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Jim Piersall is groomed by his loving but hard-driving father (living vicariously through his son) to play major league baseball. His desire to succeed to please his father leads to mental illness and a nervous breakdown. Can he overcome those difficulties and return to the major leagues? Written by
Jerry Milani <email@example.com>
At the beginning of the film, when Jim's father (played by Karl Malden) goes into the kitchen to wash up after work, the shadow of the camera can be seen on the far wall. Then a shadow of the boom mic is seen on the wall shortly after that as the camera pans left. See more »
I still remember seeing this as a Little League-age kid in the theater as our family was vacationing in Florida.
When I saw it again, some 40 years later, parts of the film were still very familiar, a testimony to how powerful some of these scenes were. I never forgot them.
This was a based-on-a-true-life account of major league baseball player Jimmy Piersall, a very talented player who suffered a nervous breakdown. The enormous pressure to succeed that was driven into him by his never-satisfied father was pictured as the cause which made him snap.
Anthony Perkins, who plays Piersall, and Karl Madlen, who portrays his dad, are both excellent, riveting characters. Some say this was Malden's best performance ever. Perkins was no slouch, either. This is the classic sports story of an overzealous parent living his or her dreams through their child.
The baseball segment of this film ended about halfway through. From that point, after Perkins breaks down at the park, climbing the backstop fence in a horrifying scene, the film actually gets even more interesting with everyone in the film contributing although the cast, after Perkins and Malden, is a pretty much an unknown-name one.
The only unrealistic part of the film, typical of sports films until the 1980s, was seeing an actor play a ballplayer when he "throws like a girl," as the old expression went. The younger actor playing Piersall as a kid was no better than Perkins in this regard. Neither had a clue how to a throw a ball. It looks corny nowadays.
Oh, well. That wasn't the focus of the story, anyway. As powerful as this film was, it apparently didn't have much of an effect as pushy parents in sports still exist and probably always will, taking the fun out of sports for a number of kids.
It's still a memorable film and worth your time today, especially if you have never seen it.
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