There was a time when I loved everything about baseball. I could sit down and watch any baseball game, it didn’t matter if my beloved Boston Red Sox were playing or not. Then came the 1994 baseball strike, and my love of the game changed.
Since the player’s strike of ’94, I no longer follow the daily scores and standings. The only games I watch now are the ones my Red Sox are playing in. And unless Boston is in the post-season, I will skip the World Series for several years.
But as I said earlier, there was a time when I could consume anything baseball related. It did not matter how silly, or insane it was. As long as baseball was involved I was there. Movies were no exception, and 1994’s “Little Big League” was one of my favorites.
“Little Big League” is a movie about 12-year old Billy Heywood (Luke Edwards), a normal kid who’s millionaire grandfather (Jason Robards), happens ro own the Minnesota Twins. When the grandfather suddenly dies, he leaves Billy “my very favorite thing: the Minnesota Twins.”
A few days later when Billy fires the team manager, Billy decided to coach the team himself. It is at this point when gis mother (Ashley Crow) wonders why he can’t get a job delivering papers like everyone else.
The premise of a 12-year-old managing a Major League team sounds ridiculous now, but back then it sounded like the coolest thing in the world. Every baseball fan would kill to own his or her favorite baseball team.
One of the things I liked about this movie was that it didn’t dumb anything down. The script shows great respect for the game, and treats every situation like the real deal. Luke Edwards plays Billy as a smart, thoughtful kid who seems grown-up for his age. His strategy in dealing with his players is to speak honestly.
Billy has one especially effective scene where he tells the team how they should be grateful for the privilege of getting to play baseball: to step up to the same plate where the Babe Ruth swung his bat, or stand in the same batters’ box once occupied by Joe DiMaggio.
Helping Billy deal with the team are: Mac (John Ashton), the veteran bench coach, who acts as an adviser and Billy’s right-hand man, and Lou Collins (Timothy Busfield), a veteran first baseman who also happens to be dating Billy’s mother. Both actors are great in their roles, especially Timothy Busfield as the aging player.
The last thing I was expecting was for “Little Big League” to have decent story, let alone good subplots. But I liked seeing Billy start out as a normal kid with a normal life and friends, but by midway through the baseball season his ego gets the better of him, and he starts forgetting his old friends.
“Little Big League” was not a big hit when it opened in June 1994. The film opened a couple of months before the MLB strike, so talk of a work stoppage was already in the air. Maybe that had something to do with the movie’s weak box office run. Then again, maybe it had something to do with going up against “True Lies,” “Forrest Gump,” and “The Lion King” at the same time.
Either way, “Little Big League” is not a bad movie, it’s entertaining, and features a surprisingly strong baseball awareness. If you can find a copy, or catch it on TV, check it out!