Remember the movie Angels in the Outfield? It’s the classic story of Roger, a foster kid who prays for God to help the Angels win the pennant so that his dad will come back. (Sounds like one truly twisted deal, but Roger’s dad wasn’t at all serious. If we’re being honest, Roger seems old enough to have known about figurative language.)
If your memory is as decrepit as the cheap VCR tape of this movie in the box in your basement, this image may help:
Jesus, Roger looks uncomfortable in this picture. I don’t remember him being on the verge of tears in this scene. This looks like the beginning of an episode of Law and Order: SVU. CHUNG-CHUNG.
This is the scene in which Roger and his best buddy J. P. meet the indelibly cheerful Angels manager George Knox, who grows from skeptic to believer about the whole angels-playing-baseball thing (Roger is the only one that can see them). When Roger does see one, he’s like:
That’s where that hand motion comes from if you ever see people (me) doing this during a baseball game. The Royals once used the theme music to the movie when someone hit a home run, and I could never understand why I was the only one at Kauffman Stadium doing this while it played.
Also: That moment you realize Roger was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt of 500 Days of Summer, Inception, and Dark Knight Rises.
Angels in the Outfield is truly the greatest baseball movie of all time (bite me, Kevin Costner), therefore I in no way compare the Kansas City Royals to it casually. But without question, in every arena the Royals’ story rivals and surpasses Roger’s. This is such big news, I’m surprised more media attention hasn’t been paid to it.
KANSAS CITY’S PAIN IS GEORGE KNOX’S PAIN
George Knox hates to lose. Can any clip better represent the boiling rage lurking beneath the skin of every Royals fan, just waiting to detonate, through all the miserable seasons of the past years, when Kansas City was the laughingstock of Major League Baseball?
A clip of a nuke wouldn’t suffice. It has to be George Knox marching through a locker room of two dozen half-naked losers and absolutely destroying their fruit and meat platters. That is the pain Royals fans felt after every season–no, every game–before the Royals’ meteoric rise.
And this is Knox after becoming manager rather recently. Multiply this rage by 29 years, and you’ll understand Kansas City’s agony. There’s no comparison.
Even this bloody movie made us look like total twits. Why does this guy not slide? What is he doing?
MIRACLES CAN HAPPEN
Roger’s story is fictional, with fictional managers, ballplayers, and angels. At least, I hope angels don’t look like this:
Honestly, this angel looks like either the uncle you pray to God won’t sit next to you at Thanksgiving or the aunt that’s visibly ready to call your favorite music the work of Satan before you even tell her what it is. Not really sure which one at this point.
But the Royals’ story?
This isn’t a movie. And no players appear to defy physics as an angel lifts them into the air. It’s simply incredible baseball. It’s real life. That’s an important reason the Royals’ story is better.
Consider last year: Riding Jeremy Guthrie’s 7-inning shutout to beat the White Sox 3-1 on September 26, clinching their first playoff berth in 29 years. Four days later, staging a roaring comeback against the Oakland A’s in the do-or-die American League wild card game, down 3-7 but leveling the game in the 9th inning, eventually winning 9-8 in the 12th, after nearly 5 hours of play.
Sweeping both the American League division and championship series, earning the most consecutive wins in MLB postseason history. Making it to Game 7 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, but experiencing the most painful of defeats.
And this year: Winning their first American League Central title since 1985 on September 24 against the Mariners. On the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the AL division series against the Astros, down 4 runs in the 7th, and smashing in 5 runs in the 8th inning and piled on more in the 9th to win the game 9-6. They won the series in the next game.
Winning Game 6 of the AL championship series versus the Blue Jays by Lorenzo Cain scoring from first base on Eric Hosmer’s single, with closer Wade Davis shutting down the Blue Jay’s comeback threat, a runner on first and third.
And last night, Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, verses the New York Mets. Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park homer, the first in the World Series since 1929, the year the Great Depression began. Winning 5-4 after 14 innings, the longest game in World Series history.
Could all this possibly be topped by the story of guys who only made it to the postseason with divine intervention in sparkling pajamas?
No. They’re cheaters.
Also, that’s Matthew McConaughey being picked up there. Swear to God. As he later said from the driver’s seat of a Lincoln, “Sometimes you’ve got to go back…”
Adrien Brody is also a ballplayer in this movie. McConaughey, Gordon-Levitt, Brody, Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd…seriously, is there anyone this film doesn’t have?
