Mr. Baseball

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Mr. Baseball is also the self-applied nickname of Bob Uecker, who appears in the Major League movies.
Mr. Baseball
Mr baseball poster.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Produced by Fred Schepisi
Doug Claybourne
Written by Theo Pelletier (story)
John Junkerman (story)
Gary Ross (screenplay)
Kevin Wade (screenplay)
Monte Merrick
Starring Tom Selleck
Ken Takakura
Dennis Haysbert
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Ian Baker
Production
company
Outlaw Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 2, 1992 (1992-10-02)
Running time
108 min.
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $20,883,046

Mr. Baseball is a 1992 American comedy directed by Fred Schepisi, starring Tom Selleck, Ken Takakura, Dennis Haysbert, and Aya Takanashi. It depicts a tumultuous season in the career of veteran New York Yankees first baseman Jack Elliot, who is traded to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League during Spring Training, and forced to contend with overwhelming expectations and cultural differences during the Dragons' run at the pennant.

Plot[edit]

Jack Elliot is an aging American baseball player unsuspectingly put on the trading block during Spring Training in 1989 by the New York Yankees in favor of "rookie phenom" first baseman Ricky Davis (played by Hall of Famer 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 learns, Uchiyama's daughter.

After one too many outbursts, including knocking 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 in Japanese (erroneously saying he wants to build a "chopstick" rather than a "bridge" of friendship) and the team rallies around him and teaches 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 newfound 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. He had earlier told Elliot, that he hoped this would eventually happen. Max signs a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending his five-year career in NPB. Elliot, who is married to the beautiful Hiroko, becomes a coach and mentor with the Detroit Tigers. The movie ends with one of the players calling him Chief, which is the same as he called Uchiyama in Japan.

Characters[edit]

Jack Elliot ("Mr. Baseball")[edit]

New York Yankees first baseman and former World Series MVP (1985) coming off the worst season in his professional career, during which his batting average fell to .235. While Jack seems to have deep concerns about his diminishing performance—as evidenced by the nightmare sequence at the opening of the film, when he swings and misses on countless pitches in a never-ending at-bat under the lights of Yankee Stadium—he tries to put a positive spin on things, reminding his Yankees manager, for example, that he led the team in "ninth-inning doubles in the month of August." These appeals fall on deaf ears, however, and by the time the Yankees break camp at their spring training facility in Tampa, the team brass is already moving to trade Jack and replace him at first base with rookie phenom Ricky Davis (played by former Chicago White Sox first baseman and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas). The only taker for Jack's services is the Chunichi Dragons, a Japanese baseball team. Jack is floored by the news, having expected that, at worst, he would need to pack his bags for Canada or Cleveland. Despite being a veteran player, Jack is unable to refuse the trade, or to get his agent "Doc" (who is also representing Ricky Davis) to intercede on his behalf.

A left-handed power hitter, Jack Elliot joins his new team expecting to bat fourth. He puts on a show during his first batting practice at Nagoya Stadium, driving the ball over both the left and right field fences, much to the delight of the press corps in attendance. However, his new manager, Uchiyama, is not impressed by this performance, pointing out a "flaw" in his swing (translated as "hole" by Yoji). He brings in his best starting pitcher (Itoi Issei) to show Jack that he is vulnerable to swinging over the breaking shuuto, but Jack refuses to acknowledge that he needs to alter his mechanics. While he begins the season for the Dragons as the number three hitter, forming a potent lefty-righty duo in front of Max DuBois, other teams quickly learn how to expand the zone and keep Jack off balance by throwing him the shuuto. It isn't long before he finds himself mired in a slump. His frustrations mount mid-season when his batting average bottoms out around .200. At the lowest point in his slump, he takes out his frustrations on a Hiroshima Carp pitcher who accidentally plunks him with an inside pitch, earning the ire of his manager and the team ownership.

