In the pantheon of baseball movies, this one, 61*, is in my personal top five, and perhaps the top three. Billy Crystal, better known as a comedian or as host of the Academy Awards, took the director's chair for this film, and produced a story that was a grand insight into the personal and professional world of baseball during the era of Mantle and Maris. Produced very shortly after Mark McGwire broke the Maris record, Crystal framed the 1961 story with scenes from the McGwire run.
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. This is embodied in the asterisk that followed the number 61 in record books (and the title of this film) - Ruth's season was several games shorter, and it was deemed 'unfair' for Maris to take the record, having not hit the same number of runs in the same number of games. Eventually the asterisk would be removed, but not before Maris' death some time later.
Good little touches like Maris' special eggs (which Mantle began to eat with reluctance, but came around when Maris said he hit home runs after eating them), scrap book collections shown periodically throughout the film, the song 'I love Mickey', and other audio-visual pieces of baseball memorabilia make this a baseball trivia-buff treat. The personal stories of the family lives, increasingly under stress as both players come within striking distance of the record, show details most likely fictional, but certainly understandable.
Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane star as Maris and Mantle, respectively, and both turn in great performances as the athletes. They both look like naturals on the field and in the locker room, and do a good job with the personal angle as well, Pepper playing the low-key Maris and Jane playing the hard-living Mantle. They both bear striking resemblance to the men they portray, Pepper especially so. Other performers include Anthony Michael Hall, Richard Masur, and Christopher McDonald in memorable supporting roles. Donald Moffat as the commissioner Frick is especially good. Jennifer Foley (actually, Jennifer Crystal Foley, Billy Crystal's daughter) turns in a good performance as Pat Maris, the long-suffering and supportive wife, struggling from half a country away to be strong for her husband as he faces the stress of success.
Any baseball fan will love this film. Those who aren't necessarily fans of baseball may find a new-found passion for the game.
The Yankee's retired Maris' number 9 in 1984. Maris' bat is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps some day, Maris will be, too.
le 30 juin 2003
I bought "61*" on a whim. I have a soft spot for baseball movies, and it was the first one I happened upon when I bought it. What a surprise! This movie is, hands down, the best baseball movie I've seen in a long time. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane pull at your hearts while they portray M&M. You'll want to cheer Maris on in hopes that he'll break the Babe's record in time for his home run talley to be the "official" record(not the one with an asterisk). This isn't one of those giant vs. the underdog type movies, it's a giant vs. a giant, albeit one of them is a gentle giant in a game that has always had its share of outlandish stars. Mr. Crystal does not disgrace either of the heroes in this film. If you loved Mantle before this film, you'll have no ill feelings toward him afterward. As for Maris, Pepper's portrayal of him will make you want to cherish Roger even more. Go out, buy this movie, watch it, and then add it to the top of your baseball collection, preferably somewhere between "The Natural" and "Eight Men Out." This movie is definitely a bright spot for baseball's legacy.
le 27 mai 2003
This is a great movie and this is coming from a woman who doesn't really care for baseball. I was flipping through channels last night, got to HBO, saw the 1960s clothes and hair-dos and stopped to watch for a minute. New York Yankee uniforms, and this guy who looks alot like Mickey Mantle - no wonder - he's supposed to be Mickey Mantle. I recognized the guy playing Roger Maris. He also played the sniper who quoted scripture in "Saving Private Ryan." I'm assuming he looks alot like Roger Maris.
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.
le 2 novembre 2011
As a Mickey Mantle fan it was enlightening to see into the events of 1961 portrayed in hindsight with the press cast in a villainous role. At the time they were good at helping baseball keep the antics of players like Mantle low key while promoting his amazing accomplishments, all the more remarkable when you consider that he played injured almost his entire career. But Maris was even better at one thing and the home run will always be a highlight of the game. Good acting and a good story are the key ingredients that make this video worth watching. Any Yankee fan who was around at the time will enjoy this one.
le 15 mars 2004
A truly outstanding movie, as director Billy Crystal and actors Thomas Jane (Mickey Mantle) and Barry Pepper (Roger Maris) bring the 1961 baseball season and home run chase to life. This movie is as authentic as perhaps any sports movie I've ever seen, and the two stars give powerful performances--Mantle's charisma and legendary carousing as well as his tape-measure home runs made him a hero to millions, while Maris was a quiet, shy type who didn't want the limelight. But he was Mantle's equal on the field that year, and the pair was chasing the home run record of perhaps the biggest legend of all, Babe Ruth.
