I was born in 1959; 2 years after what many consider one of baseballs greatest stories, a rag tag group of players from Mexico and their winning of the Little League World Series. I just finished viewing the movie based on the event, The Perfect Game, starring Clifton Collins Jr. as the teams coach Cesar, and Cheech Marin as Padre Estaban. I love the history of this sport like no other and this rich bit of history should appeal to not just fans of the game, but all of those who need a dose of hope.
This amazingly true story follows the journey of the small Little League Team, both literally and figuratively, from Monterrey Mexico. This rag tag group of young men would listen to baseball games after church and eventually decided to clear out a part of the blue collar factory properties to make a baseball field. The group of mainly poor children along with Padre Estaban would recruit a former bat boy in real life, locker room attendant in the movie to become their coach. The coaching of Cesar Faz is still considered by many as among the best coaching in the history of the organization. In real life, while not depicted in the movie, The Industrial Little League Team from Monterrey went on to become the first team in the history to repeat as champions.
The Perfect Game follows the team from the outset of their teams’ development to a trip across the International United States, Mexican Border on a 3 day Visa where they expected to loose in a tournament for their first series of games. What transpired after the 10 mile walk across the border to the small town in Texas was a 2 month journey that had them with the entirety of their possessions, the uniforms on their back and a single pair of underwear. Their entry here into the series continued through until the championship game in Williamsport Pennsylvania and beyond. What they accomplished was something for the record books which still stands today, a perfect pitched game in the finals of the World Series. As director William Dear mentions in the special features of the DVD, ‘While it is a story where you know the ending, it is one where you will learn about the characters that made the story happen.’ The Perfect Game is a moving, inspirational, tear-jerking picture.
Working with children, getting the best out of them is in many a ways a director’s nightmare. While the children, especially those in lead roles, are very good, it is one of the only weaknesses of this film. Given a relatively small budget it is unfortunate that The Perfect Game did not do as well as one would have hoped at the box office. There is hope the DVD market will give the movie a boost. The movie is put together nicely and stays true to the actual events. One of the brilliant things about it is the editing where original footage of the 1957 team is blended into the transitions of the movie. The constant reminder as to the truth of the story and the achievements of these young children, coaches, and community is ever present. The Perfect Game follows the time line of events concluding with a nice montage that shares some of the original photographs, history and more.
One of the surprises for many will be the casting of Clifton Collins Jr. as the teams Coach Cesar, and Cheech Marin as Padre Estaban. Both of these quality actors are typically cast in adult roles for adult movies, not per-say family oriented films. That said both do a good job in their respective roles. We see the development of their characters, especially that of Coach Cesar. One of the sub-plots of the movie steals the show though, that is the relationship of young Angel Macias and his father. His father rejects his son after the death of another son. The relationship and healing that comes about takes place as the father realizes his other son’s gifts and heart. This and other factors in the story make this more than just a baseball movie. Don’t take that wrong, it is certainly a baseball movie, but just as is the case, the game of baseball addresses and touches on life more than many may admit. One does not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this movie, there are enough feel good moments that most everyone will enjoy it. Collins and Marin in stepping out of their comfort zone give a nice performance in this moving family story.
It is clear that to the 1957 Industrial League Little League Team, faith was important. The team started by the church and with the help of a priest, helps show the importance of what the church can do when serving the community. While many did not understand the game of baseball, the church saw the importance of serving the children in the community and their families. The church saw the potential of not just a group of boys coming together, but in a community coming together. The team ultimately understand the gifts of the church, we see this when they refuse to play until their pre ritual prayer and blessing takes place. We see a church from the United States start to appreciate and respond to the faith of the boys. They take up collections, offer transportation, and help this team which expected to be away from home for 3 days. As the team witnesses and experiences racism, not just themselves but black ball players from another team, they react and show love and appreciation. They experience the pain and bite of hatred, they desire instead to touch and show love. As the boys pick up and witness this, so does the national press. The desire to serve and love, even opponents on other teams has a poor team from Mexico teaching lessons that still teach now some 50+ years later. In a world filled with hate, they provide a little hope. The Perfect Game can still teach lessons for those in today’s world.
This movie is far from perfect. Many will watch it and think it plays too much on emotions, but imagine the truth of the story, and what it must have been like in 1957. Why shouldn’t we be moved by the events of history? The Perfect Game is so good and moving it deserves to make a profit. I hope those who haven’t seen it rent it, or better yet buy it. There are quality special features on the DVD, especially the Director’s Commentary which tells much of the story related to the film. The Blu-ray version I watched was quite nice, but not deserving in my opinion of the extra cost of the Blu-ray, don’t take me wrong though, it is still very good and worth owning.
Many complain about the lack of quality family films. There comes a time when people need to quit complaining and do something about it when given the opportunity. This movie deserves more than a rental, I suggest buying it, sit down with your family, talk with your children about the times in 1957 and what a group of young boys did to accomplish their dreams. Also talk about how they impacted the game of baseball and the lives of those they came into contact with. You can also talk about their faith helped them to accomplish what it did. In today’s world we need inspirational, moving stories. When they are true like this one, it would be a shame to not to support them. While not a perfect movie, it presents the compelling story of a perfect game in a moving way and that my friends, is a homerun.
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