Funny how stream of consciousness works.
I was tooling around on the web and came across a paper by Chad Sabadie on “America’s Presstime: How Images Of Baseball Reporters Have Shaped the Prception of Our National Sport and The Profession Of Journalism.” Quite interesting, if not wholly accurate. Any baseball reader or movie-goer knows about the reporter with an ax to grind (e.g., Max Mercy in The Natural) or the boon companion (Sam Blake in Pride of the Yankees). Quite often, the sportswriter serves as Greek chorus, offering exposition and moral guidance.
So it was with some glee I discovered, via Sabadie’s paper, a heretofore little gem with some major players: Rookie of the Year, a TV teleplay (or whatever the correct terminology is) directed by John Ford and featuring several of his regular performers: John Wayne, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Patrick Wayne. You can watch the entire half-hour program, an episode of The Screen Director’s Playhouse, here.
Here’s the summary from IMDB: “A small town sportswriter attending the World Series recognizes a young ballplayer as the son of former baseball hero who was banned for throwing a game.”
John Wayne is the reporter, trying to move to a large market paper. Bond is Buck Harrigan, a substitute for Buck Weaver in the Black Sox Scandal. Wayne’s son, Patrick, is Lynn Goodhue, the rookie of the title, with Miles as his girlfriend who implores the reporter not to print the story, as the young player has no inkling of his father’s former life as a former (and shamed) athlete.
It’s pretty standard fare for it’s time, with some “gee-whiz” performances from the supporting cast and a few nice touches of humor (when a reporter in the press box calls for more coffee, the attendant pours him a beer).
One thing that really made me sit up and pay attention is a scene where Wayne visit’s the paper in “Coaltown” where he learns what a wonderful person Goodhue’s mother was. Watch the part in Field of Dreams in which the small-town newspaperwoman tells Terry Mann what a great guy Archibald “Doc/Moonlight” Graham was and tell me there’s no similarity.