Sunday, April 3, 2016

It happens every spring

When I was a preteen, back in the early 1960s, I remember watching a Ray Milland movie titled "It Happens Every Spring."

It was a baseball movie, made in 1949, that was usually broadcast on our reliable black-and-white Motorola in time to herald in each new baseball season. It seems "It Happens Every Spring" actually happened every spring (for a few years, at least).

It was a fantasy flick about a college professor (Milland) who accidentally discovers a formula that makes objects repel wood. What you could actually use such a formula for in real life — even in 1949 — is beyond me. But Milland soon discovers that baseballs coated in this stuff will hop over wooden bats. So he becomes a baseball pitcher.

See It Happens Every Spring trailer here

It makes for an amusing little movie. The special effects used to make a baseball-like object jump over a swinging bat and then continue its trajectory straight into the catcher's glove were astounding for a 10-year-old like myself. It's CGI before there was CGI.

And it's still astounding, now that I think about it. Especially with Milland's throw-it-like-a-girl pitching delivery.

I guess this flick actually helped promote my love for baseball, and I often wondered why some genius somewhere couldn't actually invent a formula to make baseballs leap over bats — as if sliders, curves, knuckleballs, cutters, splitters, changeups and screwballs weren't enough to confound hitters.

So here we are: Opening Day. Upper case. The two best words in the English language. You can smell the optimism mingled with the newly mown grass. Yeah. Optimism. That's what baseball is. It's a hot dog with mustard and relish and the crack of the bat as a ball sails to the gap in deep left center — is it out of here?

Sports Illustrated delivered its baseball preview issue this week and the magazine that has gotten only one world champion prediction correct in the last 20 years (hey, I'll take those odds) is predicting Houston and Chicago (Cubs) in the World Series, with the Astros (who used to be in the National League) as the eventual champs.

Hmm. I like the Cubbies and I think their time has come. The Astros might be more of a stretch, but we'll see.

The team that I've pulled for my entire teenage-to-now life is the Philadelphia Phillies. They seem to be in a franchise-long rebuilding process (despite World Series titles in 1980 and 2008) and are coming off a 99-loss season a year ago.

Some nice draft picks, farm development and trades do offer some optimism, but a no-name pitching staff is still cause for concern.

I think they're still looking for a guy with a little hop in his pitches.

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