John Lobert runs a training camp in Florida for the New York Giants. Every year, he evaluates the 18-22 year old hopefuls to pick the best for a minor league contract. They all have dreams ... See full summary »
John Lobert runs a training camp in Florida for the New York Giants. Every year, he evaluates the 18-22 year old hopefuls to pick the best for a minor league contract. They all have dreams and talent, but the elimination whittles them down to a lucky few who will get the $150 a month contract. This year John's niece comes down from the home office in New York and is attracted to tall quiet Adam. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For a film that is set in the New York Giants training camp of 1953, the biggest surprise for me is the fact that manager Leo Durocher did not appear in it. Leo at the time was married to Laraine Day and was quite at home in the movie colony. And he was a natural ham.
This is not spring training with the New York Giants. In fact the Giants down to today do their spring training in Arizona. This is a winter instructional school, something pioneered by the Giants across the Harlem River rivals, the Yankees. Here the school is run by veteran baseball coach Hans Lobert.
There was in fact a real Hans Lobert, a very good third baseman who played in the beginning and teen years of the last century for such teams as the Phillies and the Giants among others. His style of play in the field was very similar to baseball immortal Hans Wagner, hence John Lobert became popularly known as Hans Lobert. At third base he was the Brooks Robinson of his day and while he didn't hit in the same class as Hans Wagner(very few ever did)he was no easy out at the plate.
Edward G. Robinson plays the real life Hans Lobert who's dealing with some promising rookies like Jeff Richards, William Campbell, Richard Jaeckel among others. Robinson acts like a father confessor to all these kids as he deals with not just their playing skills, but a few personal problems as well. The real Lobert was known to do just that, he was a beloved figure in baseball.
Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell made an appearance in Big Leaguer, I suppose to lend authenticity. He was some pitcher in his day as well with a screwball that could practically turn a corner backwards.
Another reviewer made a comment about the players being all white at the school. Oddly enough the Giants had integrated at that point, becoming the second team in the National League to do so following the Dodgers. A star rookie from 1951 named Willie Mays was in the army at this time, but the Giants had Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson playing for them at the point in time Big Leaguer was filmed.
My guess would be that at this point in time the Giants like many other teams weren't signing black prospects fresh out of school. They were instead raiding the Negro Leagues for proved players. The Negro Leagues were in their last stages, in fact the last star player signed out of them was a man who played for the Indianapolis Clowns named Hank Aaron.
I have a funny feeling that Giant owner Horace Stoneham made this film in response to the success that the Dodgers enjoyed in 1950 with the Jackie Robinson Story. Big Leaguer is a much better film than that was.
This film isn't about stars, but about eager young prospects trying to make the grade. It's got a good baseball feel to it. Baseball fans will love it, hopefully it will come out one day on DVD and VHS.
And wasn't Hans Lobert one lucky fellow to have himself portrayed on the screen by an established movie star.
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