The Natural (1984)

So over Father’s Day weekend, me and my Dad watched The Natural. The baseball movie about a young phenom, with a bat that he made himself from a branch of the tree that was struck by lighting after his father died by the tree, who gets sidetracked and reappears 15 year later on a team. It’s like the only other great baseball movie (Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, League of their Own) and I hadn’t seen it before. So that was remedied. As usual there are bound to be some spoilers so please read with caution.

Roy Hobbs is a phenom pitcher who we see growing up playing catch with the father. His father has a heart attack and dies under a tree on his family’s farm. This tree then gets struck by lighting and Hobbs fashions a bat out of one of the branches which he dubs “Wonderboy.” Hobbs is a fantastic pitcher and he is called up for a tryout with the Chicago Cubs on his way there traveling on the same train is the top hitter in the whole league who challenges Hobbs to strike him out with, Hobbs strikes out the hottest hitter in the world at a carnival and a sports writer who was at the event chronicles it with a cartoon. This puts Roy Hobbs on the radar of some lady who does in future phenoms or something it really isn’t explained that well what all happened in the film, perhaps in the book there is more details about this. I really didn’t understand this part of the film, as to why he needed to get shot and left for dead.

So 15 years later Roy Hobbs is scouted by the New York Knights and called up only Pops, the manager and co-owner of the team thinks that a 35 year old rookie is a crazy idea and wants to send Hobbs down to a Class B (I think that’s like high A ball today) team and play there. Since we later learn that Pops had made a deal with the other co-owner for full control of the team if Pops can win the pennant. Roy Hobbs refuses to go down and after the right fielder irks Pops, Hobbs is put in to pinch hit and “knock the cover off the ball” and that is just what Hobbs does. So the Knights go on a winning streak with Hobbs as the new right fielder. This streak ends when he is introduces to The Judge, Gus and Memo. The Judge is trying to throw the season away to get rid of Pops so he is paying off members of the team to play poorly and calling up random people from Podunk towns. Hobbs goes cold until he runs into his girlfriend from when he was young Iris and he erupts back into a power hitter. This last until The Judge summons Hobbs back to his office and bribes him to throw the rest of the season, as they need just one more game to win the pennant. Hobbs refuses but later that night get food poisoning and is rushed to the hospital. Without Hobbs they have to play a one game playoff to see who gets in and Hobbs is ready and willing to play with the hopes of Pops winning in the long run. Now the film has a different ending then the book.

The movie was good except for that part at the beginning when Hobbs get shot and we learn that she’s done this to many other extremely talented individuals in the past as well. It’s a great family film. It’s sort of based on the story of King Arthur and the Grail myth with some nods to historic ballplayers Eddie Waitkus and Joe Jackson. Many people consider this the best Baseball movie ever made, some even put it over Hoosiers as the best sports movie ever. It is worth the time to watch it if you are a fan of baseball and if you can watch it with your father or son that would make it even better.

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