Sports on the Screen I – Angels in the Outfield (1994)

Greetings readers,

I thought that I would try to start a new series in my blog. As you know, there are a lot of movies out there. There’s a lot of sports coverage out there. What happens when you mix two together? Movies about sports? You’re right, readers! So to honor the baseball season, I’m going to review one of my favorite movies out there: Angels in the Outfield.

Just to make things crystal clear, I am not reviewing a movie on acting performances. I am not rating a movie. I am not summarizing the entire film. There’s two zillion blogs for that. Instead, I’m looking to see how accurate the movies are to the sport itself and the setting of the movie. WARNING: these will contain spoilers. Also, I will NOT provide links to watch the movie itself. Let’s get started with the review!

The movie starts off right outside Anaheim Stadium (named changed in 1998 to Edison International Field), and we see the “Halo over the A” a few times. The main characters J.P. and Roger (played by Milton Davis Jr. and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) bike down to their foster home. When Roger’s dad bikes up to the home, we learn that he probably won’t be reunited with his family unless the California Angels win the Pennant. In the previous scene, the radio announcer was talking about the Angels, on a 14-game slide and in last place of the AL West, hosting the Toronto Blue Jays.

The next scene sees the two boys in a tree right behind the stadium, watching the Jays vs. Angels in the 8th, with the birds up by 7. We see Norton and Williams collide in the outfield on a routine flyout, followed by another bonking of the noggins to add insult to injury. The manager George Knox (Danny Glover) comes out and pulls his relief pitcher. The pitcher, not being too terribly happy about the outfield missing a simple catch, gets into a fight with Knox. The Angles bench clears to separate the two, as well as the Blue Jays bench, but the manager pulls them back. The manager of the time was Cito Gaston, which is not accurate in the movie. I won’t go into detail on the roster differences though, throughout the review.

As Knox gets ejected, the kids are as well as the idle guard catches them and yells “You better have tickets for that tree!” The broadcasters goes off the air and says he can do better blindfolded. Spoilers: the broadcaster Ranch Wilder (Jay O. Sanders) is Knox’s rival. You can see that in the scene after the locker room where Knox decks him after the color commentator pulls the camera away towards him so the two can sort things out. You also hear that Knox managed the Cincinnati Reds for ten years but never won the World Series.

The next scene might not be related to sports, but Roger asks for God’s help to get him a family. So what do we get after that? Angels.

Next game, we see the same Blue Jays take on California. The starting pitcher, Whitt Bass (Neal McDonough), shakes up an 8-ball asking if he will win. First shake results in a “No”, and a quick second shake says “Maybe.” The first pitch was taken to the outfield, ruled as an error. Skip through a few innings, and the game is scoreless. The first batter for Toronto smacks the ball to deep left center field, and there’s the first Angel of the game. We’ll see them up throughout the regular season, as the Angels help the baseball team go from last to first.

By the way, Williams made the catch in the air, robbing Lazzato of that extra-base hit. After the catch, we see Al (Christopher Lloyd) come down and explain why the Angels are there. We’ll continue to see him control the Angels until the last game against the White Sox.

Since this review is probably reaching the “Too Long” status, I will only go over errors, important scenes, and the ending.

One of the scenes I will talk about is the Oakland Athletics coming to town.¬† In short, there is 19 errors in one play. ONE PLAY. Also, Bass starts in two straight games. Of course, that’s assuming that it hasn’t been five games between. Nowadays, pitchers aren’t as durable and need some rest, starters especially. It should of been a hit, followed by an error by the infield. Later, Knox says it was a home run (inside-the-park, obviously) when it should have just been a single with a few errors.

The scene where the kids play some ball against Knox is strange, mainly because half the kids are wearing a different team hat and jersey. Perfect example is “Babe Ruth”, wearing a Brewers hat and a Tigers jersey. Also, “running home” was funny as well.

The following montage sees the Angels play against Toronto and Detroit again, followed by Kansas City at home, New York and possibly Baltimore away (look for the orange top in the stands on that one scene.) It sets up the last game against the Chicago White Sox for the AL Division…but not before Knox almost loses his job believing in those Angels.

Last game is a showdown, as Mel Clark takes to the mound. The Angels need to win this game by themselves, since it is for the AL West Division. Chicago has a 2-0 lead until the 6th when a home run ties it. A squeeze play gives the Angels the lead at 3-2. Mel Clark pitches a complete game (with about 160 pitches) and the Angels win by the same score. The last play was a 3-2 Lineout to the pitcher.

Also, Ranch is fired after his comments about Knox not being smart for leaving Clark in to pitch. “You can’t fire me! I got a contract! I’M RANCH WILDER!”

To sum it all up, this movie stays faithful to the sport, minus the whole “Angels taking over the game” thing. The uniforms are all true to the era.

In real life, the California Angels were five and a half back in 1994. They finished 47-68 when The Strike wiped out the remaining season. The film does get that wrong, but it’s not entirely clear when this actually takes place. It is filmed during football season, hence why the home games were in Oakland. A few years later, Disney would buy the team and rename them the Anaheim Angels, as well as update old Anaheim Stadium to make it a baseball-only complex (remember the Los Angeles Rams?)

As a last interesting note, Tony Danza plays as Mel Clark, who we see for the first game against Detroit and the last game against the Chicago White Sox. Oddly enough, there was a Mel Clark which there was a player named  was a rightfielder for the Phillies and Detroit Tigers.

Give this film a chance, as it is a great movie.

Thanks for reading my review. Hopefully I can find a way to shorten it for next time.

Sources of information from IMDb, Sports E-Cyclopedia, and Baseball Almanac.

Until next time,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s