The Yankee fan will love this movie, as Crystal went to great pains to recreate Yankee Stadium and cast actors as baseball players who looked and played not only like Mantle and Maris, but Whitey Ford (Anthony Michael Hall), Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and all the rest. The relentless sportswriters (including a fine performance by Richard Masur as "Milt") who wouldn't leave Maris alone ring true, and Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball back then, is a bit of a villian--he loved Ruth and clearly didn't want the record broken.
One of the most touching aspects of the film is the open and close, where Crystal intercuts actual footage of Mark McGuire tying and breaking the Maris record with actors and actresses portraying Maris's widow Pat and their kids looking on. Likewise, Crystal's daughter, Jennifer Crystal Foley, is excellent as the young Pat Maris.
The extras on this DVD are nearly as good as the movie itself. Crystal offers off-camera audio and narrates each scene of the movie, which is fascinating, and there's an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film which is also powerful...it includes a clip of the "Dinah Shore Show" from 1977 when Crystal, then starring on "Soap," sat next to Mantle, introduced himself and showed his hero a program with his signature from 1956.
Strongly recommended, a movie which will stand the test of time for baseball fans, and another feather in the cap of Billy Crystal--there's very little he can't do, and if nothing else, you'll realize what a true baseball and Yankee fan he is.
le 21 février 2004
I have had *61 in my collection for a year or so now, and no matter how many times I watch it I still have a hard time holding back cheers when Maris hits the magic 61st. This was an engaging (and accurate from what I can tell) look at an important season in baseball history. I am not a Yankee fan (I actually despise the Yankees)and the disappointing thing about the Maris story is how he was treated at times by Yankee fans and the media and even the Yankee front office and the comissioner. This movie gives us a glimpse of Yankee fans at their best (willing the injured and basically one-armed Mantle to hit a home run and finally giving Maris the cheers he deserves at the end) and worst (their treatment of Maris through most of the season). These aspects are brought to light with emotion and clarity.
The story is great, as is the music and the overall filming. No film is wasted; there is a purpose behind every scene in the movie. Billy Crystal does a great job. There is some foul language so parents might want to me careful when their kids watch this one. I do disagree with a few viewers who said that it takes away from the movie; I don't think it does.
I would recommend that any baseball fan give this movie at least one "at bat." I don't think most will be disappointed.
le 12 septembre 2003
This movie is a beautiful tribute to the baseball season of 1961, and the homerun race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Mickey Mantle was the childhood hero of Billy Crystal, and Billy gives us a loving, but realistic portrayal of Mantle through the perfectly cast Thomas Jane. Mickey Mantle was no angel. He womanized and drank too much. This movie was orginally aired on HBO, not prime-time network TV, so Billy Crystal could make the dialogue and plot more realistic, and less sanitized. For those who demand their movies not contain any profanity or references to sex, booze, or body parts, they should not watch any "realistic" film about baseball and Mickey Mantle.
I never cared for baseball, but this movie got me interested in learning more about the NY Yankees and Mickey Mantle. This is truly a magical, moving piece of film. We all can interpret films in our own ways, but I think this is really a loving valentine to Mantle from Billy Crystal. He says to Mantle, "You were my hero, warts and all. Even though you didn't break the record, you could have if you only had taken better care of yourself."
This is a loving tribute to Roger Maris also, but this movie did not make me want to learn more about Maris. I went to the library and checked out books about Mickey Mantle. Mickey was his own worst enemy, but he was a human superman to many little boys like Billy Crystal.
