Mr. Baseball: Hollywood’s First (and only) Japanese Baseball Movie

What’s going on inside your buddy Jimmy Devious’ head today?
Last I checked, it’s still summer. In fact, for Texas, it’s getting into THE MOST summer of summer months Scorchonuts…err…Sungust…err..I mean August. (More on that hopefully next week. Tips for “yankees” to survive everybody’s favorite month down here.)
But that’s later. For today, of course it’s Thursday,  so continuing on with “Jimmy D’s Movies Of Summer” series,  and more importantly, Thrilling Cinema Thursday
…I gotta another one for you. Yes, ANOTHER baseball movie. I knnnnooow. I promise not all of them will be baseball movies, but this IS summer after all, and what sport more identifies with the seas-yeah, riggght and you know it! 🙂
This week’s edition’s title couldn’t be simpler to remember, yet it wasn’t a big hit in 1992 when it came out. Naturally I’m not talking about The Natural, but instead…
Mr. Baseball Movie Poster

Mr. Baseball

Enough with the chit-chat and let’s swing away right into this one, shall we?

“What’s The Big Idea?”
 Jack Elliot (Tom Selleck, of Magnum, TV Westerns, and more recently, Blue Bloods fame) is a has-been Major League slugger who’s on his last legs. Unceremoniously dumped from the NY Yankees (blessing in disguise, JESUS LOVES THE SOX! 😛 )  He finds himself playing baseball in the last place he ever thought possible…Japan!

(Yes, stupid Americans, we haz baseball, we good, we good baseball for long, long time, haaasoooo! 😉 Actually, check the history of the World Baseball Classic Japan kicks ASS at “America’s pasttime.” Whatever, off-topic, slightly!)

Anyway, so Jack has to try and make the best of his new situation with the Japanese Dodgers, err, the Dragons (Which are/were a real team in Japan, BTW) even though he’s an arrogant American jock-pig-dog. 😉

Together with the help of his new no-nonsense Japanese Manager (Ken Takakura) and the latter’s beautiful ad executive daughter (Aya Takanshi) Jockster Tom…err JACK finds a new lease on life in a new land and yadda-yadda-yadda, you get the drift! 🙂

“Whatta We Got On The Spacecraft That’s Good?”
Believe it or not, the concept is somewhat original. Back when this movie premeired, most Americans, even many American baseball aficionados had never even heard of Japan, let alone that the Japanese love baseball and have a real professional baseball league. Who more all-American and manly to bring the West and East’s baseball cultures together, but Tom Selleck? (Surrender to the power of stauche!)

Happy body me arse! 😀

Mr. Baseball is a solid sports flick, with a lead actor who looks like he could actually be a pro baller (*ahem* QB Adam Sandler in the Longest Yard remake?? Crackah, pleaaaaaase! 😛 ) maybe because Selleck DID play semi-pro ball. It delivers everything one would expect from a baseball movie, and Selleck delivers his lines in the Sellecky-sacasto-blast style his fans (i.e. chicks over 45 lol 😀 ) also come to expect from him.
There are plenty of funny, entertaining scenes of “culture clash” between the “boorish yank”and the “over-polite and uptight” Japanese folk. Not to mention great supporting roles played here by the formerly mentioned Ken Takakura (AKA “The Clint Eastwood of Japan” ) as well as a return to the diamond by Dennis “Jubu” Haysbert as another rising American  baseball star overseas.
Mr. Baseball Ken Takakura
Even though this is a part Selleck could have played in his sleep, he still plays it well, and the movie works…for the most part.
Ut-ooooh Spaghetti’Os you KNOW what’s next…
“It’s Like People Only Do Things Because They’re Paid, And That’s Just Really Sad’
Where Mr. Baseball DOESN’T work IMO is like when you try to hit a baseball and miss. It is in the timing.
Need I remind the reader that this is an “East Meets West, Japanese vs America movie” that came out in 1992!
I.E. for those of ye not as old and decrepit like me to have lived then, meaning near THE END of the “Japanese Invasion.” If I recall Japan’s economy was already collapsing by this point, so Baseball was hoping to ride a wave on a trend that had pretty much petered out. True, Rising Sun’s movie adaption came out in 1993, but that was a murder-mystery thriller so time and place current relevance really didn’t matter and, B-T-W, it didn’t do too well at the box office either.
Also casting choices. I’m no Tom Selleck basher, and while yes, the guy’s a natural athlete, how old was he or his character supposed to be again? Right, Selleck was 47 when Baseball came out…47!! And Dennis Haysbert playing the “young” rookie-type Dubois, yeah, he was nearly 40 at the time as well! True, seeing a guy nearly 50 still playing baseball isn’t so uncommon nowadays (I mean, has Julio Franco finally called it quits yet?! lol j/k ) it’s still a little weird.
Mr. Baseball jersey
Plus, some of the “culture shock” stuff played for laughs is a little corny and expected. The sports plot is also pretty predictable too.
I guess this is all really just a roundabout way of saying that Baseball is a well-cast, well-acted movie for it’s time, but that it’s time was say, 1984-85. You get the feeling when watching it sometimes that it got caught in “development hell” for years, but they (or Selleck) were determined to make it happen anyway. Even if it was a few years too late.
Final Thoughts
Mr. Baseball is a decent baseball and sports film. Tom Selleck is classically Tom Selleck, there’s plenty of baseball and humor and Japanese…ness. So if you like all those things (and I do!) Or if you enjoy 2/3…ish of those things, you’ll probably enjoy it.

It’s both different and predictably the same at the same time. If you want your “traditional” sports comedy with a little extra “wasabi” you can’t go wrong with Mr. Baseball. You should check it out! 🙂

Because starting off the day without coffee and doughnuts is like “jacking off before sex”
J. Devious, ESQ.

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