The Scout (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Ritchie|
Albert S. Ruddy
|Music by||Bill Conti|
Pembroke J. Herring
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Al Percolo is a Major League Baseball scout with the New York Yankees who goes out to various baseball games all over the country to find the next Yankee. He attends a game at a small college to see pitcher Tommy Lacy, and is invited to dinner at Tommy's house by Tommy himself. Pretending to be Catholic like his parents, he convinces them that Tommy should sign a contract with the Yankees, which they reluctantly agree. But on Tommy's major league debut, he suffers an extreme case of stage fright, leading to Al dragging him to the game Yankee Stadium, and Tommy vomits on the pitcher's mound. The Yankees suffer an embarrassment from Al's find, and Al is punished by being sent to the Mexican countryside to look for his next find. Al attends game after game finding no one, until he gets his first look at Steve Nebraska, a young American with a consistent 100+ mph fastball and hits home runs constantly at-bat. Steve is very popular with the fans, especially females, but is very child-like. Al talks with Steve, and he instantly agrees to be the next Yankee. However, when Al notifies the Yankee brass of his find, he is fired and told not to bring anyone back. He decides to take Steve back to the United States with him anyway, becoming his unofficial agent. Steve freaks out in the middle of the terminal at Newark International Airport when he momentarily thinks Al is missing. Later when Steve is asleep at Al's apartment, he suffers a nightmare where he screams and is abused by an unknown party.
Al arranges an open audition at Yankee Stadium in front of representatives from every Major League Baseball team. A bidding war ensues after Steve strikes out Keith Hernández and homers off Bret Saberhagen, seeing what Al saw in Mexico. The bidding war ends with Nebraska signing a $55 million contract with the Yankees, but difficulties arise when Steve snaps at the pressing photographers, leading to the Yankee management demanding Steve to be psychiatrically evaluated in order to ensure he will not turn out to be as unstable as Al's earlier finds. Al picks the first psychiatrist from the yellow pages, H. Aaron, to see with Steve, expecting a quick evaluation, followed by a massive payday for both of them. After examining him using pictures that Steve sees with disconnection, the doctor finds Steve to be a deeply troubled young man, severely abused as a child, and has blocked almost every memory of his early life. On top of that, Steve might see Al as a father, the source of the abuse. Not wanting to give a negative evaluation, Al begs the doctor to grant a positive one instead, making a deal that she sees Steve everyday before beginning his professional career.
Living with Steve proves to be a hassle for Al; Steve throws plates at reporters outside their apartment, embarrasses Tony Bennett when he sings his songs at his performance, and screams at Al over what he wants to do with his days and nights. Al tries to help Steve during a press conference by lying about his past, which enrages the doctor. But Al sees that Steve's behavior is based on the doctor helping Steve deal with his past that he's long since blocked away. Al pleads with her to help him see everything in his life as a positive. But Steve ends up depressed when the Yankees reach the World Series, and Steve is contractually obligated to pitch in Game 1, despite not being mentally prepared to do so.
On the night of the big game, everyone watches, waiting for Steve's big debut, pressuring both him and Al. Steve ends up atop Yankee Stadium, refusing to come down to pitch; Al climbs up to see him, just as a helicopter arrives to give Steve a big entrance. Al pleads with him to play, leading to an argument between the two as Steve doesn't want to play despite how much Al fought for him. Eventually his conscience gets the better of him and Al offers the kid a chance to walk away from it all, no strings attached. This gesture proving Al's loyalty to Steve helps Steve face reality, and gaining the excitement to play baseball. Finally on the field, Steve pitches a perfect game, striking out 27 St. Louis Cardinals batters on 81 consecutive strikes. Steve hits two solo home runs in a 2-0 Yankees victory. Though the Yankees win the game, it is never made clear who won the Series, but for Al and Steve, a perfect game is a perfect ending.
The film was based on a Roger Angell article which had been optioned by Andrew Bergman's producing partner. Bergman wrote his script for Peter Falk to play the scout and Jim Belushi to play the player. "There were honestly five different versions of this movie," says Bergman. "The original version was, he found this guy in Mexico who’s the second white man ever to receive these injections, the first being Babe Ruth. And it was this political guy on the run. It was a completely different kind of movie."
Falk was not available then Walter Matthau was going to make it with Michael Ritchie. The project did not proceed until years later with Ritchie directing and Albert Brooks playing the scout. "That wasn’t my conception at all," said Bergman. "The original conception was much more bananas. The Scout still has glimmers of the original, but not doing the original is high up on my very large list of regrets, because Peter was born to play that guy. He’s so obtuse and that tunnel-vision thing he had was just great.”
In a July 1999 interview with Gavin Smith in Film Comment, Brooks said that The Scout was originally intended for Rodney Dangerfield. "It was lying around, never going to get made, and I said I would like to do that."
Brooks said that he contributed to a rewrite of the script because "it was written very silly." The version he worked on, he said, "did not end like 'Rocky' with that bullshit big ending." But according to Brooks, the studio forced Ritchie to change the ending.
Bob Costas, Tim McCarver, Tony Bennett, John Sterling, Keith Hernández, Bret Saberhagen, George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Ozzie Smith, Bob Tewksbury and Bobby Murcer, among others, play themselves in the film.
The Scout was a box-office flop. Reviews were predominantly negative, with TV Guide stating, "'The Scout' feels like a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth." Variety also negatively reviewed the film, saying that Brooks and Ritchie "never quite commit to either of the movie's disparate chords -- bailing out of the batter's box in terms of the psychological drama and, after some amusing moments at the outset, generally steering clear of broad comedy." Time magazine's Richard Schickel praised the film, writing, "The Scout is the best comedy-fantasy about baseball ever made, which goes to show that if Hollywood keeps trying, eventually someone will get it right." The film holds a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews.
- Snetiker, Marc (9 January 2015). "Andrew Bergman on writing 'Blazing Saddles,' 'Striptease,' 'Honeymoon in Vegas' and more". Entertainment Weekly.
- McGilligan, Patrick. Backstory 5: interviews with screenwriters of the 1990s. University of California Press, 2009.
- The Scout TV Guide
- The Scout Variety
- CINEMA: Fast Pitch TIME