THE SMARMY SPORTSCASTER
It has actor and concept art model for Mr. Incredible Jay O. Sanders. He plays Ranch Wilder.
Roger and George Knox had to deal with Ranch Wilder, the “voice of the Angels,” who makes it clear throughout the film he very much wants the Angels to lose. He hates George Knox, and is constantly being a Debbie Downer about the Angel’s postseason prospects.
Royals fans get Joe Buck.
Buck took a lot of heat during the 2014 World Series for what Royals fans perceived to be bias, in support of the Giants…and one pitcher in particular.
Ranch Wilder got fired. Buck is still going strong, back to call this 2015 World Series.
This just makes a better story. No one really seemed to mind Ranch Wilder’s Angel-bashing in the film. He was only fired because he left his mic on when he really went berserk.
But Kansas City’s story has more conflict, more passion and intrigue. Buck is back, and a lot of KC fans are enraged, enough to start petitions and even call the games themselves.
THAT ONE FAN THAT GETS A LOT OF SCREEN TIME AND NO ONE KNOWS WHY
Remember this guy? He’s that one fan in the crowd the movie focuses on, and likely the only human who has ever needed to professionally wax the sides of his neck.
He thinks Roger is crazy for seeing angels, he accidentally sits on Christopher Lloyd’s angel character, takes a baseball in the mouth, and at one point screams, “Hemmerling for Mitchell?! Go back to Cincinattiiiiiiii!” Classic quote.
Why is he always on screen? Why does he get so much attention? Why is that so obnoxious? In a way, he’s kind of the movie’s version of…of…
This mysterious and no doubt totally loaded figure has been spotted behind home plate throughout this postseason and the one in 2014, and works his way to other sports championships as well.
Always on screen, he is the one fan that gets any attention. He gets national attention! Yes, he donates a ton of money to charities, but what of the other 37,000 people in the stands? What about their stories? He leaves them in the dust.
It’s all an intentional thing. He picks his seat so he can be on camera. He loves to rep his completely irrelevant team, which has hopefully fired its graphic design staff by now.
Because he’s desperate as a toddler for attention, I think he successfully one-ups the blowhard from Angels in the Outfield. And anyone who disagrees with me is, to quote J. P., a “Nacho Butt.”
PUSHING THROUGH THE LOSS OF A PARENT
As mentioned, Roger is a foster kid. About two-thirds into the movie, his deadbeat dad–the same one who said if the Angels won the pennant he and Roger could “be a family again”–abandons Roger for good.
“Sorry, boy,” Dad of the Year says as Roger rushes up to him, excited to tell him about how well the Angels are doing. Dad pats Roger on the cheek and walks away, leaving Roger to try to croak out “Where are you going?” before he begins to weep.
If you’re a kid from a stable home watching this movie, it truly influences you, seeing someone your own age abandoned by his father. Not to mention Roger’s mother died, as did J. P.’s dad. Their stories are fictional, yet you know in the back of your mind while watching that millions of children experience abandonment, foster care, homelessness, or have parents deceased or in jail. The movie, unlike the vast majority of children’s films, makes you think about the suffering of others and how to persevere through pain.
And if a fictional story about this is powerful, how much more so is real life?
Sadly, three Royals lost a parent this season.
Mike Moustakas lost his mother Connie on August 9, while Chris Young lost his father Charles on September 26. As reported by The Kansas City Star, Young pitched the next day to honor his dad, and went 5 innings without giving up a hit.
Edinson Volquez pitched last night, in Game 1 of the World Series. His father Daniel died just before the game, and Volquez’s family requested that Royals manager Ned Yost not tell Volquez until after he pitched.
In other words, the world knew of Volquez’s father’s death before Volquez.
Through all this, the Royals have persevered. Moustakas said after the game, “For all the stuff that’s happened this year, to all of our parents…it has to bring you closer together.”
Eric Hosmer said, “It’s just another angel above, just watching us and behind us through this whole run.”
A HAPPY ENDING?
The Angels in the movie won the pennant (we’re kind of left to wonder about the World Series). Roger and his best friend J. P. get adopted by George Knox and live happily ever after.
I don’t know if Ned Yost will adopt any players, nor if the Royals will finally, after 3 decades, win it all. But there is one thing I know to be true, that applies to touching movies and real life alike:
“It could happen.”