Only after Uchiyama takes an active interest in resurrecting Jack's season do things begin to turn around. He follows a personalised regimen designed by Uchiyama that includes rigorous exercise aimed at strengthening his bad right knee and fielding his position. Eventually, Uchiyama permits Jack to turn his attentions back to hitting, first by having him hone his skills at a driving range hitting golf balls. Eventually, Jack is able to regain his swing and contribute to the team. During the final stretch of the regular season, he goes on a streak of hitting home runs in seven consecutive games, tying Uchiyama's record set twenty years earlier, in 1971. During the final game of the season, however, the starting pitcher for the Giants refuses to throw Jack strikes, lest he allow a foreigner to break Uchiyama's record. Jack gets one more chance in his final at-bat against the Giants closer, and his manager Uchiyama gives him the green light to "swing away," but Jack decides to put the interest of the team before the record, and makes a sacrifice bunt to win the game. Coincidentally, the game is tied 4-4 when Jack makes his suicide squeeze to win it for the Dragons. This the same score in the Yankees-Tigers game that Jack dreams about in the nightmare sequence at the opening of the film, when he struggles to come up with the winning hit. In this sense, things have come full circle for Jack with this bunt. He has exorcised his demons by putting the good of the team before his own anxieties about individual performance.

The full span of Jack's career is not described in great detail in the film, but a few details offer clues into his career before the Yankees, while also hinting at certain themes in his career arc. In the classic scene at the driving range, where Jacks practices hitting golf balls, he wears a pair of team-issued Detroit Tigers pants with orange and navy stripes. This may hint at a former stint with the Tigers and explain why he is hired as hitting coach with the Tigers at the end of the film. Additionally, in a deleted scene, Jack tells Hiroko that he used to play in Los Angeles. This might explain why he is represented by "Doc," a sports agent based in Los Angeles. Of course, besides being the inspiration for the Chunichi Dragons 1987-1996 uniforms, the Dodgers are also the same team that seeks to sign Jack after Kyle Lovette breaks his wrist late in the season. If we presume a career arc in which Jack comes full circle, the most likely sequence of seems to be: Detroit Tigers (minor league player, late 1970s); Los Angeles Dodgers (early 1980s); New York Yankees (mid-1980s to 1989); Chunichi Dragons (1989); Detroit Tigers (batting coach, 1990~).

Jack is fond of steaks, especially from Kansas City (which he claims are the best in the world), but he learns to like Japanese Kobe beef as well. In his brash, chauvinistic way, he claims to have no interest in Japanese food like sushi (which he derisively calls "bait"). The only Japanese food he tries in the film are the soba noodles prepared by Hiroko's grandmother, and even these he eats reluctantly. Jack loves a good beer, and even jokes to Hiroko during their trip to Osu Kannon that the cure for his slump came to him in a vision of "the biggest, coldest beer I've ever seen." At home, Jack drinks the original Coors beer in a can--which while relatively difficult to acquire in Nagoya early 1990s, would have been readily available at the Matsuzakaya Supermarket located next to his apartment complex in Tsukimi-ga-oka. Jack is an avid smoker, who relishes a nice, big cigar in the bath after a big game, or when remonstrating with his manager. In one scene, his interpreter Yoji chides Jack for smoking a cigar on the Meitetsu Nagoya-Kanayama line. On the ball field, where he is not permitted to smoke, Jack enjoys Red Man chewing tobacco.

Uchiyama[edit]

Manager of the Chunichi Dragons and former star player who won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1959 and was League MVP in 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1969. Most impressively, Uchiyama holds the record in Japanese baseball for most consecutive games with a home run (seven), which he set in 1971. As manager, Uchiyama takes a no-nonsense approach with his players, stressing hard work, physical conditioning, and fundamentals. He has a keen eye for batting, as when he identifies a hole in Jack's swing during the first batting practice, making him vulnerable to the shuuto. Uchiyama is given to tirades, especially when his players do not perform up to expectations or when he deems that they are not sufficiently motivated for big games (such as with the Yomiuri Giants). He also has little patience for Jack's antics, giving him a cold stare when he spits chewing tobacco juice onto home plate and cursing him out when he refuses to bunt. During the ill-fated Hiroshima Carp game, Uchiyama calls Jack a disgrace to the team after he instigates a brawl on the mound, and pulls him from the game for pinch runner Ohmae.

