Posted: 03/21/2004


The Winning Season


by Hank Yuloff

Mild baseball fare that stays inside the park. Premiering April 4th on TNT.

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I love baseball. I loved playing it as a kid. I love watching it as an adult. I love baseball movies. I’ve seen baseball movies like Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Major League, The Natural, A League of Their Own countless times and never get tired of them. So when TNT came out with The Winning Season (released April 4 to coincide with the opening of baseball’s season) I was excited to watch it.

Should have popped one of the classics into the DVD player. The Winning Season is not a bad film but it will never be anywhere on my list of favorite sports movies. The fact that I had a screening copy without commercials helped immensely.

Based on the book Honus & Me, The Winning Season is about a boy who, while cleaning out the garage of an elderly neighbor, finds a very valuable baseball card, a Honus Wagner American Tobacco Company T-206 series card, that turns out to be a portal to take him from 1985, back in time to 1909 during the World Series where he meets Honus Wagner. If he can get Wagner to sign the card, it’s worth will go from around $400,000 to $600,000 (note- one of these cards sold on ebay for $1.245 million in 2000).

The 12-year-old boy, Joe Soshack (Shawn Hatosy) shows up in 1909 as an adult (never explained why) and immediately meets and befriends Wagner’s fiancé Mandy Henton (what are the odds). He gets that signature but unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, he is unable to just click his heals together and travel back to Pittsburgh. There must be a reason he is there.

This is the 4th installation of the Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentations on TNT, the first of which was the multi-emmy winning Door-to-Door with William H. Macy in the lead. In an interview with Andrea Alstrup a corporate VP for J&J, she said that this series is “part of their ongoing efforts to broaden the number of television options families can view together.” I can buy that. It is a wonderful movie from that point of view. You could sit down with your younger kids and have a family evening of entertainment where you won’t have to worry about curse words or horrible violence. It’s kind of like the old days of the Disney’s Wonderful World of Color series.

From a baseball fan’s point of view there are quite a few just plain stupid errors (example: watch the score on the scoreboard in the 7th game of the 1909 World Series—specifically the score in the first inning) which detract from the enjoyablility of the movie. Also, look at the ads on the walls in the field, you might see some product placement for the predecessor of Johnson & Johnson (when there was just one Johnson).

From the point of view of a fan of great acting there isn’t a lot to swoon over either, Matthew Modine (And the Band Played On) is nothing special in the lead as Honus Wagner and Kristin Davis seems to be playing a 1909 version of her Sex in the City character Charlotte.

Don’t expect much and you will be pleased—The Winning Season is kind of like an intentional walk when you want them to pitch to your team’s clean up hitter.

Hank Yuloff (a Boston Red Sox fan) would probably have been happier if this movie had been about the 1918 Red Sox — that was the last time his favorite team won a World Series.

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