The Natural

Opinions run wild when it comes to the best movies of all time. Some like dramas. Some prefer comedies. Others action/adventure. Every one has a different taste. So, when I say my favorite movie of all time is The Natural, some may scoff. Some may even agree. But for me it’s a two fold reason.

Number one: I am a baseball junkie. I live, eat and breathe baseball. It has been a passion of mine since I could hold a ball and this movie encompasses everything that I wanted to be when I grew up…”When I walk down the street, I want people to say, ‘There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in the game'”.

Number two: The movie was released in 1984 (I was one). But my dad and I watched it the night before every single Opening Day that I ever played from when I was six years old through now. I went through a period of time, as most teenagers do, that I thought this tradition was silly, but it was a way for my dad and I to bond. He’d try and go line for line with me, but mix up the words…ie, “You can’t pronounce it, but it tastes good” when the line is actually, “You cant spell it, but it eats pretty good”. That’s just one example. Even through college when I was away from home, we would call each other to sync up when to push play on the VCR which transitioned into DVD.

When I finished my playing career and got into broadcasting, we’d watch it before the team’s opening day that I was working for. If we were on the road, I’d bring the DVD, pop it in the computer and watch it from a hotel room. It’s a tradition I make time for. My wife, at the time when we first met almost nine years ago, thought we were crazy (my mother even thinks so too), but she’s jumped on the bandwagon and will watch along now, just as long as I limit my quotes (because I could recite the whole thing pretty close to word for word).

Needless to say, the movie holds a special place in my heart as I get long winded with my explanation of why it’s my favorite movie of all time.

To the point (finally)…In our recent trip to Buffalo, the Bisons Hall of Fame has monthly themes. August’s theme…The Natural.

One of their long time fans has collected numerous pieces of memorabilia from the movie, which was filmed mostly in Buffalo at War Memorial Stadium (which has since been torn down).

As I learned of this exhibit, I got a little excited to say the least. Bisons broadcaster Ben Wagner and Public Relations Director Brad Bisbing allowed me into the Hall of Fame before the gates opened and I had my own private tour of all the great items.

Intermixed with the photos, I’ll provide a few of my favorite quotes from the movie…just because.

War Memorial Stadium  sign

War Memorial Stadium sign

The actual jacket worn by Robert Redford in the movie

The actual jacket worn by Robert Redford in the movie


Roy Hobbs: Red, it took me sixteen years to get here. You play me, and I’ll give ya the best I got.
NY Knights jersey with game used bat on the left

NY Knights jersey with game used bat on the left


Pop Fisher (manager): Batting practice tomorrow, be there!
Roy Hobbs: I have been. Every day.
Knights letterman jacket with 1 of only 7 "Wonderboy" bats ever made

Knights letterman jacket with 1 of only 7 “Wonderboy” bats ever made


Pop Fisher: Come on, Fowler! Throw strikes!
Red: Fowler’s killing worms, Pop.
Authentic game programs were printed for filming, even though they listed Hobbs in LF (he played RF in the movie)

Authentic game programs were printed for filming, even though they listed Hobbs in LF (he played RF in the movie)


The Whammer: That guy’s throwing spit balls out there.
Sam Simpson (scout): A pig’s poop, that ball’s as dry as your grand daddy’s scalp.
Authentic game programs just in case they needed a shot of them during filming

Authentic game programs just in case they needed a shot of them during filming

One of the lockers with a Knights jersey, including lightning bolt patch

One of the lockers with a Knights jersey, including lightning bolt patch


Roy Hobbs: I remember signing a contract, to play ball not to be put to sleep by some two bit carney hypnotist! I won’t do that Pop! I can’t.
IMG_1218

IMG_1219

Buffalonians getting into the filming 30 years ago this month

Buffalonians getting into the filming 30 years ago this month


Psychiatrist: Losing is a disease…as contagious as Bubonic Plague….Ah, but curable…
Glenn Close, who I'm told was very nice during filming, played Iris..."The Lady in White"

Glenn Close, who I’m told was very nice during filming, played Iris…”The Lady in White”

The name plate for Bump Bailey who gave Hobbs a chance at playing because he initially lost a ball in the sun..."blinding"...then died while crashing through the wall

The name plate for Bump Bailey who gave Hobbs a chance at playing because he initially lost a ball in the sun…”blinding”…then died while crashing through the wall

Robert Redford with his baseball card in the lower right

Robert Redford with his baseball card in the lower right

Good ol' Roy

Good ol’ Roy


Pop Fisher: My ma urged me to get out of this game. When I was a kid, she pleaded with me. And I meant to, you know what I mean? But she died.
Red Blow: Tough.
Pop Fisher: Now look at me. I’m wet nurse to a last-place, dead-to-the-neck-up ball club, and I’m choking to death!
Roy Hobbs at the plate

Roy Hobbs at the plate

Picture of the final scene with the exploding light standard. The only shot they did less than 10 times...this only took 2 takes!

Picture of the final scene with the exploding light standard. The only shot they did less than 10 times…this only took 2 takes!

Wilford Brimley with Director Barry Levinson

Wilford Brimley with Director Barry Levinson

The original script to the movie...the scene pictured never actually took place in the final movie

The original script to the movie…the scene pictured never actually took place in the final movie


Pop Fisher: You know my mama wanted me to be a farmer.
Roy Hobbs: My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.
Pop Fisher: Well you’re better than any player I ever had. And you’re the best God damn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.
The iconic Roy Hobbs

The iconic Roy Hobbs

The filming location descriptions in and around Buffalo

The filming location descriptions in and around Buffalo

The cover of LIFE magazine with Roy Hobbs on the cover

The cover of LIFE magazine with Roy Hobbs on the cover


Ed Hobbs (Roy’s Dad): You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift then you’ll fail. (also my senior quote from high school)
Home plate of old War Memorial Stadium

Home plate of old War Memorial Stadium

To say that I was in awe would be an understatement. I reverted back to being a 5 or 6 year old kid looking at some of those relics. The LIFE poster….the actual baseball held by the “Nebraska farm boy with blazing left handed speed”…the actual jacket Redford wore?!? I mean, come on…I had goose bumps.

This may not interest many, but I know I’ll have at least two people hooked…obviously myself, but my dad as well. It was a special few minutes in that Hall of Fame snapping pictures and learning the history of Buffalo baseball.

I even had a chance to chat with Duke McGuire, current Bisons #2 radio broadcaster, who was in the movie and was the baseball advisor throughout the filming. That interview is below.

As my sister would say, “I geeked out”. It was a great honor to be there and I couldn’t thank Brad, Ben and Duke for all of their time and sharing all this great memorabilia. It honestly made the entire trip.

If you haven’t seen the movie, well, maybe I motivated you a little bit to see it.

Thanks for reading, listening and looking!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

2 Comments

Jeff that was really Cool, felt like i was there. Great Pictures, love the Quotes, and I also Love the Movie !

Glad you enjoyed it!! Was amazing to see…as you can see through the blog. Thanks for reading!

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