Little Big League
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|Little Big League|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrew Scheinman|
|Written by||Gregory K. Pincus|
|Music by||Stanley Clarke|
|Cinematography||Donald E. Thorin|
|Edited by||Michael Jablow|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|June 29, 1994|
|Country||United States (Minnesota)|
|Box office||$12 million (US)|
Little Big League is a 1994 American family sports film about a 12-year-old who suddenly becomes the owner and then manager of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. It stars Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, and Dennis Farina. This film and Disney's Angels in the Outfield were both released just over a month before the 1994 MLB Baseball Players Strike, which forced the league to cancel the playoffs and the World Series. Both indeed feature fictional playoff races that never would have been played out in real life.
The Twins are a last-place team, but Billy and his grandfather love each other, the Twins, and the game of baseball. When Thomas dies, his will reveals that he has given the team to Billy. Thomas specifies that, if Billy is still a minor at the time of his death, his aides are to help him until Billy is old enough to run the team by himself.
Billy quickly runs afoul of the team's manager, George O'Farrell. Billy believes O'Farrell is too hard on the players, while O'Farrell despises the idea of working for a kid. After O'Farrell insults Billy and tells him to butt out of the team's business, Billy fires him.
With no potential new managers willing to work for a kid, and with his grade-school summer break starting in two days, the baseball-savvy Billy decides to name himself the new manager. He reaches out to the Commissioner of Baseball, who approves after consulting with Jenny.
The players are very skeptical, but Billy promises that if he does not improve the team's position in the standings within a few weeks, he will resign. The team quickly moves up to division race contention. Unfortunately, not all is going smoothly for Billy, as his friend and star first baseman Lou Collins takes a romantic interest in Jenny.
Billy picks up bad habits on the road, and is even ejected from a game and given a one-game "suspension" by his mother for throwing a temper tantrum and swearing at an umpire because of a call he didn't like. He also must release his personal favorite Twins player, Jerry Johnson, who is clearly in the twilight of his career. He ends up making Jerry feel even worse when Billy immaturely tries to illustrate his own distress by pointing out he owns Jerry's baseball card and wouldn't give it up for a Wade Boggs and a Sammy Sosa.
The pressures of managing the team wear Billy down and consume his free time. Billy's friends do not like how his managerial responsibilities are keeping him away from being with them. Even when he's physically present (as opposed to on the road with the team), he is typically distracted by team business.
After Jenny spends her birthday with Lou rather than Billy, Billy uses Lou's minor batting-slump as an excuse to bench him, sending the Twins into a losing skid. Billy later tells his mom that he's tired of being a "grown-up" and decides to quit as manager after the end of the season, even reinstating Lou to starter on first base.
With four games left in the season, the Twins trail the Seattle Mariners by four games in the wild card race. The Twins win their last four while the Mariners lose four straight, forcing a one-game playoff at the Twins' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to determine who advances to the postseason.
The two teams trade three-run home runs during the course of the game, and extra innings are required. The Mariners eventually take the lead. Down to their final out, and Lou about to go up to bat, he tells Billy that he has asked Jenny to marry him, and that her reply was "Ask Billy". With a runner on base, Billy says if Lou hits the game-winning homer he will give his blessing, but quickly relents and gives Lou his consent whether or not he hits a homer. Facing Randy Johnson, Lou hits a long fly ball to center field, but Ken Griffey Jr. makes a leaping catch at the wall to rob Lou of a homer and end the game.
With their season over, Billy tells the players he is officially stepping down as manager, with pitching coach Mac MacNally taking his place, as well as bringing back Jerry Johnson to be the third base coach and new hitting instructor. The players object to losing Billy, but he reminds the team that he will still be present as the owner, and says that he might come back as manager if junior high doesn't work out. When being informed that none of the fans have left, Billy, along with the rest of the team, returns to the field to receive a standing ovation.
- Luke Edwards as Billy Heywood (manager - #20)
- Timothy Busfield as Lou Collins (first base - #4)
- John Ashton as Mac Macnally
- Ashley Crow as Jenny Heywood
- Kevin Dunn as Arthur Goslin
- Billy L. Sullivan as Chuck
- Miles Feulner as Joey
- Jonathan Silverman as Jim Bowers (relief pitcher - #48)
- Dennis Farina as George O'Farrell
- Jason Robards as Thomas Heywood
- Wolfgang Bodison as Spencer Hamilton (center field - #34)
- Duane Davis as Jerry Johnson (right field - #31)
- Leon "Bull" Durham as Leon Alexander (first base - #23)
- Kevin Elster as Pat Corning (shortstop - #2)
- Joseph Latimore as Lonnie Ritter (left field - #24)
- Brad Lesley as John 'Blackout' Gatling (relief pitcher - #38)
- John Minch as Mark Hodges (catcher - #12)
- Michael Papajohn as Tucker Kain (right field - #5)
- Scott Patterson as Mike McGrevey (starting pitcher - #19)
- Troy Startoni as Larry Hilbert (third base - #15)
- Antonio Lewis Todd as Mickey Scales (second base - #11)
- John Gordon as Wally Holland (play-by-play)
- MLB personalities as themselves:
Actor Kevin Elster was an active MLB player when the film was shot, while two of his fictional Twins teammates were played by former MLB players Leon Durham and Brad Lesley.
The film has a score of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews. In his three-and-a-half star review, Roger Ebert gave the film praise for being a family movie that doesn't dumb down for its audience or feel predictable.