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Posts Tagged ‘World Series’

Two years ago I wrote a post about an up and coming baseball player named George Springer. Well last night he won the Willie Mays World Series MVP as he helped the Houston Astros win the World Series. So this seemed a good a time as any to repost my thoughts from April 2015 after I saw Springer played in a spring training game:

“The only thing I can control is how hard I play, my effort and my attitude.”
George Springer
USA Today interview (2014)
photo 2

You may have never heard of George Springer, but I think his career can help your career. Springer is not a screenwriter or filmmaker, but a professional baseball player with the Houston Astros.

This is the last week of spring training for Major League Baseball and since this past Monday it was a 75 degrees, perfect blue sky day in central Florida I drove out to Kissimmee, FL for a baseball game between the Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays.

I don’t follow baseball like I did as a kid and didn’t recognize a single player in the line-up for either team. It didn’t take long to learn Springer’s name because he made a spectacular play in right field when he saved a ball from being a home run to end the inning and on the next play hit a home run.

Turns out the 25-year-old Springer is starting his second year in the big leagues. Time will tell if he’ll become a star but he certainly has a lot of potential.  What does that have to do with screenwriting and filmmaking? This is the way I see it…Springer has had a lot of small victories to bring him where he is today.

He was a high school baseball star in Avon, Connecticut who attended the University of Connecticut on a scholarship. His freshman year of college he was named to the Baseball America Freshman All-America First Team. Two years later he was named the Big East Player of the Year and to several first team All-American teams.

In 2011 he was a first round draft pick of the Astros and had a nice signing bonus of $2.52 million. To develop as a player he played for several minor league teams in Corpus Christi, TX, Oklahoma City, Ok, Landcaster, CA and Troy, NY. His play was good enough in Texas he was voted the Texas League Player of the Year.

Last April he made his MLB debut, and the following month was named Rookie of the Month, before going on to hit 20 home runs in his rookie season. So when I saw him play earlier this week and make that great catch crashing into the right field fence, followed by his home run over the same right field fence—he’s been on a steady upward path for at least the past decade.

Dream big, start small. Consider it spring training for screenwriters. (And sometimes those small victories are just completing a script and starting the next one.)

P.S. Below is a micro doc I made on Tinker Field last year after I learned it was going to torn down. There were some protests which delayed the process, but I just learned that next week the demolition will begin on the former spring training facility.

4/19/15— Just ten days after I wrote this post Springer made perhaps the greatest catch of his career basically duplicating the catch I saw in spring training, but this time robbing a player of a walk-off grand slam home run in the 10th inning of a regular season game. See Springer’s game saving catch.

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Scott W. Smith

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To paraphrase what David Mamet once said about the theater—Baseball is always dying and always being reborn.

The Chicago Cubs winning the final game of a best of seven game World Series was the stuff of high drama. A couple of years ago I wrote a post called Screenwriting and the Super Bowl. This post could be called Screenwriting and the World Series.

Here’s a quick overview of why the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series captured the attention of so many here in the United States with an estimated 40 million viewers watching on TV. And because this is a screenwriting blog, I’ll talk about it in terms of the theatrics. (And I’ll just limit it to 11 points)

BACKSTORY: Chicago is third largest city in the United States. And even as the 2.7 million population is not in growth mode there are millions of others scattered throughout the country with roots in Chicago. And part of those roots is being a Chicago Cub fan. The fact that the Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908 meant to be a Cubs fans meant generations of being perianal losers. The quintessential “This wasn’t out year/Wait until next year” fan.

Toss in the legend of the Curse of the Bill Goat where the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was asked to take his Billy Goat out of Wrigley Field because its smelled bother other fans  so he allegendly cursed the team and it’s not hard to see where even the non-baseball fan was pulling for the Cubs.

And because of labor strikes by players and steroid drug scandals over the years Major League Baseball isn’t quite the national pastime it once was. The NFL and NBA are the glamour models of professional sports in the United States. And everything from UFC, smart phones, video games, etc. don’t make the culture at large as interested the slower game of baseball as popular as it once was.

But last Wednesday night people sat up and paid attention to baseball.

So game 7 of the World Series—winner take all. The series tied three games a piece. The odds are against the Cubs for several reasons and of the main ones is the game was played in Cleveland. But the twist is because of the historic chance to win a World Series, Cubs fans from around the world pay on average $2,700 per ticket. (But actor Bill Murray gave an extra ticket he had to a Cubs fan.) So a healthy amount of Cubs fans are in the stands so it’s not a typical away game. In fact, behind the Cubs dugout it probably felt like a home game.

STAKES: For all the reasons above the stakes are high for the Cubs.

