I see a lot of baseball every year. I see it as a fan, as a reporter and as an umpire.
It was love at first sight for me, and when I'm not rooting on my Cardinals, covering the national pastime or umpiring a full day of games, you'll likely find me playing catch with my kids or reading a baseball book.
Then there are the baseball movies. I'm talking about classics that are timeless. Movies like Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, Major League, The Natural and The Sandlot.
As much as I like watching these movies again and again, I also love reciting quotes from them and talking baseball. So, it got me thinking and I acted upon it.
When covering games this past spring and summer and conducting post-game interviews, I asked some high school players, "What's your all-time favorite baseball movie?"
I was ready to learn if they preferred the humor in Major League and Bull Durham to the fantasy of The Natural and Field of Dreams. The discussion struck out without taking the bat off its shoulder.
"I'd say Rookie of the Year. It's hilarious."
"I liked The Benchwarmers. It was pretty funny."
"The Bad News Bears."
"The one with Walter Matthau?" I asked.
"No, it had the guy from Bad Santa."
"Mr. 3000 was pretty good. So was Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch."
It was Jack Buck who said, "I don't believe what I just saw," after Kirk Gibson hit a walk off home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. This summer I couldn't believe what I heard from these high school kids. So I quit asking them.
For the first time in my life, I felt old and disconnected to the youth of today (I will turn 40 next May). Furthermore, I discovered their taste in movies to be as nasty as Mariano Rivera’s cutter.
I wouldn’t give up though. Like a batter fouling off good-pitch after good-pitch to keep an at-bat alive, I came up with a new question this fall, and a new target--high school golfers.
There's one golf movie that is the holy grail of golf movies--Caddyshack. I figured every teenage golfer has had to see Caddyshack, right? I decided to ask one male and one female player from each of the Lincoln-Way high schools as well as Providence, "What's your favorite scene in Caddyshack?"
Now, I have to be honest here. While baseball is my all-time favorite sport, golf is right behind it as I also played it through high school. As for Caddyshack, it's on my desert island list, especially if the desert island has a nice course for me to work on my short game.
Today, you can find a brand-new DVD of Caddyshack for $5 at the local Target and Walmart. I can remember when my family rented our first copy, and it was only for one night of viewing.
It was about 30 years ago. Back then, like today, video rental stores were hard to find. I drove with my Dad from our Joliet home to Orland Square mall to rent Caddyshack from Video Concepts, a high-end electronics store that had VCRs (most with corded remotes) for about $1,000. We rented Caddyshack, popped some corn with the hot-air popper (everyone had one in the 80s) and I fell in love with Ty Webb, Carl Spackler, Al Czervik and Judge Smails.
I'm doubtful that the kids I spoke to had as memorable of a first experience. They probably caught the movie on TV while flipping channels or borrowed it from their father's collection. It didn’t matter to me though. I was just happy they had seen the movie.
Popping the question "What's your favorite scene in Caddyshack?" went over very well with them. It was fun to hear them talk about one of my favorites, and slowly I felt like I was reconnecting.
Of course, there were exceptions. I did run into a couple of female players who had never seen the movie. They'd probably seen Cinderella countless times, but not the Cinderella story of Carl winning the Masters.
I mentioned this to David Grynevich, whose daughter Becky is a senior golfer at Lincoln-Way East.
"Maybe you should've asked them about Happy Gilmore," he joked.
Suddenly, I felt as old as Bob Barker.