Rookie of the Year (film)
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|Rookie of the Year|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Daniel Stern|
|Produced by||Robert Harper|
|Written by||Sam Harper|
|Music by||Bill Conti|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$56.5 million|
Rookie of the Year is a 1993 American sports comedy film starring Thomas Ian Nicholas and Gary Busey as players for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The film is a remake of the 1954 film Roogie's Bump with the same basic plot. The cast also includes Albert Hall, Dan Hedaya, Eddie Bracken, Amy Morton, Bruce Altman, John Gegenhuber, Neil Flynn, Daniel Stern (who also directed) and an uncredited John Candy.
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Henry Rowengartner (Nicholas), 12-year-old Little Leaguer, has dreams of playing in the major leagues, although he is not very skilled. One day, Henry breaks his arm trying to catch a fly ball (he slips on another ball that is lying on the ground) and has to wrap it in a cast. Once the arm is healed, the doctor removes the cast and discovers Henry's tendons have healed "a little too tight," thus enabling Henry to cock his arm back and fire it forward with incredible force.
A fateful trip to Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game results in Henry's friends getting a home run ball hit by the visiting team, the Montreal Expos. However, when they give it to Henry to throw back onto the field (per Wrigley tradition), his tightly-healed arm throws the ball so hard that it reaches home plate on the fly. Looking for a miracle to save the club, which is suffering slumping attendance, general manager Larry Fisher (Hedaya) tries to get the kid to join the Cubs.
For the remainder of the season, Henry has to juggle the culture shock of actually playing in the major leagues—working with one of his heroes, aging pitcher Chet "Rocket" Steadman (Busey) and spending time with his friends. Under it all, his mother, Mary (Amy Morton), tries to keep him grounded while resisting attempts by Fisher and her boyfriend, Jack (Altman), to exploit his newfound fame.
Henry's first game is a relief appearance against the New York Mets, in which he gives up a home run to the Mets' feared slugger Alejandro Heddo, an arrogant player who taunts him while at the plate and rounding the bases. Despite wanting to quit after the game, he then shows marked improvement under the tutoring of Steadman, and soon begins to rack up strikeouts and saves for the Cubs.
Henry bats for the first time during a road game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Henry's extremely small stature (and subsequent extremely small strike zone) frustrates the Dodgers' pitcher to the point where he walks on four straight pitches. He subsequently scores the tying run, followed closely by the winning run that is scored simultaneously.
During the course of the season, relationships begin to get strained, as Henry gets into a fight with his friends who have grown increasingly jealous of his star status, and Mary breaks up with Jack over a supposed endorsement deal that was actually a free-agent contract unknowingly signed by Henry to join the New York Yankees the next season. Eventually, Henry resolves the conflict with his friends, and when he asks team owner Bob Carson (Bracken) about the contract with the Yankees, Carson explains that he never authorized such a deal, and that he wants to retain Henry's services for the remainder of the season. At this point, Henry tells Carson that he will retire at the end of the season. Carson is at first disappointed but respects Henry's decision and wishes him the best of luck and then proceeds to demote Fisher to Hot Dog Salesman after finding out that it was Fisher who tried to set up the deal.
On the last day of the season, Henry has to face the Mets again with Steadman starting. At first, Steadman pitches well, but then feels pain in his arm each time he throws, eventually allowing the Mets to load the bases. However, he makes one final play, and despite damaging his arm, managed to tag a runner out at home, and subsequently turns the ball over to Henry. As before, Henry strikes out the side in the seventh and eighth innings, but in the top of the ninth, he slips on a loose baseball and lands on his side, reversing the effects of his first fall and reducing his arm strength to normal again.
Henry begins to frustrate the Cubs and their fans by refusing to throw pitches that his catcher signals for, and only throws once the catcher stands up, setting up an intentional walk. He then brings in the disappointed Cubs players, explaining why he can no longer throw fastballs, and sends them back to their positions with a plan he came up with. With their cooperation, Henry sneaks the ball to the first baseman, who subsequently tags the runner out. Henry then issues an intentional walk to the next batter, with whom he trades insults. When the runner dares him to throw the ball high, Henry starts to do so, but stops as the runner takes off for second. He is tagged out as well, setting up a final showdown with Heddo, who had hit the home run in Henry's debut and gloats as he recalls that moment. Henry has an idea and throws a changeup, which Heddo swings at and misses. Heddo hits the next pitch down the left-field line and into the bleachers, but it is ruled a foul ball; this angers Heddo, who tells Henry that he "has nothing". Henry looks to his mother in the stands, who signals him to throw a floater, an unusual pitch that rises very high in the air. He does so, and strikes out a shocked Heddo (who, in a humorous reversal of fortunes, breaks down and cries like a baby, pounding the dirt with his fists) to win the division championship for the Cubs.
The next spring, Henry is playing Little League baseball again, with Steadman and his mother as the coaches of his team. After catching a ball that ensures his team's victory, Henry flashes a ring that says CHICAGO CUBS WORLD CHAMPIONS, which indicates both that he helped the Cubs team win the World Series (even though he did not pitch in it) and that he wears the ring while playing baseball.
- Thomas Ian Nicholas as Henry Rowengartner
- Gary Busey as Chet "Rocket" Steadman
- Amy Morton as Mary Rowengartner
- Patrick LaBrecque as George
- Robert Hy Gorman as Clark
- Bruce Altman as Jack Bradfield
- Dan Hedaya as Larry "Fish" Fisher
- Albert Hall as Sal Martinella
- Eddie Bracken as Bob Carson
- Daniel Stern as Phil Brickma
- Neil Flynn as Okie
- W. Earl Brown as Frick
- Ian Gomez as Odd Bellman
- Andy Berman as Ernie
- Colombe Jacobsen as Becky Fraker
- John Candy as Cliff Murdoch (uncredited)
- Barry Bonds as himself
- Bobby Bonilla as himself
- Pedro Guerrero as himself
Variations with novelization
A young adult novelization of the film was written by Todd Strasser in 1993. At one point, Henry hits a grand slam due to his incredible arm strength. However, this stands in contrast to what occurs in the film, as Henry is not shown to be a competent hitter. Also, Daniel Stern's comic-relief character Phil Brickma is not mentioned in the book at all.