Close examination of the games depicted in the film reveal two unusual idiosyncrasies of Uchiyama as a manager—first, he never gives his bench players an opportunity to start; and second, he never sticks to a regular batting order. Uchiyama fields a different lineup in each of the four games featured in the film. In three different games against the Giants, Whales, and Carp, for example, he bats his third baseman Ryou Mukai in the leadoff, number two, and number five spots, respectively. This seems to speak to a predilection to play the hot hand or play pitching match-ups. In the main, however, Uchiyama sticks to managing the game in the conventional Japanese way, especially when it comes to bunting runners over into scoring position or calling for pitching changes whenever the starter on the mound gives up a homerun. This kind of strategising is lost on Jack, as he is used to the American way of trusting in one's players. As Max says when he explains one surprising in-game managerial decision to Jack, "don't look for logic here, this is the Giants."

Despite being "the most respected manager in all of Japan," according to Yoji, Uchiyama is under constant pressure from Nakamura (the president of the Chunichi Company) and Nikawa (vice-president) to win important games and uphold the honor of the Chunichi Dragons. The rift between Uchiyama and ownership widens after the signing of Jack Elliot. Initially, ownership wanted Pete Clifton of the Boston Red Sox, but ultimately acceded to Uchiyama's request to sign Jack instead. However, when things begin to turn sour for Jack, following his weeks-long slump and antics off the field, ownership holds Uchiyama accountable. It is only when Uchiyama leads the Dragons to a key win over the Giants in the last game of the season that he is able regain their confidence.

Uchiyama lives in Inuyama, a suburb of Nagoya, with his mother and father. Here he spends his free time gardening. While it is implied that Uchiyama hails from Nagoya or the Tokai region, in fact he does not speak with the local dialect or accent in the film. Most surprising, of course, is that Uchiyama can speak proficient English—a secret he hides from his players until he sees the need to communicate with Jack directly during intensive training. The character of Uchiyama is very closely based on Senichi Hoshino, who managed the Dragons from 1987 to 1991.

Max DuBois ("Hammer")[edit]

An American baseball player, originally from New Jersey, who plays with the Dragons for five full seasons before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The starting right fielder, Max is a powerful right-handed batter who hits fourth in the order behind the left-handed Jack Elliot (except in the first game against the Giants, when he hits third). Like most of the other foreign players in the film, Max earns a menacing nickname from his Japanese teammates--"Hammer." While he is reluctant to divulge the true origins of his nickname to Jack, he embraces the persona by sporting a royal blue mallet in the dugout between innings (as seen in the game against the Hiroshima Carp at Okazaki Stadium). In stark contrast to Jack, Max earns the respect of his teammates through his cultural sensitivity and acceptance of the Japanese way of playing the game. During his time in Japan, Max adopts certain Japanese customs, such as drinking green tea, and learns to speak a modicum of Japanese (evidenced when he says "saitei" (that's awful!) during a repartee with one of his Japanese teammates, and "sou desu ne!" (that's right!) when Jacks complains about the rule of concluding tied games after fifteen innings). In one scene, Max is even able to translate the manager's tirade into English for Jack. In many ways, Max embodies the ideal of the foreign player who is able to get along harmoniously with this team. Unlike the irascible Jack, who clashes with his new teammates and coaches and seemingly has no respect for the Japanese way of playing baseball, Max is far more accepting of cultural differences in the game.

Hiroko Uchiyama[edit]

The lead designer at Concepts Graphic Designs, headquartered in Hibari-ga-oka, Nagoya. Hiroko manages a regular staff of three graphic designers, whose remit extends to product design and branding. She also oversees the production of a commercial for the energy drink "Big," a quirky, post-modern TV spot starring Jack Elliot. Originally from Inuyama, a suburb of Nagoya, Hiroko spent time abroad during her student years training at Parsons School of Design in New York. After Jack is hired by the Detroit Tigers, she moves to Michigan, where she forms a new design firm. Hiroko speaks fluent English, but often misses the nuances of idiomatic phrases and slang terms that Jack uses--in many ways, highlighting the theme of inter-cultural miscommunication in the film.