le 30 juin 2003
I bought "61*" on a whim. I have a soft spot for baseball movies, and it was the first one I happened upon when I was looking for a new DVD one night. What a surprise! This movie is, hands down, the best baseball movie I've seen in a long time. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane pull at your hearts while they portray M&M. You'll want to cheer Maris on in hopes that he'll break the Babe's record in time for his home run talley to be the "official" record(not the one with an asterisk). This isn't one of those giant vs. the underdog type movies, it's a giant vs. a giant, albeit one of them is a gentle giant in a game that has always had its share of outlandish stars. Mr. Crystal does not disgrace either of the heroes in this film. If you loved Mantle before this film, you'll have no ill feelings toward him afterward. As for Maris, Pepper's portrayal of him will make you want to cherish Roger even more. Pepper represents Mr. Maris as a true hero in the shadows of quite possibly the only team in professional sports that actually overshadows the players on it. Buy this movie, watch it, and then add it to the top of your baseball collection, preferably somewhere between "The Natural" and "Eight Men Out." This movie is definitely a bright spot for baseball's legacy.
le 30 janvier 2003
Billy Crystal's labor of love dealing with the season when two Yankee teammates were in the running to break the single season homerun record hits a grand slam. Watch Billy Crystal's interviews of his childhood memories of being a Yankee fan in the 1950's in Ken Burn's great maxi series documentary BASEBALL and you would see why he was perfect to direct this great film. 61 is one of the best baseball movies in recent memory. Barry Pepper is perfectly cast, and has an uncanny resemblance to the much maligned but now-forgiven Roger Maris. Thomas Jane does a fine and credible job of playing legend Mickey Mantle. The movie captures the spirit of the late fifties/early sixties atmosphere when New York was the capital of baseball, the unrelenting press was what made or break you, and the Yankees were the equivalent of the Rat Pack of baseball. This is more than a baseball movie, it is a movie about love, friendship, family, humanity, and the spirit of determination under pressure. This is supposed to be a story of two men, Maris and Mantle. However, unintentionally, Crystal has made this film a loving tribute to Roger Maris. It is redemption for all the abuse he took by the fans and press because he wasn't Babe Ruth, or even the heavily favored Mantle. Barry Pepper's performance has a lot of emptional depth as the beleagured Maris, and should have been nominated for an Emmy for his performance. We are given an inside look at Roger Maris' love for his family and home life despite being on the road as compared to Mantle's abuse on the road. The two men had opposite views of the baseball road life, but somehow forged a friendship and bond when the pressure was on to break Babe Ruth's single season homerun record. Along with this, we are shown the vices that ultimately would be the undoing of each man (cigarettes for Maris, alcohol for Mantle). Crystal's direction is outstanding and the attention to detail is exceptional along with a fine script with some humorous undertones. Great supporting cast includes Micheal Anthony Hall as Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford, Crystal's daughter Jennifer Foley as Maris' wife, Chris McDonald (HAPPY GILMORE) as Mel Allen, along with Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Rene Taylor, Micheal Nouri (Joe Dimaggio), a surprising guest appearance by actress Patricia Crowley (tv's PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES), and the always reliable character actor and king of supporting roles, Bruce McGill (ANIMAL HOUSE, TIME COP, and everything else..) as Yankee Manager, Ralph Houk. DVD has great extras including behind the scene interviews and on screen commentary by Crystal. A must-have DVD for Yankee and baseball fans alike!!
le 19 décembre 2002
It was the summer of 1961, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were chasing the illusive home run record held by none other than Babe Ruth. This is the story of that fateful summer. "61*" is probably one of the best baseball movies I have ever seen. I would have never imagined that Billy Crystal would have ever been able to put together such a great film.
The cast in this movie is wonderful. Roger Maris, played by Barry Pepper, who was also in "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Green Mile," was played very well. I can't comment on accuracy of the actual character as I was not alive when this story took place. But, the roles were very believable. The struggle that Roger Maris went through as a result of the media blitz that surrounded him and the ghost of Babe Ruth, must have been so painful.
Now, I don't claim to be a baseball expert, nor would I say that I am actually a fan of the game in the state it is in today. But, this film was when baseball was a game and people still played for the love of the game. Yes, there were rich ballplayers, but many still had winter jobs and needed playoff bonuses to stay afloat. They had a head for the game and they had heart for the game, now most have a head for the game and a heart for real estate.
This movie is wonderful. If I was a producer, I would defiantly give Billy Crystal money for a movie. . . I do know that Mr. Crystal is a fan of the game. So, I do wonder slightly if the movie is accurate or if it a fan piece. . . But, honestly, I do not care. The story was amazing.