Angels in the Outfield (1951)

Directed by Clarence Brown
Written by Dorothy Kingsley & George Wells

Angels in the Outfield (1994) was one of my favorite movies as a kid and mostly because it has to do with baseball but also because as a kid I loved the whole premise behind the movie. Now that I have matured into a young adult and have indeed gotten big into movies and seen a lot of them, I thought I should definitely see the original when I saw it would be on TCM, so I recorded it. Plus, I mean, the 1994 version has Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is now one of my favorite actors working, and having watched this film, I really want to revisit one of my childhood favorites, along with all the other great 90s kids baseball movies like Rookie of the Year, Little Big League, and The Sandlot. It was a good era to be growing up and loving baseball.

Unlike the ’94 version, the Angels were not a baseball team in the majors in 1951 when this film was made, so instead the Pittsburgh Pirates are used. They are a struggling team who is falling in the standing thanks, in part, to poor managing from their skipper Guffy McGovern (Paul Douglas). He is a hotheaded former player who lives a somewhat miserable life by himself with the struggling Pirates. The players and press alike hate him, but one night after a game he is visited by an angel who claims he will help the Pirates win if McGovern can quell his temper. Guffy thinks he is crazy, but when a Household Hints reporter (Janet Leigh) writes a story about a little orphan girl (Donna Corcoran), who sees the angels at the game, he becomes a believer, and in turn, the fans start to believe once again in both the Pirates and McGovern.

This entire movie is about the feel of baseball, at least for me. It is not about the performances, or the humanity of the characters, even though neither is bad and in fact their is plenty of morals in the film in connection to spirituality and the idea of angels and turning your life around. Instead, this is a film that just works for me on the level that it is about the spirit of baseball, the love of the game, and the power to change what seems to be going wrong. I know I am biased when I say that pretty much all baseball movies are great, and I do love baseball, but there is just something about the game that sets up so well to be able to tell great, compelling, and interesting stories.

There is some nice comedic scenes in here, though nothing to really write home about, but the perfect amount to make it a light family film with some nice lessons. The little girl is sweet and the characterization of McGovern is handled so nicely by both the director and Paul Douglas. It is not a great film, and I don’t know if people who dislike baseball could get into it, but I don’t care because I do love baseball and I do like this movie, and pretty much every baseball movie. It is the nation’s pastime, and to think that some people think that has shifted to football, a much more brutish and violent sport than the beautiful and poetic movements and play of baseball is a shame. But I understand it is not for everybody, especially those that just can’t sit there and enjoy a three hour game in the hot sun.

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