Unbeknownst to Jack until a visit to her family home in Inuyama, Hiroko is also the daughter of Chunichi Dragons manager Uchiyama. Through the film, Hiroko has a strained relationship with her father, whom she perceives to be headstrong and emotionally distant. Hiroko attributes this to difficulties Uchiyama had when transitioning from player to manager, but another issue appears to be the death of her mother. The only glimpse of Hiroko's mother shown in the film is a photograph from Hiroko's shichi-go-san coming of age ceremony, when Hiroko was seven years old. Hiroko takes after her father in that she can be very strong willed and stubborn. While she repeatedly insists that Jack must "accept" ("ukeireru") the demands placed on him in Japan, she rarely follows this advice herself. In fact, Hiroko breaks many social conventions. She kisses Jack in front of her assistants, much to the bemusement of her principal assistant (played by famous Japanese actress and model Tomoko Fujita).

"Doc"[edit]

A hot-shot sports agent based in Los Angeles who represents star athletes like Kirby Puckett, "Doc" is a longtime representative of Jack Elliot. However, when Jack's career begins to hit the skids, "Doc" becomes too pre-occupied with other concerns to represent his client's interests effectively. "Doc" betrays Jack's trust when he signs rookie phenom Ricky Davis out of spring training (thus becoming a double agent, of sorts, for both Jack and his future replacement at first base for the Yankees) and does absolutely nothing when the Yankees move to trade Jack to the Dragons. "Doc" would rather gloat about the Nike commercial that Spike Lee is shooting for his new client than listen to complaints about Japan. The only time in the entire film when "Doc" proves himself adept at advocating for Jack is when he interests Howie Gold, GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Jack's services after an injury to Dodgers first baseman Rich Lovette. But in typical "Doc" fashion, he fails to seal the deal. Max DuBois upstages Jack in the critical final game against the Giants, and with no hard sell from "Doc," Howie Gold strikes a deal with Max instead. At the celebration party following the Dragons victory over the Giants, Jack warns Max, albeit playfully, to watch out for "Doc" if he tries to sign him.

Ryou Mukai[edit]

Starting third baseman for the Chunichi Dragons who bats leadoff, second, and fifth. Mukai is a serious minded player who clashes with Jack early in the season. He plays the game conservatively, as when he stops at third on a double by Jack during the first Giants game, prompting Jack to complain about his teammate aloud. Eventually, Mukai becomes more accepting of his new teammate, and even tricks Jack into falling for his own trademark practical joke of having his shoelaces set on fire.

Toshi Yamashita[edit]

Starting second baseman for the Chunichi Dragons who bats leadoff in the Whales and second Giants games, second in the Carp game, and sixth in the first Giants game. Toshi is an energetic player who sometimes rises to the occasion with a big hit—as when he hits a three-run home run to tie the game against the Giants in the last contest of the season. In stark contrast to the salty Mukai, Toshi is fun-loving and very accepting of Jack. He is in awe of Jack's World Series ring upon first meeting, and makes every effort to speak to Jack in English, albeit with mixed success.

Issei Itoi[edit]

A lanky, right-handed starting pitcher for the Chunichi Dragons who throws an effective shuuto breaking pitch but is prone to giving up the long ball. Itoi starts three of the four games featured in the film, and is danger of being pulled in two of them. In the second game against the Giants, Itoi takes Jack's advice to pitch to contact, learning what it means "to own the pussies."

