Friday, April 23, 2010

The Perfect Game

One of the great baseball events of the year is always the Little League World Series, held in August in Williamsport, PA. It started as an American tournament, featuring teams from all over the United States. Now it has grown into an international tournament, maybe the only truly "world" championship in baseball. Countries from all continents participate, and the there is an international division to face the winner of the American division. This year, for the first time, an African team will play.

It's not about the contracts, its about the love of the game, and representing your country in a manner that a lot of adult professionals don't understand. More importantly than playing for their home country, however, is the fact that they represent their home town, which in many cases means much more to the players. They haven't yet become jaded about the world, and the quest for money.

This story, though, isn't about this year's tournament. It's about the past, but what a story:
In 1957 a rag-tag, shoeless, poor group of kids from Monterrey, Mexico shocked the world by winning 13 games in a row and the Little League World Series in the only perfect game ever pitched in the Championship. These kids, led by their priest and a down-and-out former major leaguer embark on a journey through the southern US and up into Williamsport, PA for the Championship game.
"The Perfect Game" is the story of the kids, and what they were able to accomplish. Standing out among the players is one who had a unique style, to say the least:
In the final game against La Mesa, Calif, (a team that averaged 5 ft. 4 in., 127 lbs.), Coach Faz tried something far more spectacular than extra sleep. He called on his best pitcher, ambidextrous Angel Macias, a twelve-year-old 88-pounder with a fine assortment of curves and sliders, plus a plain, old-fashioned fast ball under disciplined control. Against Bridgeport, Angel had played a flawless game at shortstop. He can, in fact, play any position on the team—becomes a southpaw on first base, a righthander in the rest of the infield, whatever he happens to feel like when he switches to the outfield. At bat, says he, he is a "turnover" hitter like his hero Mickey Mantle
I haven't seen the movie yet, and I'm impressed.

The 'Bad News Bears' taught us about baseball, and winning and losing, as kids. It was a look at the lighter side, but a honest one. Nothing can get more honest than this.
Back in Monterrey loudspeakers in the public squares reported a running account of the game. For the rest of the year, Angel and his teammates will go back to shining shoes on the streets after school, working in the local foundry for 50¢ a day. Until two years ago, they played baseball barefoot.
If this isn't a baseball movie for the ages, then one will probably never be made again.
H/T to 1-800-Beisbol

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