Director Billy Crystal guarantees success for his movie in the perfect casting of the leads. Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan's religious sniper) is deft as Maris, and Thomas Jane is a perfect Mantle, a superman in a Yankee uniform. Despite the differences between family man Maris and hard-living Mantle, they form a rewarding friendship amid the media and fan frenzy. The shy Maris took the brunt of the storm, even facing boo-birds in his home stadium. Crystal and first-time writer Hank Steinberg keep the pace moving quickly between the field, the locker room, the press box, and the home front. The film never tries to dazzle with more than the facts (and it softens Mantle up a bit), yet it belongs on the short list of grand baseball movies. --Doug Thomas
Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in the 1927 season, and Yankee stadium was still known, a generation later, as the house that Ruth built. In 1961, Ruth's longstanding record seemed secure. Mickey Mantle had inherited the status of 'Yankee favourite' from predecessors Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, but Roger Maris had narrowly beat him in the poll for MVP the previous year, all the more remarkable because Maris was a newcomer from the midwest. The sportwriters were divided in how they reported about the team, but almost all were more focussed upon Mantle until the runs began to stack up. However, the press (and often, it seemed, the fans) were still favouring Mantle, and sometimes booed Maris when he would hit a home run.
Crystal did a good job at showing the kind of personal stresses, both family and professional, that Mantle and Maris had to endure going through what should have been one of the most glorious seasons in baseball history. There was a kind of institutional resistance to anyone breaking Ruth's record, but even more resistance to Maris than to Mantle.Read more ›
I was completely mesmerized by this movie - the story of the 1961 baseball season of the NY Yankees, and the breaking of the Babe Ruth single season home run record. I won't call it a competition between Maris and Mantle, because Mantle seemed not to care one bit if Maris broke it. But the press seemed intent on making it a competition between them. One reason I enjoyed this movie so much is because of the contrast between Mantle's personality and Maris's. At one point Maris tells Mickey how he (Mickey Mantle) is like a movie star to Yankee fans. Mickey shrugs it off, but Maris persists saying how Mantle has a way about him. Maris always seemed to be saying the wrong thing and offending someone even if he didn't mean to. And the fans wanted Mantle to break the record, not Maris.
Billy Crystal did a great job of directing this film. Whoever did the casting did a great job too. The guy playing Mickey Mantle was fascinating to watch. I have only a vague memory of hearing about him as a little girl in the early 60s, but I had seen him over the years doing interviews and such, and this guy had him down pat in my opinion.
Keep watching through the closing credits - great closing scene at the ball park - a father with his little boy tells him, "this is Mickey Mantle, son." Whack! "And that's a home run!" The two actors in this scene are none other than Mickey Mantle's son, Danny, and grandson, Will.
HBO film, no rating. If it was, unfortunately it would be an R. I know Mickey wasn't a saint, but in sharing a magic moment like 1961, was it really necessary to know that he used the F word more often than he hit homeruns? And why is Babe Ruth's wife painted as an early version of Roseanne?
I wanted so badly to share this one with my son, to be able to bond some more over something as great as the drama of 61. Unfortunately, Mr. Çhrystal and I have differing opinions over the amount of language necessary to portray a story. Billy - you blew it, and in doing so you lowered your movie from a classic to just another Hollywood has been.