Shinji Igarashi ("Iggy")[edit]

Starting left fielder for the Chunichi Dragons, who tends to bat seventh (except for the Carp game, when he bats leadoff). Igarashi (nicknamed "Iggy" by Jack) is a flashy player who regularly dons sunglasses, even indoors. But belying his gaudy appearance is his rather conservative play in the field. In the first game against the Giants, for example, Igarashi lets a fly ball by Billy Stevens fall in front of him so that he can field it on a hop. Jack is in disbelief but Billy assures him that this is common in Japan, where the outfielders tend to "gift wrap it" for the hitters. Eventually, under Jack's influence and the changing ethos of the team, Igarashi begins to make riskier, high reward plays. In the final game of the season against the Giants, he dives for a ball, much to the delight of the fans and, of course, Jack.

Fictional Chunichi Dragons Roster (1989 Season)[edit]

Starting Lineup

22 Takuya Nishikawa (catcher)

54 Jack Elliot (first baseman)

4 Toshi Yamashita (second Baseman)

2 Ryou Mukai (third baseman)

28 Hiroshi Kurosawa (shortstop)

7 Shinji Igarashi (left fielder)

37 Akito Yagi (center fielder)

40 Max DuBois (right fielder)

Pitchers

11 Issei Itoi

27 Wada

38 Nakata

45 Esashi

48 Tachibana

49 Mutsui

50 Kobayashi

59 Kamisaka

Bench Players

19 Hiroshi Nakamura

26 Uchida

36 Tsuboi

42 Hiraizumi

43 Sugita

44 Tomohiko Ohmae

51 Arimura

75 Ishimaru

Manager and Coaching Staff

83 Uchiyama (manager)

81 Hori (bench coach)

70 Yashiro (third base coach)

71 Itami

72 Katsura (first base coach)

87 Adachi (pitching coach)

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Screenplay[edit]

According to director Fred Schepisi, the original premise for "Mr. Baseball"—a baseball comedy that explored cultural differences between Japan and the United States—was conceived after the commercial success of Major League (1989).[1] The first story treatment was drafted by Theo Pelletier, a writer with no previous film credits to his name, and developed into a screenplay by Monte Merrick and Gary Ross. When Schepisi came onto the project, Tom Selleck had already been cast as the lead, and because of an unusual clause in his contract, had final say over the approval of the script. This resulted in the involvement of another screenwriter, Kevin Wade. Complicating matters further was the takeover of Universal Studios by Japanese conglomerate Matsushita (parent company of Panasonic). Universal was concerned about issues of cultural sensitivity in the depiction of Japanese characters, so they recruited John Junkerman, an experienced writer and director of films about Japan, to rework the story. Schepisi and a fourth screenwriter, Ed Solomon, traveled to Japan to do research. After returning from Japan, Schepisi and Solomon rewrote the entire script, highlighting cultural clashes between the characters for comic effect, but this version in turn was rewritten by Kevin Wade to accommodate Tom Selleck. Since Wade's contract expired mid-way through production, however, he only worked on it for about three weeks, leaving many loose ends that eventually had to be sorted out by Schepisi. In the end, the participation of many people in the process resulted in a screenplay that was much more conventional than Schepisi originally intended. In a later interview, he 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.[2]

Filming[edit]

Filming of "Mr. Baseball" took place primarily in Nagoya, with limited filming in Tokyo, Florida, and New York.[3] Doug Claybourne, one of the producers, began preparation for location filming in Japan in 1991.[4] Most scenes 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 名古屋野球場) 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 fictionalized 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 Elliot and his interpreter Yoji (Toshi Shioya), were filmed on the Meitsu line shuttling between Nagoya Station and Kanayama Station. 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 "Concepts Graphic Designs" still stands in the Hibari-ga-oka neighborhood of Nagoya, although the Minami-yama Pharmacy located next door has since changed locations to Irinaka. A scene in which Jack meets a group of other expat American ballplayers at a foreigners' 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 (Ken Takakura) 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.

