Angry Ward Wednesday: Wilford Brimley, Bump Bailey and Other Unnatural Things About “The Natural”


“Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”  —Jimmy Breslin (1928-2017)

BRONX, NY – My wife’s brother and his family came up from Orlando to visit us this past weekend, so naturally I subjected them to watching movies that I wanted to watch. After my suggestions of “Hot Dog: The Movie” and Short Matt’s favorite flick “Beaches” got shouted down, I got my bro-in-law to watch “The Natural” after almost everyone else had gone to bed. After all, and despite the recent snowstorm, it is almost baseball season. Anyway, it’s a great movie so I could barely do the late-night Cliff’s Notes version, where I fast forward through scenes that aren’t all that compelling. Watching it pretty much in its entirety, here are a few observations.

Wilford Brimley Got Old Fast. In the movie, longtime character actor Wilford Brimley (great in “Absence of Malice” and many others) plays aging/long-suffering manager Pop Fisher. When my brother-in-law asked if he was still alive, I said “I think so.” What followed was fairly weird. I looked him up and he is still kicking. But, get this, when he played this role he was only 48 or 49 years old! That’s like wayyyy younger than Short Matt is right now. I mean, I know they can do impressive stuff with movie make up but, c’mon, the guy looks like he’s in his seventies in this movie and others. He’s still acting and Short Matt is still trying to act. Kudos and Metamucil to both!

Bump Bailey Goes Bye Bye. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, tough guy actor Michael Madsen plays the lone star on the fictional baseball club, NY Knights, before Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs arrives. Long story short, Bump dies when he runs through the right field wall tracking down a long fly. He dies! Has this ever happened in the history of Major League Baseball? I just looked it up, and it hasn’t. Though quite a few players succumbed to tuberculosis and typhoid fever. Don’t forget to get those inoculations, kids.

Barry Levinson. The director of “The Natural,” as well as the magnificent movie, “Diner” (which had some great sports themes in it),  Barry Levinson never directed another sports movie, unless you count a “30 for 30” on the Baltimore Colts marching band. “The Natural” was so good, it’s amazing that he never tried another sports story. Still, he was brilliant as an actor in the very-funny Mel Brooks Hitchcock send-up, “High Anxiety.”

The Hollywood Ending. At the recommendation of a Junior High School English teacher, I actually read the novel “The Natural” before the movie was ever made. The Bernard Malamud-penned classic had quite a different ending than the movie. In the book, Roy Hobbs strikes out. No exploding lights, no dramatic music, no nothing. So when I saw the movie on the big screen I was absolutely floored when he hit the game-winning homer. Mostly I hate when Hollywood changes literature to please the audience, but in this case I actually loved it.

It felt good watching a baseball movie on the first day of spring. Think I will probably watch a few more before opening day. Maybe next week I’ll write about how there’s no way that Crash Davis could be the all-time leading minor league home run leader and only get called up to the show for a cup o’ joe.

Come back tomorrow for Buddy Diaz, a guy who is a much more believable ballplayer than Brendan Fraser was in “The Scout.”





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Wednesday: Angry Ward, who has admirers at the NY Times, is the quintessential angry sports fan but one exception… he’s flat-out funny. And the angrier he gets, the more amusing his work becomes. Psychiatrists say, “Angry Ward’s ‘anger’ is a direct result of “Bronx/Mets syndrome: growing up in the Bronx as a Mets fan.” As if that weren’t enough, his Minnesota North Stars abandoned him for Dallas, forcing him to embrace The Wild the way conservatives embrace Mitt Romney. While the Vikings tease him incessantly with flirtations of success, the Golden State Warriors, “Don’t have a enough short, white angry guys but I don’t dislike them… that much.” A-Dubya is MTM’s longest-tenured indentured servant, its Larry David and quite simply, The Franchise.

  • Fluffy

    Careful, Bull Durham is vehemently disliked by Tall Matt and risks raising his ire.

    • AngryWard

      Oh, I am well aware.

      • Tall Matt has “taste issues.” Islanders, Rams and Zima…

    • bosoxbruins04

      How can somone not like Bull Durham? Haha

  • WestCoastCraig

    That boy gets no tip.

    • Is it… could it be true?! WCC in town? ???

      • AngryWard

        West Coast Craig is busy covering the World Baseball Classic for us.

  • benwhit

    This column made me long for the days when you guys used to write about women’s collegiate lacrosse.

    • AngryWard

      Those were the good old days. I still don’t know why we don’t cover cheerleading competitions.

      • Short Matt’s Publicist is not happy, Gossip Ward! And nobody said you couldn’t cover/uncover cheerleaders!

    • The Donald Trump

      I love athletes that are coeds. I love to press up against them.

      • benwhit

        Donald. Shouldn’t you be pardoning people right now? Isn’t that what Presidents do in their final days in office?

        • AngryWard


  • GrindingAx

    Ward, funny stuff. I like to torture guests with memorable movie Cocktail. Ax’s Law!

    • AngryWard

      Hahaha! Cocktail! So bad, that it’s good. But we have to deduct points for the awful Beach Boys song (and I use that term lightly) “Kokomo.” Oh the humanity!

  • jgclancy

    Just remember , Wilford Brimley, was one of the retirees in the movie -Cocoon—-he was only 51! But can I be serious now and talk to you about—Type II Diabetes?
    Go A’s! –they reduced beer prices!

    • Junoir Blaber


    • AngryWard

      You had me at Type II Diabetes.

  • Buddy Diaz

    Great movie, definitely in my top 5. Next week can you do one for “Major League”. I want to see what you write about in that movie.

    • AngryWard

      It’s very bad to steal Jobu’s rum. I don’t mind sharing my Gosling’s though.

  • Junoir Blaber

    My favorite baseball movie of all time was “For the love the game” with Kevin Costner. I actually haven’t watch field of dreams from start to finish but seen so many skits, its not worth bothering. The three major leagues come next and the Natural is 5th.

    • AngryWard

      “For the Love of the Game” is a good baseball movie that didn’t need all the extra garbage with Costner and Kelly Preston. The in-game stuff was really good. Wait… you put all 3 Major League movies ahead of the “The Natural” and other worthy baseball flicks? First of all, I didn’t even know there were three. Secondly, they were already out of ideas by the second one.

      • jgclancy

        Bang the Drum Slowly….De Niro & Moriarty……that is all.

        • Fluffy

          Amen to that!

  • brian Hasbrouck

    believe it or not…I think short matt was in the ‘crowd’ shots in The Natural….as the stadium shots were filmed in Buffalo.

    • jgclancy

      I’m sure he was in the bathroom for the scenes they actually used if he was actually there……the glare off his head would have driven the camera people nuts for sure

  • AngryWard

    RIP Dallas Green.

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