DYNAMIC OPENING: The very first batter of the game, Dexter Flower, hit a home run for the Cubs. A lead off home run in game 7 had never happened in World Series history.

GOALS: Each team/fan has a simple definable goal—to win game 7 and the World Series. There’s no real bad guy/bad team here, just two equally matched teams. Though because the Cubs haven’t won in so long the are seen as underdogs and people love to root for underdogs.

CONFLICT—There’s contant conflict throughout the game as teams fight to score runs and prevent the other team from scoring.

CRISIS-In the next to the last inning, the Indian get a two run homer to tie the game. The tide appears to be shifting for the home team. NBA champion and MVP LeBron James is in the stands and does a Hulk Hogan impression of power. After the regulation 9-innings the game is tied 6-6. But in the tenth inning the Cubs score two runs to take a 8-6 lead.

CLIMAX: All the Cubs need is three outs to finally win a World Series after 108 years. They get two outs, but the Indians also score a run and have a man on base meaning a home run by the next batter would result in the Indians winning 9-8. But he grounds out and the Cubs win. Celebrating begins and doesn’t stop for a couple of days.

RESOLUTION: The celebration continues as the Cubs return to Chicago for a old school downtown parade. (The kind astronauts got after the returned safely from space.)

IS IT A MOVIE? Sure it was an exciting World Series, but does that make it worthy of a movie? Time will tell. There definitely will be long and short documentaries on the 2016 Chicago Cubs. But chances are if the first feature dramatic film made about the Cubs winning will probably be a quirky indie film set around the events of the memorable 2016 team.

Take for instance the man who made a promise with his dad that if the Cubs were ever in the world series that they’d listed to the game together. The problem was his dad was dead. So the 68-year old man drove 650 miles from his home in North Carolina to a cemetery in Greenwood, Indiana where father was buried after he died in 1980. Sitting in a chair next to his father’s headstone he listened to the game. That’s the stuff of great drama. The Straight Story meets Field of Dreams.

EMOTIONS-After the last out in game seven, I bet there hasn’t be so many grown crying in the USA over something athletic since Brian’s Song first aired back in the 70s. (By the way, another Chicago-based movie.) And there were plenty of women and children caught up in the celebrations and mixture of emotions.

WHAT’S CHANGED?: The world is different now for Cubs fans. They are winners now.

It’s a little sad that we’ve lost The Bad News Cubs, but congrats to the 2016 Chicago Cubs for bringing a jolt of life to baseball—especially in light of a time when American politics appears on life support.

P.S. And since this blog is titled Screenwriting from Iowa I should point out that the Chicago Cubs have a minor league team in Des Moines, Iowa. And one of the millions of subplots surrounding the Cubs win 85-year-old Darel Sterner, a life long Cubs fan and Iowa resident, watched the Cubs finally  win the World Series and died three hours later.

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Bleacher Bums

Scott W. Smith

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“In the entire history of theater, it would be difficult to think of a play that’s more purely American than Bleacher Bums.”
Los Angeles Times review 

If the Chicago Cubs lose tonight there will be some happy Cubs fans. That’s not a typo. Yes, the Cleveland Indians fans will be happy if there team wins game 6 and become World Series champs for the first time since 1948.

Why, you may asked, would some Chicago Cubs fans be happy if their team loses another World Series? That is a rational question. But you see, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series game since 1908. Part of what’s baked into being a Chicago Cubs fan is your team is a perennial loser.

Several generations of Cubs fans have a shared camaraderie that their team is not going to win a World Series. I doubt there is anyone in Chicago (maybe in the world) who was alive and remember the last time the Cubs the World Series.

And, Yahoo! Sports reports that while the majority of Cub fans (91%) would like to see the Cubs finally win the World Series, that “1 in 4 Cubs fans will miss their identity of losing if they win the World Series.”

An identity of losing—that’s a theme worth exploring dramatically. And in fact, if I recall correctly, that was the basis for the play and TV movie Bleacher Bums. According to Wikipedia the 1977  play was “written collaboratively by members of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, from an idea by actor Joe Mantegna.

I saw the play at a small theater in Los Angeles in the early or mid-80s and actually don’t remember much about it except it was enjoyable to watch. The play takes place in the cheap seat, outfield bleachers during an afternoon game at Wrigley Field as the ensemble cast of Cubs fans interact with each other.

Two Tv versions were made based on the play including this one from 1979 which aired on PBS:

If the Cubs lose tonight (or tomorrow night) Cubs fans in Chicago can still “celebrate” by catching the tail end of an updated Bleacher Bum run at the The Broadway Theater of the Pride Arts Center in Chicago. (According to the Chicago Tribune the play closes November 6.)

