While the story is an adaptation of the book by Bernard Malamud the plot has been changed for movie to be more "uplifting". Several characters and symbols are heavily influenced by the writings of Homer and Greek mythology: - the line, "Have you ever read Homer?" - Roy Hobbs = Odysseus (trying to "find his way" [home]) - Max Mercy = Vulcan, God of Fire and Forging (he can "make or break you" and always seen in Red/Brown clothing) - Pop Fisher = Zeus, King of the Gods (his uniform is #1 and both the oak tree and lightning bolt a la the Wonderboy bat are his symbols) - The Judge = Hades, God of the Underworld (always in the dark a.k.a. death, and the dead were "judged" in the underworld) - Memo Paris = Kalypso, a sea nymph (she held and distracted Odysseus from returning home; Odysseus had an affair with her). Kalypso means "I will conceal" in Greek - Iris Gaines = Penelope, wife of Odysseus (his true love from whom he was separated for 20 years while she raised their son)
Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams's single goal while playing baseball was for people to say, "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived" (a sentiment echoed by Roy Hobbs in the movie). Like Williams, Hobbs wears number 9 on his uniform, and both Williams and Hobbs hit home runs in their last career at-bats. According to Roger Angell of the New Yorker, Redford modeled his swing on Williams'. Angell adds that Redford plays so authentically "you want to sign him up".
Borrows from the true story of the bizarre shooting of former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus by Ruth Ann Steinhagen in Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel on the night of June 14th, 1949.
The patches on the right arm of the Knights' uniforms are special patches commemorating the centennial of baseball, which was celebrated in 1939. This confirms the Knights' season to be the 1939 season.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was also an inspiration for the character of Roy Hobbs, particularly Jackson's connection to the Black Sox's scandal which can been seen when the Judge attempts to bribe Roy into throwing the game. Also, like "Shoeless" Joe, Hobbs has a special name for his bat.
The filmmakers scouted the country for a stadium to use in game scenes. They needed something nondescript with a pre-WWII feel and found it in Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium. The stadium, built in 1937 and demolished in 1988, had a shorter distance down the right field line than is shown in the movie. The stadium had been renovated prior to filming, which could explain the extra hundred feet displayed on the right field wall.
Newspaper copy on screen doesn't match the accompanying headlines about Roy Hobbs and The New York Knights. The text actually contains stories about bass fishing, a religious service, and a fan of the New York Giants.
Hobbs breaking the scoreboard clock with a home run was inspired by Bama Rowell of the Boston Braves doubling off the Ebbets Field scoreboard clock on May 30, 1946, showering Dixie Walker with glass. Though he'd been promised a free watch by Bulova for hitting the company's scoreboard sign, Rowell had to wait until 1987 to receive it.
While late actor Darren McGavin had a major supporting role as the bookmaker Gus Sands respectively, McGavin received no credit for his role in the film. In the recent retrospective documentary on the Special Edition DVD of "The Natural", actor Robert Prosky, who plays the Judge, claims that McGavin was cast late in the picture and would have to receive a lesser billing than the other stars. As a result, McGavin chose to go uncredited. Prosky also noted that McGavin wound up "drawing more attention to himself" as a result.
The second film ever released by TriStar Pictures. It was supposed to be the first film ever released by the new TriStar Pictures, but they felt baseball movies don't do well, so instead "Where the Boys Are '84" was released first, in April 1984, with The Natural following in May 1984. This according to a recent interview of director Barry Levinson on Costas at the Movies.
Among images in a montage of Roy's growing fame, we see copies of Life magazine being printed with Roy's picture on the cover. The magazine is dated August 14, 1939. The actual issue of Life magazine published that day had a photo of baby/child actress Sandra Lee Henville.