- Mr. Baseball is also the self-applied nickname of Bob Uecker, who appears in the Major League movies.
Theatrical Release Poster
|Directed by||Fred Schepisi|
|Produced by||Fred Schepisi
|Written by||Theo Pelletier (story)
John Junkerman (story)
Gary Ross (screenplay)
Kevin Wade (screenplay)
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||108 min.|
Mr. Baseball is a 1992 American comedy directed by Fred Schepisi, starring Tom Selleck, Ken Takakura, and Dennis Haysbert. It depicts a tumultuous season in the career of fictitious New York Yankees first baseman Jack Elliot, who is traded to the Chunichi Dragons during Spring Training, and forced to contend with overwhelming expectations and cultural differences during the Dragons' run at the pennant.
Jack Elliot is an aging American baseball player unsuspectingly put on the trading block during Spring Training by the New York Yankees in favor of a rookie first-baseman Ricky Davis (played by former Chicago White Sox player Frank Thomas), and there's only one taker: the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.
Upon arrival in Japan, the arrogant Elliot clashes with the Japanese culture and the team's manager, and before long he alienates his new teammates. He believes the rules and management style of his new skipper, Uchiyama (Ken Takakura), are ludicrous, and continues to do things his way, which leads his already dwindling performance to suffer even more. His only ally on the team is another American ballplayer, Max "Hammer" Dubois (Dennis Haysbert), with whom he commiserates about his frustrations, but even Max becomes fed up with Jack's attitude and lack of respect for the game and his team.
At the same time, Elliot develops a relationship with the beautiful Hiroko (Aya Takanashi), who is, he later finds out, Uchiyama's daughter.
After one too many outbursts, including punching out his interpreter (during a brawl), Elliot is suspended from play. After meeting Hiroko's family, including Uchiyama, Uchiyama admits to Jack that he hired him over the objections of management (they wanted Pete Clifton from the Boston Red Sox) and now his own career, not just Jack's, is in jeopardy. After hearing this, Elliot swallows his pride and admits his deficiencies. In a rare show of humility, he apologizes to the team, who rally around him and teach him the value of sportsmanship and respect for hard work. Uchiyama lifts his suspension and begins to work with Elliot on improving his play. The reinvigorated Elliot's enthusiasm for team play is contagious and the mediocre Dragons become contenders for the Central League pennant. In the process, he also utilizes a Japanese tradition of being able to tell off Uchiyama while intoxicated to convince him to encourage his players to be more aggressive and "have a little fun."
Eventually, Elliot gets the opportunity to break Uchiyama's record of seven consecutive games with a home run. His new-found respect for team play becomes apparent in a crucial game against the Yomiuri Giants. With the bases loaded, two outs and his team down 6-5, the team brass expects Uchiyama to signal for a bunt to try to tie the game, even though it would deny Elliot the chance to break the home run record. Elliot goes to Uchiyama and asks if he read the sign correctly. Uchiyama nods and tells him to swing away, knowing that a home run would break his record. Elliot takes a called strike one with a questionable call on the first pitch. Elliot fouls the second pitch back. Faced with a no ball, two strike count, Elliot sees the Giants' infield is playing deep and bunts. The Giants are caught off guard and the bunt is successful in allowing the tying run to cross home plate. As the Giants struggle to field the ball, Elliot runs through the bag and knocks over the Giants' first baseman (a fellow American expat), which allows the winning run to score from second base.
With the Dragons winning the pennant, Elliot returns to Major League Baseball, along with Max, who earlier told Elliot he hoped would eventually happen. Max signs a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending his five year career in NPB, and Elliot, who is married to Hiroko, becomes a coach and mentor with the Detroit Tigers. The movie ends with one of the players calling him Chief, the same name he called Uchiyama in Japan.
