As I sit here and gaze for at least the 1000th time in my life at Bull Durham on the television I write this article on a sports movie review. Being an avid baseball fan I tend to enjoy most if not all of the movies that the subject has to offer. I wanted to write a review on a baseball movie that is acclaimed and a definite must see for any fan of the sport. Now much like many of you I am fond of The Natural, Field of Dreams, and of course Bull Durham. These films have had many excellent reviews written about them. I wanted to find a film that has a great baseball story worth mentioning but may not have been as often as maybe it should have.
Have you ever seen or heard of the 2001 HBO Original Production 61*? 61* is an in depth look into the heat of the race to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961 by Yankee’s legends Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. What was unique about this record was that Ruth set it in 154 games. Since the new baseball schedule called for 162 games anyone who broke the record after 154 games of play would have an asterisk by their record in the books. This film centers around the pressures put on the two Yankee greats and their lives as the country focus’ on the home run race between the two. The movie gives you a look into a friendship and a biographical view of their private lives.
61* begins with the Maris family going to the St. Louis Cardinals game to see Mark McGuire potentially break Roger Maris’ record in 1998. The family goes to the game with the exception of Maris’ wife Pat who is in the hospital and is watching the game from her bed. This film is full of flashbacks from the present to the past as Maris’ wife remembers what her late husband went through while setting that record. Now she watches what could be the end of that record. 61* really gives you a closer view into a side of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle that the public eye did not see. They only seen what was allowed to be seen and what they wanted to see about both ball players.
61* was directed by Billy Crystal whose love for baseball is well known. The movie stars Thomas Jane as Mickey Mantle and Barry Pepper as Roger Maris. Both actors give an excellent performance. According to IMDB.com 61* was nominated for 13 Emmies and won 2. Barry Pepper was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. According to Yahoo Movies, Yahoo Users give 61* a B+ which I think is a fair overall average for this film. I may bump it up to an A- myself. I came away with further knowledge of two baseball legends and the infamous and historical race in 1961. I feel the performances in this film were well portrayed. For any fan of baseball 61* is a cozy chair and a bowl of popcorn film.
You can find 61* here:
NetFlix (DVD Only)
Blockbuster (Rent, By Mail, and Purchase Options)
For more information on 61* check out these resource sites.