Little Big League: A Baseball Movie Classic
Little Big League, which sees a 12-year-old become both owner and manager, is one of the greatest baseball films of all time.
It’s no shock that Little Big League has become a cult classic through the years. MLB Network regularly airs the film as one of its Bleacher Features throughout the season. I would have rewatched on MLB Network instead of renting it but YouTube TV needs to get back to the table and not keep throwing baseball fans under the bus. Anyway, the film will forever be a time capsule of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The idea of a preteen owning a baseball team, let alone naming themselves as the team’s manager is preposterous. And yet, this doesn’t stop us from enjoying the film. The film’s fantastical elements, in that regard, are no different than Rookie of the Year. The only difference, of course, is that Billy Heywood (Luke Edwards) is the owner and manager of the Minnesota Twins, rather than playing for them. While the Twins manage to play themselves into a [playoff race, their efforts fall short of winning the AL pennant or World Series. Most films have a happy ending but not Little Big League.
The Minnesota Twins are not playing at their finest when Billy inherits the team from his grandfather, Thomas Heywood (Jason Robards). He’s not happy with George O’Farrell’s (Dennis Farina) screaming antics so he fires the manager and inserts himself into the role. The catch is that the commissioner is fine with it but only if Billy’s mother is fine with it. Billy’s mom says the same thing but the commissioner didn’t quite know that. The first sign that Billy is new school is when he wins the argument with pitching coach Mac Macnally (John Ashton) over what to do in a situation. As far as players go, they all have their own quirks but Jim Bowers (Jonathan Silverman) is certainly a fan favorite.
After naming himself as manager, Billy reminds the team that baseball should be about having fun. It takes Lou Collins (Timothy Busfield) to remind Billy about his previous comments. You couldn’t blame Billy for taking his role seriously. He starts becoming that manager who wants to win at all costs, even benching his future step-father, Lou, if it means winning a game.
When it comes to the playing of the ballgame itself, there’s no opposing players who throw temper tantrums like in Rookie of the Year. Billy Heywood even gets into it with an umpire over a play at first base. He was approaching managing a game from sabermetrics well before Billy Beane would utilize it to rebuild the Oakland Athletics. We don’t witness any antics that would take someone out of the game although Heywood calls for a play that gets the entire team on board. But still, it’s authentic baseball, right up to Ken Griffey Jr. robbing the Twins of a home run.
There are no cameos for the sake of cameos—everyone has a role to play, including Randy Johnson during the film’s closing scenes. Real-life Twins announcer John Gordon brings some humor to the role as Wally Holland, much in the same way that Bob Uecker does for the Major League franchise. Interestingly, they brought in Jon Miller at first but he wasn’t a good fit. It’s a film that shows a different aspect to road trips than Rookie of the Year. Hey, anyone want to order Night Nurses from Jersey?
Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, and The Sandlot were all family movies—The Scout, not so much. A good chunk of these films came out in 1993 and 1994. Throw in The Mighty Ducks trilogy and the Twin Cities saw a lot of screen time. All the baseball movies have their own thing to enjoy about them but Little Bug League needs to be reevaluated for its greatness, even as it underwhelmed at the box office.
When the film was released in theaters nearly 30 years ago, the Minnesota Twins were three years removed from their second World Series championship in five years when the film was released. However, they weren’t the team that screenwriter Greg Pincus initially had in mind. No, Heywood was going to manage the Kansas City Royals—having access to the stadium is how the team went from the Royals to the Twins. Filming at the Metrodome would also help with continuity, unlike filming at an outdoor stadium. The film would change through rewrites and director Andrew Scheinman coming on board. Somehow, this would be Scheinman’s only film as a director. Andrew brought his brother, Adam, on board as co-writer. There have been a few oral histories abut the film through the years, whether at Bally Sports or The Athletic.
The plot might be ridiculously absurd to an extent but Little Big League is one of the greatest baseball movies ever made. You know what? You should start Wedman.
DIRECTOR: Andrew Scheinman
SCREENWRITERS: Gregory K. Pincus and Adam Scheinman
CAST: Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Ashton, Ashley Crow, Kevin Dunn, Billy L. Sullivan, Miles Feulner, Jonathan Silveman, Duane Davis, Bradley Jay Lesley, Scott Patterson, John Minch, Antonio Lewis Todd, Joseph Latimore, Kevin Elster, Michael Papajohn, Wolfgang Bodison, Leon “Bull” Durham, Troy Startoni, Teddy Bergman, John Gordon, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Dennis Farina, and Jason Robards
Columbia Pictures released Little Big League in theaters on June 29, 1994. Grade: 4.5/5
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