- Tom Selleck as Jack Elliot
- Ken Takakura as Uchiyama
- Aya Takanashi as Hiroko Uchiyama
- Dennis Haysbert as Max 'Hammer' Dubois
- Toshi Shioya as Yoji Nishimura
- Kosuke Toyohara as Toshi Yamashita
- Toshizo Fujiwara as Ryoh Mukai
- Charles Fick as Billy Stevens
- Leon Lee as Lyle Massey
- Bradley "Animal" Lesley as Alan Niven
- Frank Thomas as Ricky Davis
Fred Schepisi later said he felt as though the film was not as good as it could have been:
[It] was just supposed to be about cultural differences using the baseball game, but also there was much funnier stuff. When he goes down to see the father and there's the noodle scene, all of that, that's the kind of humour that could have been throughout the whole film. Again the studio and Tom Selleck had script approval, which I didn't realise when I agreed to do it. I went in to help them out. They didn't understand it, so they pulled it into the conventional.
Most scenes in Mr. Baseball were filmed in the city of Nagoya, including a number that were eventually cut from the film. Most prominent are the scenes filmed at Nagoya Stadium (Nagoya yakukyujo) former home of the Chunichi Dragons in Otobashi, Nagoya. Thousands of local extras volunteered to sit in the stands during the filming of game situations, even braving a typhoon to cheer on the fictitious Dragons during their climatic showdown with the Yomiuri Giants. Filming of other scenes did not range very far from the stadium. Two scenes of Jack Eliot and his interpreter Yoji (Shioya Toshi), were filmed on the Meitsu line shuttling between Nagoya Station and Otobashi. The scenes at Jack Elliot's suite apartment were filmed at the Tsukimi-ga-oka Mansion complex in Kakuozan, a thirty-minute subway and local train ride from the stadium. Scenes of Jack and Hiroko's visit to local shrines were filmed at the Osu Kannon marketplace, near the heart of the city's commercial district. The building that housed Hiroko's "Concept Designs" still stands in the Hibari-ga-oka neighborhood of Nagoya. A scene in which Jack meets a group of other expat American ballplayers at a foreigner's bar was filmed in Sakae, on the site of the current Shooter's. Three scenes that were eventually cut from the film were also filmed in Nagoya. These include: 1) an exchange between Jack and Hiroko in Osu; 2) an exchange between Jack and Hiroko in front of Tsukimi-ga-oka Mansion; 3) a dialogue between Jack and Uchiyama (Takakura Ken) in Heiwa Park cemetery. Only two scenes set in Japan were filmed outside of Nagoya: 1) Jack's "Big Hit, Happy Body" commercial, filmed in a tea field in Shizuoka; and 2) Jack's visits to the home of his manager, Uchiyama, which appear to have been filmed in the Komaki or Inuyama area.
While the movie is entirely fictitious, the scene in which Elliot taunts an opposing pitcher who refuses to throw him a strike by gripping the bat upside-down was apparently based on a real-life incident. Western player Randy Bass, playing for the Hanshin Tigers who was challenging Japan's single-season home run record in 1985 also tauntingly turned his bat around in protest.
The Detroit Tigers cap that Selleck wears in the last scene of the film, when he is coaching a rookie at the Tigers spring training facility, is the same cap he donned while playing the role of Thomas Magnum in the classic television series "Magnum, P.I."
The movie received a mixed response from critics. Mr. Baseball currently holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews. Despite its initially tepid reception, the film has become something of a cult classic among ex-pat baseball fans living in Japan.
The movie debuted at No. 3. It went on to gross $20.8 million domestically. During its later run in Japan, the film regularly appeared as the "B film" in double features.
- "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 November 2012
- "Mr. Baseball". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 1, 2008.
- Maslin, Janet (1992-10-02). "Review/Film; Lessons In Baseball (And Life) In Japan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
- Thomas, Kevin (1992-10-02). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Mr. Baseball' a Culture-Clash Comedy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. 1992-10-06. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
- Mr. Baseball at the Internet Movie Database
- Mr. Baseball at AllMovie
- Mr. Baseball at Box Office Mojo
- Mr. Baseball at Rotten Tomatoes