Awfully Good: Rookie of the Year
As Roger Clemens prepares to stand trial, let's take a look at another dishonest pitcher...
Rookie of the Year (1993)
Director: Daniel Stern
Stars: Thomas Ian Nichols, Gary Busey, Daniel Stern
Is there a plot?
The Cubs suck so badly that only a 12 year old can save them
What's the damage?
Sometimes a great line from a movie can change your life. I'll never forget the day I watched ROOKIE OF THE YEAR and heard the phrase "Funky buttloving!" for the first time. It was like a great light shone down upon me from the heavens, instructing my 8 year old brain to use these sacred words as much as humanly possible. I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to my parents for the summer of 1993.
Long before J.D., Jan Itor had another young victim to torture.
Aside from potentially groovy assplay, ROOKIE OF THE YEAR is still kind of a mystifying kids movie. It tells the story of a child named Henry who royally sucks at baseball, yet is determined to play the sport because his single mom continually lies and tells him the one night stand that resulted in his birth was with a star player. One day the boy gets injured, from sucking at baseball, only to find that the tendons in his arm have healed too tight and essentially turned it in to a giant rubber band. (The "funky buttloving" comes when the doctor accidentally receives the full force of his arm cannon and does not know what other expletive to yell.) And instead of having this serious malady fixed, Henry joins the Cubs and helps them win the World Series.
Though he would tell everyone it was due to a Shake Weight accident, only Grant and his right hand knew the truth.
I'll just accept the fact that a major league baseball team would ever allow a 12 year old to play for them despite the legal, ethical and logistical nightmare that would cause. The kid can throw fast; same thing worked for Happy Gilmore, I guess. But isn't this kind of cheating? His "talent" isn't natural and is the result of a medical procedure. Not to mention I don't remember Henry ever 'fessing up and telling anyone about his magical tendon. Whether or not it's legal, I like to imagine that after Henry left the sport, he was put on trial and the whole sport was thrown in to chaos as pitchers lined up to have their tendons surgically tightened.
(Let me make it clear: I really don't care about getting in to an argument about the rules of baseball. These are just the places my mind goes when I re-watch movies from my childhood like this.)
This is even more ironic considering nobody ever heard from these actors ever again.
The movie stars Thomas Ian Nichols, the annoying kid who kept making speeches in the AMERICAN PIE movies, as well as John Candy, Dan Hedaya and a young(er) Gary Busey. Busey plays a past-his-prime pitcher named Chet "The Rocket" Steadman who begrudgingly shows Henry the ropes…er, the bases. Even at this stage of his career, Busey isn't entirely coherent as an actor (just listen to his speech about the "have to's" for proof) but what's worse is that they also have him playing the romantic lead. Having The Buse simultaneously mentor you and hit on your mom has to be an automatic ticket to therapy.
This is what you get when you cast Gary Busey as a romantic leading man.
And you'll never guess who directed ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kevin Arnold’s inner monologue Daniel Stern (aka Marv from HOME ALONE). Stern is more than competent as a filmmaker and I give him credit for ROOKIE turning out as well as it did given its premise. But you'll forget all about that as soon as you see Stern onscreen as Brickma, Henry's retarded pitching coach. The word "retarded" gets thrown around a lot, but I use it literally here—the guy is clearly mentally challenged. All Brickma has to offer to Henry and the audience is food saving techniques, the 3 R's (readiness, recuperation, and conditioning) and some physical comedy where he gets trapped in between doors or hit in the head with baseballs. The character is so ridiculous he might be my favorite part of the movie.
The very moment Henry realized exactly how the Cubs hazed their rookies.
There was no other choice.
1) This clip gives you a good example of Daniel Stern's Brickma character, but it also features a bizarre cameo by "Cougartown's" Ian Gomez as the fittingly credited "Odd Bellman."
2) Henry gets a little cocky and another classic line is born.
Henry gets an eyeful in the locker room but the audience is thankfully spared.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Henry makes a funny baseball call or taunt
- Someone mispronounces Henry’s last name
- You spot the Janitor from "Scrubs"
- Somebody slips on a ball
- The weather seems to change from shot to shot
Double shot if:
- Daniel Stern gets trapped somewhere
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.