are also praised. Delightfulness of Catcher (1:22:57) presents a conundrum of evaluating the real Josh Gibson versus the delight of this portrayal. “Light seasoning” for Delightfulness of Announcer (1:25:11). Lack of Misogyny (1:27:10) considers whether this film has actually improved upon the truth in this area, with the exception of the omission of Josh’s dead wife Helen. No spoilers on the following segments: Yes or No (1:31:02), Six Degrees of Baseball (1:34:52), Favorite Moment (1:36:19) Least Favorite Moment (1:38:11), Scene We Would Have Liked to See (1:40:28), Dreamiest Player (1:44:00), Favorite Performance (1:44:28), Review Thank You (1:45:38) and Next Time (1:46:05).


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