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Pop Clark is about to lose his baseball team, unless they can win the pennant so he can pay off debts. He hires ace player Larry Kelly to ensure the victory. As well as rival teams, mobsters are trying to prevent the wins, and as the pennant race nears the end, Pop's star players begin to be killed, on and off the field. Can Larry romance Pop's daughter, win enough games, and still have time to stop a murderer before he strikes more than three times? Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Fred Graham was working in the MGM sound department and also played baseball semi-professionally in his off-time. He was hired to tutor star Robert Young in baseball techniques. He was also hired to double Nat Pendleton in his scenes as a catcher, thereby beginning an almost 40-year career as an actor and stuntman. See more »
When the game resumes, after the bad guy is caught, the camera pans across the scoreboard to show that the game is tied, 2-2. The radio announcer then states, "Cincinnati hasn't scored since Kelly threw that ball into the dugout and let the tying run come in."
Cincinnati was the visiting team and the last run it scored, in the top of the second inning, would have made the score 2-1 (Cincinnati leading). It would not have been a tying run. See more »
Do baseball, murder, and corny acting mix? Not quite!
Death on the Diamond (1934)
The title and plot sound serious but this is a corny, lighthearted spin on murder and racketeering in America's pastime. And leading man Robert Young plays it so breezy you can't quite take his pitching, or his romancing, seriously.
Which is all intentional, no doubt. This is purely entertainment, and in the style of a B-movie at the time, along the lines of many of the murder mystery series that were so popular. The acting and the plots are functional, and fun enough to work, and there is one main hook to keep you interested. Or at least me interested in this one. I knew after ten minutes the movie had no real merit, but I watched it anyway, just to see how they handled the idea.
The idea is sensational: a famously bad baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals) is surprisingly good thanks to their new sensational pitcher. So a notorious gambler is going to lose big money, and an aggressive businessman is going to fail to buy the team at the end of the season. But only if, in fact, the Cardinals continue to win. So key players start to die. Yes, they are murdered in all kinds of ways. It's a terrifying idea, and I suppose feasible even if preposterous, and you do wonder what the league, and the players, and the fans, and the cops would do.
Well, it is all handled rather lightly. The show must go on, and baseball must be played. Even as bodies are found in the middle of a game, there is no sense that murder trumps nine innings of play, and you really do have to roll your eyes. And then the characters go along with it, too, showing no real fear that they might be next. The actual killers are never really seenjust a shadow, or the barrel of a gunand so the suspense is deliberately kept low key.
Baseball fans, and baseball movie fans, will no doubt find something to like here. There is a bit of actual footage at the St. Louis baseball stadium, and quite a few actual ballplayers are used in background roles. Young isn't a completely awful pitcher, but you can see when he's pitching in front of a projected backdrop at the studio. There is one little baseball gaffe, it seemsin the bottom of the 9th, St. Louis needs one run to win, but they post two runs, allowing an extra baserunner to score (it wasn't a home run), which isn't how the rules work today, at least.
See this? Not unless you really love baseball.
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