Commenting on his working relationship with lead actor Tom Selleck, Schepisi commented "He was extremely helpful getting the baseball thing right. Getting the American pride thing right."[5]

Notes[edit]

Stadiums[edit]

Throughout the film, the Dragons play every team in the Japanese Central League except the Hanshin Tigers and Yakult Swallows (although Yoji quotes from an article from Chunichi Sports newspaper praising a leaping catch that Jack made to close the door against the Swallows). Nearly all are home games, filmed at Nagoya Baseball Stadium with extras in the stands. The only road game the Dragons play in the film is against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, filmed on location at nearby Okazaki Stadium in Aichi Prefecture. Interestingly, the Yokohama Taiyo Whales were renamed the Yokohama BayStars by the time the film premiered in Japan in February, 1993.

Uniforms[edit]

All the uniforms, caps, and training gear featured in the film are authentic. The Los Angeles Dodgers-inspired uniforms that the Chunichi Dragons players wear in the film—with the royal blue caps emblazoned with white "D" insignias in Casey font—are the same that the Dragons wore between 1987 and 1996. Oddly, the insignia on the Dragons cap is changed in the American theatrical release poster, emblazoned instead with a more angular "D" topped by a macron. The Dragons have never worn a cap like this.

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."[6] Tom Selleck, who hails from Detroit, Michigan, is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan and one-time minority shareholder of the team.

Models[edit]

While the movie is entirely fictitious, certain characters and scenes are based on real-life personalities and events. The character of Uchiyama, manager of the team, is very closely based on Senichi Hoshino, who managed the Dragons from 1987 to 1991. 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.[7]

Advisors[edit]

Many former players, baseball historians, and Japan experts served as advisors on the film, including former Lotte/Yokohama/Yakult slugger Leon Lee (who also makes a brief cameo in the film).

Theatrical Trailer[edit]

Universal released a theatrical trailer for "Mr Baseball" in the summer of 1992. The trailer, which runs two minutes and fourteen seconds, features dialogue and scenes that are absent from the final version of the film. For example, at the scene of Jack's first press conference, Yoji asks, "have you ever slept with Madonna?" During his first meeting with Uchiyama, Jack responds to the demand to shave his moustache by saying, "he probably can't even grow one." In the locker room scene where Jack is confused about how to use the Japanese-style toilet, he quips to Max, "I need somebody to tell me how to go to the can" (later changed in the final version of the film to "I need somebody tell me how to take a crap"). The music in the trailer is mostly sampled from Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack, but also includes samples from "Turning Japanese" by the The Vapors. The song also appears in the MCA Universal Home Video promotional tape distributed to video rental shops in 1993. "Turning Japanese" did not appear in the final version of the soundtrack.

Alternate Scenes[edit]

The Japanese version of "Mr. Baseball" included three scenes that were missing from the version screened in the North American market. All three scenes cast light on Jack's relationships with Uchiyama and Hiroko.

Scene 1[edit]

Jack and Hiroko, outside Jack's apartment building in the Tsukimi-ga-oka Mansion Complex in Kakuozan (1:04)[8]

After dinner and drinks in Sakae, Hiroko drives Jack back to his apartment in her black Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible. This scene appears to have originally followed the night club scene where Jack storms off in a huff, indignant at Hiroko's insinuation that he is "property of the team." Jack is still irate when Hiroko asks if him it's really true that many women in America fall for him. He explains that American women respect a man with character, even if he "screws up" fighting for what he believes in. As if to insinuate that she is not as stereotypically Japanese as Jack thinks, Hiroko tells Jack that she finds him attractive, and then cooly drives off. Left standing at the entrance of his apartment building, a befuddled Jack mutters, "I hate this place."

Scene 2[edit]

Jack and Hiroko, outside Sengen Shrine, walking towards Osu Kannon Arcade (1:07)[9]

Seeking divine assistance for the hole in his swing, Jack visits shrines and temples in the Osu Kannon arcade complex. After praying at Sengen Shrine, Jack tells Hiroko about his experiences participating in es when he lived in Los Angeles, and therapy when in New York. As they turn the corner and head in the direction of Banshoji Temple (site of the later scene in which Hiroko shows Jack how to draw incense), talk turns to Hiroko's father, Uchiyama. She tells Jack that Uchiyama had a difficult time transitioning from player to coach, and claims that this is why he is so angry all the time. Uchiyama cannot tolerate independence from this around him—which explains the difficulty Jack has in getting along with him, and why Hiroko has such a strained relationship with him.

