Art Imitating Life or Life Imitating Art?

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By: Bryan Snyder
Assistant Athletic Director/Head Volleyball Coach

As I was running on the treadmill in the fitness center a few weeks ago and flipping through some channels on the TV, I came across the movie Major League II, and watched the final 20 minutes or so of the movie.  I love sports movies, and even though baseball is far from my favorite sport, there seem to be more good movies about baseball than of any other sport, and in fact, my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is a baseball movie.  In sports, anything is possible, and oftentimes in sports films, improbable situations play out that remind us of just that fact.

Jake Taylor (left) speaks with Ricky Vaughn (right) in one of the best sports movies ever made (even if it has been proven inaccurate)

So, as I watched the final scenes of Major League II, in which Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn comes into the game as a relief pitcher and tells his manager that he wants to intentionally walk the first hitter he is scheduled to face so that he can pitch to Jack Parkman, who absolutely owns Vaughn, I started thinking about the original Major League movie.  It too has a great ninth inning scene that includes Vaughn entering the game to strike out the Yankees’ vaunted Clew Haywood in the top half of the inning before the hero of the film, Indians catcher Jake Taylor, lays down a surprise bunt with two outs in the bottom of the inning that scores Willie Mays Hayes from second to win the game.  However, if you pay close attention to the set up of that scenario in the movie, you will notice that even though anything is possible in sports and movies, that outcome could not actually have occurred as scripted.  Let me explain …

In the one-game playoff between the Indians and the Yankees, Hayes leads off the seventh inning by making an out, and Taylor follows that up by grounding out (he appears to hurt his hamstring while running out the ground ball … which helps to set up the ninth inning bunt).  The next batter, Roger Dorn, gets on base before Pedro Cerrano hits a two-run homer to tie the game, and the score remains the same until Taylor’s “epic” bunt in the bottom of the ninth.  This is where the chronology seems to come unraveled.  Since no more runs are scored we know the maximum and minimum number of batters who can come to the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.  First, assume that the batter after Cerrano (we will call him the #5 hitter) makes the final out of the seventh inning, and then, the Indians go 1-2-3 in the ninth (batters #6, #7, #8).  That would make the #9 hitter the first out in the ninth inning, brining Hayes up with only one out, as opposed to the two outs that the scene shows.  We can also try the maximum hitter route, where the #5, #6 and #7 hitters get on base in the seventh after Cerrano’s homer before the #8 hitter makes the final out (remember, no runs score in the 7th or 8th after Cerrano’s blast).  Then, in the eighth, three men reach base, and three men make outs (#9 through #5 hitters), meaning that the #8 hitter would be up with two outs and nobody on in the ninth, and Hayes is the #1 hitter.  I hope that doesn’t ruin the ending of that movie for anyone (it doesn’t for me), and I like the poetic license taken by the writers and producers on that one.

Many hours were spent playing RBI baseball around college campuses in the early 1990's

As I was thinking about that movie and how it ends, it also reminded me of something a friend of mine sent me a few years ago via email.  The original Nintendo video game system was a huge hit when I was in high school, before the proliferation of all of the other game systems that are out there now, and I brought mine with me when I came to W&L as a freshmen.  Needless to say, many hours were spent playing all sorts of games, and all of our favorites were sports games, one of which was RBI Baseball.  Just as the writers of Major League wanted to create the most dramatic effect for the ending of their film, sometimes, re-creating real-life drama can be quite amazing as well.  Check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t12qml7up-o to see how one man recreated the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets via RBI Baseball.  I was 13 years old when that game occurred, and I can remember the ball going through Buckner’s legs like it was this fall.  I was rooting for the Mets in that Series (I am a Cincinnati Reds fan, but that Mets team, with Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, etc. was “cool” to those of us just entering our teen years) and was elated when the Mets came back to win.  I also played several thousand games of RBI baseball between 1987 and 1993 (when Sega Genesis took over the home video game system market), so this story was just unbelievable to me when I first saw it.  RBI Baseball has its quirks and tricks, as any video game does, so I can see how this guy was able to pull this off, but I also realize how hard it would have been to do and how long he spent doing it.  Makes me wish I would have thought of it 20 years ago!

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