In honor of the 2018 MLB season, I thought that I would review the best Baseball, and frankly best Sports movie ever made as my Bucket List Pick. “The Natural” highlights the baseball career of NY Knights slugger, Roy Hobbs. It showcases an Oscar worthy cast of Robert Redford as Roy, Glenn Close as Iris Gains, Kim Bassinger as Memo Paris, Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird, Wilfred Brimley as Pop Fisher, Joe Don Baker as the Whammer, and the great Robert Duvall as the sports writer Max Mercy.
Roy Hobbs’ quest is simple. To walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.” As a naïve hot shot young prospect in the early 1920’s, it seemed that nothing would get in his way of achieving this goal. However, fate sometimes gets in the way and forces our lives down unexpected paths. So true is the life of one, Roy Hobbs.
The film opens with a middle-aged man holding a case of some sort waiting for a train. We find out that this man is Roy Hobbs (Redford). He is on his way to a baseball try-out with the last place New York Knights. Pop Fisher (Brimley) the team manager, can’t believe what he sees as Roy crushes ball after ball in the outfield seats. He signs the mysterious slugger to play for the Knights during the 1939 season. What does Pop have to lose, the Knights finished the 1938 season in last place and if they have another losing season, Pop will lose his share in the team. The 35-year-old rookie has finally made it to the big leagues. We flash back to unravel a troubling story of a young naïve farm boy beaming with confidence 15 years before. We see a young boy playing catch with his father trying to impress his cute next-door neighbor. His father foretells “You got a gift Roy, but it is not enough.”
We are then taken to the night Roy’s father dies of a heart attack while cutting wood. That night a lightning bolt hits the tree his father was cutting and splits it in half. Roy uses the wood to craft a bat he calls “Wonderboy,” which he uses from that moment on. We are then transported to 1924. Roy leaves his girlfriend Iris on the farm to pursue a tryout in Chicago. She never hears from him again. After the train stops at a carnival, we are introduced to Max Mercy (Duvall) a national sports writer who is doing a story on the greatest baseball player in the world, “The Whammer” (Baker). Sam Simpson is the scout that is representing Roy Hobbs. He makes a $100 dollar bet with Mercy that Hobbs can strike out “The Whammer” on three pitched balls.
Hobbs victory gets the attention of Harriot Bird (Hershey) who has been following “The Whammer” to Chicago. Roy is called to Ms. Bird’s room that evening where his life will change forever. He never makes it to Chicago. We are then transported to the 1939 Knights season. The Roy Hobbs led Knights are in first place and are the talk of baseball. Roy is transported to celebrity status and is introduced to a local gambler named Gus Sands. He introduces him to a young, beautiful socialite named Memo Paris. They begin a relationship and Gus begins to bet against the Knights.
Roy enters into a torrid hitting slump. The Knights begin to drop in the standings as the Knights play a three-game series in Chicago. After two dreadful strike out at-bats, Roy comes up with a chance to win the game. He glares into the stands and sees a woman in white standing amongst the crowd. He homers to win the game and begins to search for the mysterious woman in white. He learns that this woman was his childhood sweetheart, Iris, who has moved to Chicago with her son. He asks her why she stood up and she replied, “I didn’t want to see you fail.” He tells her of his issued past and they reconnect.
The Knights start winning again, and Hobbs continues his torrid hitting season. They are playing for the National League pennant. An old stomach injury sidelines Roy till the final game to decide the National League champion. Doctors have warned Roy that if he plays he could die and advise him against playing. The owner of the Knights (The Judge) offers Roy a bribe not to play so he can take over full control of the Knights when they lose. This will leave Pop Fisher out of a job and away from the only life he has ever known. Roy must make a choice. A choice to play and risk possible death. Or not and survive but let down Pop Fisher, his teammates and all those little boys that cheer his name. His choice brings rise to a climactic finale that is one of the most iconic in movie history and will literally leave you in tears.
“The Natural” is my Favorite Movie of All Time. I must have seen it hundreds of times and know every line by heart. Never see this Movie with me, because I can’t help but recite every line and upcoming plot twist. My family all know this as fact. “The Natural” is more than a baseball movie. It is a film about fate. It is a film about fathers and sons. It is a film about team. It is a film about the human condition. It is a film about perseverance. It is a film about redemption. Frankly, it is a film about the unpredictability of life.
“The Natural” warns that nothing is promised in this world. It is about our ability to adapt to many of life’s unseen twists and turns that form us as the people we are today. “The Natural” uses the life of Roy Hobbs to discuss disappointments, relationships, temptations, reflection and redemption. In the immortal words of Iris “Roy, with or without the records, they will remember you.” So, I believe Roy does achieve his goal of “Being the Best there ever was in the game.” It just wasn’t according to his timeline.
I dedicate this review to my Father who took me to see this great film on a rainy day in 1987. Where no matter how bad I played or felt after a game, he always said I looked good in my uniform. I love you for that Dad. I give this Film a standing ovation 4 out of 4 stars and a Must See for Everyone.