Scene 3[edit]

Jack and Uchiyama, at grave in Heiwa Koen Cemetery (1:29)

Reception[edit]

Critical Reception[edit]

Upon its release, Mr. Baseball received mixed reviews from critics, ranging from overwhelmingly positive to negative. Bill Diehl of ABC called Mr. Baseball "uproariously funny," while Steve Wille of Sports Illustrated glowed, "Tom Selleck deserves a baseball Oscar."[10][11] Siskel and Ebert, in their review of the film, commented on its formulaic plot and lackluster writing, but also praised the film for its realistic crowd shots, direction, and Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack.[12] Janet Maslin of The New York Times singled out Selleck's performance for praise, writing, "The character of Jack, whose being sent to Japan is the impetus for "Mr. Baseball," provides Mr. Selleck with something unusual: a movie role that actually suits his talents. Mr. Selleck's easygoing, self-deprecating manner works particularly well when he lets himself look silly, as he often does here."[13] Mr. Baseball currently holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews.

Poster for "Mister Baseball"

Box Office[edit]

"Mr. Baseball" opened in 1,855 theaters on Friday, October 2, 1992. During its first weekend, it grossed over $5 million at the box office, coming in third behind The Last of the Mohicans and The Mighty Ducks.[14] During its six-week run in theatres, it went on to gross $20.8 million domestically. Despite the limited marketability of baseball movies overseas, Universal positioned it for a wide distribution beyond the North American market. However, a disappointing showing in Japan and Europe prevented the studio from recouping on its enormous losses. "Mr. Baseball" (ミスター・ベースボール) opened in theaters in Japan on February 6, 1993, and proceeded to gross a disappointing ¥1.5 billion ($1.25 million).[15] By the end of its run in Japan, during the summer of 1993, it appeared as the "B film" in Universal double features—such as with the Robert Redford and River Phoenix film Sneakers (1992). Screenings in European theatres followed, but with little fanfare. It premiered in Germany on June 16, 1993.

Post-Theatrical Distribution[edit]

Home Video[edit]

MCA Universal Home Video released "Mr. Baseball" on VHS in March, 1993. It was later reissued in 1997. The summary on the back of both sleeves reads:

"Tom Selleck stars in this hilarious comedy about an arrogant and aging major league baseball player who attempts to revive his career by signing to play in Japan. In the twilight of his glory days, Jack Elliot (Selleck) is no longer hitting like he used to. His fun-loving attitude is put to the test when he finds himself replaced by a rookie. Soon he learns the only team that wants him is the Chunichi Dragons... in Nagoya, Japan. After arriving in Japan, Jack manages to alienate everyone without improving his batting average, and treats the team's hard-headed manager (Ken Takakura) with disrespect. But with the love of elegant Hiroko (Aya Takanashi), along with a newfound respect for his manager and Japanese culture, Jack finds a way to win in this warmhearted, fast-moving comedy from director Fred Schepisi."

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 September 2015
  2. ^ "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 November 2012
  3. ^ [://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/33608/Mr-Baseball/credits "Production Credits"] Check |url= value (help). The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Yoshi Tezuka, "Global America? American-Japanese Film Co-Productions from Shogun (1980) to Lost in Translation (2003)," "Cultural Studies and Cultural Industries in Northeast Asia" p.99
  5. ^ "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 September 2015
  6. ^ "Mr. Baseball". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 1, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Mr. Baseball". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 1, 2008. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-10-02). "Review/Film; Lessons In Baseball (And Life) In Japan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  11. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1992-10-02). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Mr. Baseball' a Culture-Clash Comedy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  12. ^ Template:Url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9bx6HNmZ1A
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-10-02). "Review/Film; Lessons In Baseball (And Life) In Japan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  14. ^ "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. 1992-10-06. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  15. ^ [3]

External links[edit]