This baseball picture uses the "Haines formula" that worked so well in BROWN OF HARVARD the year before: arrogant smart aleck (Haines) loses the girl and his teammates, but wises up in time to save the day.
Here he's a hick from Pottstown, Iowa who thinks he's going to teach the New York Yankees a thing or two. He's an ace pitcher and home run hitter, but he's also a swell-headed jerk, the kind of rube who hands out exploding cigars and thinks they are the height of hilarity. He tangles with the manager (Warner Richmond) and insults the aging catcher (Harry Carey) whose daughter (Sally O'Neil) he falls for.
An odd addition to this Haines film is a kid. I can't think of another Haines film that has a kid in it. Here it's Junior Coghlan as a Jackie Coogan-like orphan. The kid is the catalyst to Haines' big change of heart (his right of passage) in the final scene, a scene in which the title takes on great meaning. The addition of the kid makes this a tad stickier than most Haines films. But this might be the first baseball film in which "the kid" serves as the inspiration for the ball player to "hit a homer" or in this case "strike him out." Haines is, as always, a delight to watch as he hams it up as the Iowa hayseed. As usual what saves the film is Haines' great ability to turn into a serious actor and make you care about him. O'Neil is a cutie. Carey is always good. Karl Dane plays the big Swedish player, Dorothy Sebastian plays a flirt, Guinn Williams is a teammate, and Johnny Mack Brown (in his film debut) has a small role. Many real-life baseball players also appear.
While SLIDE, KELLY, SLIDE does not rank among Haines' best films, this was the first film for which he got top billing. This was a big hit for William Haines, helping make him one of MGM's biggest box-office stars.
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