P.S. Back when the Indians won in 1948 one of their pitchers was Satchel Paige who on October 10, 1948 became the first black pitcher to to pitch it World Series history. That’s 45-years after the first World Series game was ever played. Which reminds be of another baseball film, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976). Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins wrote the screenplay based on William Brashler’s novel.

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Scott W. Smith

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Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
A Cub’s Fan Dying Request/Steve Goodman

wrigleyfield

©2006 Scott W. Smith

Last night the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series game in 71 years. It was kind of a big deal for the Windy City. Tomorrow the Cubs host the Cleveland Indians in the first World Series game to be played at Wrigley Field since October 10, 1945.

And even though 71 years is a long time to wait to win a World Series game, the Cubs actually haven’t won an entire World Series since 1908. That’s 108 years ago for those of you keeping score.

Part of that team was immortalized in the Franklin Pierce Adams poem Baseball’s Sad Lexicon:

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Tinker to Ever to Chance is about Cubs players Joe Tinker, Johnny Ever, and Frank Chance who were the best double play combination of their day, and one of the greatest of all time.

Joe Tinker retire to Orlando, Florida where he died in 1948. Back in 2014, a year after I returned to my hometown of Orlando after a decade in Iowa I made this short film about Tinker Field—named after Joe Tinker.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Chicago 15-20 times over the years for various reasons including shoots, edit sessions, anniversary celebrations, conferences, etc. and look forward to any opportunity to travel there. I think I’ll reflect on Chicago in my next post.

Best wishes to the Cubs and their fans. It’s been a long  wait. Seems like a fitting end to this post is to close with Steve Goodman’s A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request.

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Scott W. Smith

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“Just because you’ve made a movie doesn’t mean anyone’s going to see it.”
Kent Stock

It’s hard to believe that last night ended the final season of the San Francisco Giants’ 52 year drought without winning a World Series. They’ve had some great players over the years. Looking back it’s hard to believe that MLB Hall of Fame greats Willie Mays,Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal played on the same team but somehow never won a World Series.  Congrats San Francisco, home of the 2010 World Series champions.

But for the next few days I want to talk about the baseball movie The Final Season. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I think you’ll find the story of its sixteen year journey to get made an interesting one. Though it’s taken me a few years, the timing just seems to be fitting to write about this 2007 independent film that was set and filmed in Iowa.

Yesterday I went to hear Kent Stock speak about how his simple failed journey to become a professional baseball player ended up being the central character in a movie where actor Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings) played him.  After modest success as a high school player he received only one scholarship to play baseball in college, but that was enough to kept his long time dream of playing professional ball alive—at least for two more years.

After his sophomore season it became apparent that he not only didn’t have what it took to play pro baseball, but that it would be better for him to focus on his education and his ball playing days were over. His new dream was to become a teacher and coach high school baseball. After graduating from college he got one job offer to coach, but it was girls JV volleyball. He took the job and made the most of it and got promoted to the variety girls volleyball coach. He made the most of that as well.

While scouting a team his team would be playing in the playoffs he met an Iowa high school baseball coach legend, Jim Van Scoyoc (played by Powers Boothe in the movie). That providential meeting with Van Scoyoc would lead Stock to his first baseball coaching opportunity that would eventually lead to a feature film based on the team he coached.

Keep in mind that the places I’m talking about are small towns in Iowa that unless you are familiar with the area are unknown to most people; Ankeny, Forest City, Decorah, Belle Plaine and Norway. Not exactly places one would expect would lead to Hollywood.

Kent Stock’s story is one of being faithful in the little things.

It’s also a story of a video producer in Des Moines, Iowa named Tony Wilson who believed enough in Stock’s story and the team he coached to pursue turning it into a movie. It was a journey that would take 16 years to see fully realized, and one that almost cost Wilson his life. I met Wilson a couple years ago at a film festival and for the next few days I will share some insights from him as he recounts his passion for seeing this story be told and the ups and downs it took to bring it to the big screen.

In Stock’s talk yesterday he spoke of his appreciation for Wilson persevering though many hard times  to see The Final Season get produced. Stock spoke about how much he learned about the film business during the making of the film and recounted several lessons learned including, “Hollywood producers have egos bigger than this auditorium,” and “Hollywood is a different monster. I hope my daughter’s never go to Hollywood.”

He said they went through eight script revisions before they filmed the one directed by David Mickey Evans (Sandlot). Art D’Alessandro and James Grayford were the screenwriters.  In Stock’s talk yesterday he ended his talk with a question that is asked in a key scene in the film, “How do you want to be remembered?”

Who would have ever guessed that becoming a JV high school girls volleyball coach in a small town in Iowa could lead to a feature film being done on part your life?

The Final Season (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith

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