Cinema and Sluggers Have Always Drawn Interesting Parallels
By Cam Giangrande
Watching the Academy Awards earlier this month it occurred to me how similar baseball is to the movie industry. Each industry is, at their heart, entertainment. Each industry has extremely talented people who more often than not, are self absorbed and out of touch. And each industry is big business.
I wanted to see just how close these two outlets resemble each other, and I was amazed. In 2017, the movie industry produced 726 movies that made it to a big screen. Major League Baseball has 30 teams with 25 players on each of them, which total 750 players.
Major League Baseball has multiple minor league affiliates, while the movie industry has more than just full length shows; they also have short subject films and documentaries. At the high school and college level, most schools have both baseball teams and drama departments. And usually, each industry is based purely on meritocracy. If you can’t throw the ball over the plate, you won’t be the next Max Scherzer. If you can’t hit the curve ball with any consistency you won’t have much of a career. If you can’t remember your lines, you won’t be the next Tom Hanks.
Last year, MLB topped 10 billion dollars in revenue for the first time. Ticket sales grossed over 11 billion dollars in the movie industry. In 2017, there were 33 movies which topped 100 million dollar mark. Currently, MLB has 36 players who have 100 million dollar-plus contracts. But for these few elites at the top, there are a slew of movies and players who make up the rear, just begging for an audience, or not being sent back down to the Minors.
— Zesty Miami Marlins (@zesty_marlins) March 20, 2018
And there’s a sensational symmetry between the two industries. Some of the all-time greatest movies have been baseball movies: (Field Of Dreams”, “Bull Durham”, “The Natural”, and “The Sandlot”), just to name a few…and let’s not forget Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”. The movie industry loves to immortalize the history of the game too, with gems such as “42”, “Eight Men Out” and “The Pride of The Yankees”
If I was making a comparison between players and classic movies, Babe Ruth would have to be “Citizen Kane”, Joe DiMaggio would be “The Godfather”, Jackie Robinson would be “Raging Bull”, Ted Williams would be “Casablanca”, and Willie Mays would be “Singin’ in the Rain”. Both industries can pigeon hole or type cast their workers. Baseball has lefty specialists, and the movie industry has character actors. Baseball has five-tool players, (someone who can hit for average and power, can run, field, and throw: envision Roberto Clemente), while the movie industry has triple threats, (someone who can act, sing, and dance: envision Hugh Jackman).
Each industry has had a lustrous, yet checkered history. Major League Baseball didn’t integrate until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, while the movie industry was plagued by innuendos of communist infiltration with many actors and directors blackballed by mere rumor. Today, the movie industry is coming to grips with their pervasive history of abuse towards women, while baseball had to contend with the steroid scandal.
Both industries have adapted through the years as technology has grown, expanded and developed. The movies went from silent films to “talkies” and from black and white films to color. Baseball was only played during the day at one time. The equipment was archaic, helmets weren’t worn, and the gloves were like hunks of cardboard. Today, each industry has state of the art facilities.
Each industry revels in the past, and their old glories. Baseball has their Williams and DiMaggio, while the movies has their Clark Gable and Marlon Brando. And on the subject of DiMaggio, let’s not forget that he was married to Marilyn Monroe. You don’t get much more “Hollywood” than marrying Marylin. Although it’s not quite the same, Justin Verlander recently married supermodel and sometimes actress, Kate Upton.
And finally, each industry can spur debate for hours over which player or team was the best ever, and which movie or actor was the greatest of all time. Was it Hank Aaron or Mays? Was it the 1927 New York Yankees or 1975 Cincinnati Reds? Was it “Citizen Kane” or “The Godfather”, and why is Annie Hall always on someone’s list? Is DeNiro better, or does Pacino get the nod?
The viewing public is more discerning than ever with their time and their money. There has never seemed to be so many outlets for people to choose to spend both. The fact that these two industries have sustained themselves and grown for well over 100 years now, is a testament to their greatness, and truly two American originals.