Baseball BeatAugust 22, 2003
Following Up On Passing The Time...
By Rich Lederer

The Other Alex The Great, Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, informed me that "Bang the Drum Slowly" was not Robert DeNiro's first starring role. Alex, who is an expert when it comes to films as his background includes having worked on the Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary, pointed out DeNiro was the lead in two of Brian DePalma's early movies--"Greetings" and "Hi Mom". Alex indicated these movies were "low-budget cheapies so, for all intents and purposes, you weren't wrong". Nonetheless, my email exchange with Alex made me reassess my Top Ten Baseball Movies because I had left out documentaries altogether.

Baseball (A Film By Ken Burns)

Despite some flaws, Baseball is the most important and enjoyable film I have ever seen in regards to the national pastime. I believe all baseball enthusiasts and students of the game's history should have this masterpiece in their movie library. The PBS Gold collection features over 25 hours on 10 DVDs. There are "nine innings" plus an "extra inning". The first inning begins with baseball origins through 1900 and each subsequent inning is produced on a decade-by-decade basis through 1970 with the eighth inning covering the period from 1970-1994. The extra inning is The Making of Baseball. The film is awesome in the use of archival photographs and clips along with outstanding narration by John Chancellor.

When It Was A Game

My second favorite baseball documentary of all time is "When It Was A Game". I wholeheatedly endorse purchasing the Triple Play Collection, a three-part series spanning 1925 through the 1960s. "When It Was a Game" is composed entirely of never-before-seen 8 and 16 mm footage taken by fans and the players themselves. The documentary does as good a job of transporting the viewer to a time gone by as any I've ever seen. The music, narration, and interviews with several players and celebrities add to the nostalgia and bring back to life baseball when it was a game.

The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg

A third documentary that is worthy of a Top Ten mention is "The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg". I don't own the DVD but saw the film in a movie theatre in the first week of its limited release in 2000. The documentary does an outstanding job of telling the true story of baseball's first Jewish star in the face of prejudice and isolation during the Great Depression and the War Years. The black and white newsreels from the 1930s and 1940s help us understand the obstacles Greenberg had to overcome in a story that previously had never been told to the mainstream public.

Lastly, speaking of Alex The Great Belth, be sure to check out his two most recent interviews with Jane Leavy (the author of "Sandy Koufax--A Lefty's Legacy") and Jim Bouton (former pitcher and author of "Ball Four" and "Foul Ball"). Alex has developed a well-earned niche in this area and his interviews are all must reads.

Check back this weekend for more on the other Alex The Great, aka A-Rod.