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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 in 61
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...
Published on Jan. 31 2006 by FrKurt Messick

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Billy, you blew it!
I love baseball. I love baseball movies. (Kevin Costner occupies a space on the wall in my office). I love the romance of baseball that has been passed on to me from my father. He grew up in Queens in the 40's and 50's and pulled for the Dodgers. He passed that love on to me. I remember my first game - 1969, Mets vs. Reds, as much as I remember my wedding day. I try to...
Published on Sept. 15 2001 by pwsdaddy


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 in 61, Jan. 31 2006
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Hero in the Shadows, June 30 2003
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Baseball Fanatics, May 27 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: 61 (VHS Tape)
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.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Billy, you blew it!, Sept. 15 2001
By 
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
I love baseball. I love baseball movies. (Kevin Costner occupies a space on the wall in my office). I love the romance of baseball that has been passed on to me from my father. He grew up in Queens in the 40's and 50's and pulled for the Dodgers. He passed that love on to me. I remember my first game - 1969, Mets vs. Reds, as much as I remember my wedding day. I try to pass on to my children the same romance my father passed on to me. When I picked up the DVD last night I was excited at the prospect of sharing it with my 13 year old son.
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.
Thanks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising good look at two of the best., July 3 2003
By 
JediMack (VALRICO, FL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
I grew up watching Micky and Roger. This movie was made with love and they all did a great job.
I am the same age as Billy Crystal, but a Cardinal fan. I was 14 years in 1961 and the race for the Babes record was all we talked about for months. I, like most was rooting for the Mick. I couldn't believe the boos that Maris got though. Roger had played his AAA ball in the American Association. As such, he came and played in Omaha. He was one minor lead player that didn't mind signing authographs.
I cried when roger died. I cried when the Mick died. This movie was a real emotional experience for me. Probably only 3 stars for most people, you sort of had to be there to give it 4.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good insights into the men inside the heroes, Nov. 2 2011
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 61*, May 9 2004
By 
Mark "u-s-a" (Cinci Bengals Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
This is now one of my favorite baseball movies of all time. I had never seen this movie until I purchased it on amazon. First, it is needed to say that I hate the Yankees. Even with my bias view of the team, this is the first (and last) time I will ever pull for the yankees. The bottom line is simply that this is an enjoyable movie for both baseball fans and those who do not follow the game.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, April 4 2004
By 
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
I absolutely love this movie because of its perfect portrayal of the story of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chasing Babe Ruth's homerun record. Billy Crystal directed this film and made every aspect of the story be exactly the same to the true story. Thomas Jane plays an unbelievable role as Mickey Mantle and makes this movie one of the best ever made. I recommend this film to any fan of baseball or movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Baseball Film, March 15 2004
By 
Joe Lee (Brandon, MS USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging look at a major piece of baseball history, Feb. 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: 61* (Widescreen) (DVD)
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.
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61* (Widescreen)
61* (Widescreen) by Billy Crystal (DVD - 2001)
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