Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Kid From Left Field

I accidentally discovered this movie on a sleepless night last week. It was released in 1953 and, in addition to Bancroft and Dailey, also stared Lloyd Bridges. The story is about 9 year old Christy (named for Christy Mathewson) Cooper, the son of ex-ballplayer Larry "Coop" Cooper (Dailey), loves baseball. One day, he and a couple of buddies are caught sneaking into the Bison's stadium. He gets away but meets up with Marian Foley (Bancroft) who is the niece of the former owner and works for the current owner (who's name, improbably enough, is Mr. Whacker). Whacker is impressed with the boy and gives him a job as bat boy. Chris becomes friends with the team's aging star, Pete Haines (Bridges) and soon is passing tips to Pete from Coop. Eventually, Coop is secretly helping all the players, who of course, think the kid is a genius. Coop, by the way, is a peanut vendor at the ballpark. The team manager, who is pretty slow on the uptake, finally figures this out and has the kid fired.

The team immediately goes south and Mr. Whacker hires the kid back as manager. A winning streak ensues. the Bisons are apparently in the American League as their only named opponents are Cleveland (although Indians is never mentioned) and the Yankees. The Yankees are the only other team ever shown in game situations. But all is not perfect. In the beginning of September, the Bisons are 6 games behind the Yankees for 1st place but Chris gets picked up by the truant officer. After a short but noisy confrontation between the school district, Mr. Whacker, Coop and a lady judge, Chris gets back to managing but with a private tutor. During the last series of the season, with the pennant on the line, Chris gets pneumonia. Mr. Whacker assures his players that its not like when they were kids, Chris would only be in the hospital a week (a week!).

The Bisons go down in defeat in the first game and are now 1 and a half games back with 2 games to play. Chris comes clean with the team and tells them it was really Coop who was running the team. Mr. Whacker hires a reluctant Coop. The Bisons win to pull within 1/2 game. In the last game, Coop pulls out every baseball stunt you ever heard of including putting the starting pitcher at 3rd (which totally stumps the announcer) for one batter, and in a big finish, has a player steal home to win the game. It helped that the pitcher had the longest, most complicated windup in baseball history. The Bisons go to the World Series, and that's the end of the movie.

10-year-old Billy Chapin played Chris Cooper. Chapin had a 15 year career in movies and television from 1944 to 1959. His first credit was as 'the Blake's baby girl' in 1944's Casanova Brown.

This movie was remade as a TV movie in 1979 with 11-year-old Gary Coleman as Jackie Robinson Cooper, kid manager of the San Diego Padres.

1 comment:

dinged corners said...

WOW! Must. see. this.