During the coronavirus shutdown, each day we will bring you a recommendation from The Post’s Peter Botte for a sports movie, TV show or book that perhaps was before your time or somehow slipped between the cracks of your viewing/reading history.
The Natural (1984), Rated PG
On what should have been Opening Day across America, our latest offering had to be about the national pastime.
More movies — praised, panned and in-between — have been made about baseball than any other sport, and this adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s 1954 novel of the same name always will be remembered by many sports fans as a “lights-out” home run, literally and figuratively.
Sure, some critics panned the film for its heavy-handed and improbable plot lines, but as Bill Simmons once wrote in his old ESPN Page 2 column, “Any ‘Best Sports Movies’ list that doesn’t feature either (past Post recommendation) ‘Hoosiers’ or ‘The Natural’ as the No. 1 pick shouldn’t even count.”
Screen legend Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, a 35-year-old rookie who seemingly emerges out of nowhere (spoiler alert: he had been shot by a woman as a teenager) as a superstar for the fictitious New York Knights and leads the last-place outfit to the National League pennant.
Hobbs’ breakout season nearly is derailed by an illness stemming from his old bullet wounds, as is the Knights’ improbable run by mounting pressure from gamblers. At least until a bloodied Hobbs returns from the hospital in time to belt the game-winning home run into the stadium lights in the climactic scene.
Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”) noted years later that while “The Natural” was rooted in fantasy, life imitated art in subsequent baseball seasons, such as the Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson limping around the bases following his walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against Oakland and the Red Sox’s Curt Schilling shutting down the Yankees with a bloodied sock in the 2004 ALCS.
Quote to Note: “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby.” Roy Hobbs to the batboy after his lightning-bolt injected bat, “Wonderboy,” breaks during the decisive game.
Botte Blows: 4.6 out of 5.