Every year, my friend Kieran and I celebrate “National Evanston Day.” The week before Thanksgiving, to get ourselves hyped up to head back to the Chicago suburb we both call home, we go to Portillo’s (a Chicago fast-food chain that has one California location, in Buena Park) and watch the greatest baseball movie of all time – the 1993 classic, “Rookie of The Year.”
“Rookie of The Year” tells the story of 12-year-old Henry Rowengarter, a subpar Little Leaguer who breaks his arm. Yet when the cast finally comes off, he discovers that the tendons in his arm healed too tight and he now can throw a 100 plus mile-per-hour fastball. Rowengarter gets signed by the Chicago Cubs and eventually leads them to the World Series.
So basically, Henry Rowengartner lived my dream.
This is the kind of movie that perfectly tows the line between love-watch and hate-watch. You recognize the cliches and the tropes, but you’re so invested in the film that you don’t mind. Is it unrealistic how Henry is discovered by the Cubs? Of course. After all, he throws a ball from the Wrigley Field bleachers directly to home plate, prompting the general manager to scream to his staff, “Bring me that arm!” But I don’t care. This movie simply draws you in and gets you on its side immediately. Throw in some incredible jokes like, “He’s a child! A short, little, young person!” and you’ve got an absolute cinematic masterpiece.
Movies don’t have to be true, but they need to capture a truth. “Rookie of the Year” is almost science fiction, but set in a very realistic world. Ultimately, the core of this movie is about the love and magic of being a Cubs fan.
It’s the rare film that truly captures the community aspect of sports – their ability to bring people together. It features the Cubs at the peak of their lovable, loser years and is chock-full of jokes about how awful the team is. Yet at the same time, it emphasizes just how dedicated fans are – for example, the team’s owner is afraid to set foot in the stands, believing the audience would “kill him.”
Of course, I’m biased. The movie was partially filmed at my middle school, after all. I’ll watch anything about the Cubs. But objectively speaking, I don’t think there’s ever been a movie that’s better captured the essence of being a baseball fan.
So if you want 103 minutes of Gary Busey starring as an angry past-his-prime pitcher, Marv from “Home Alone” playing a hapless hitting coach and about 43 jokes about how “Rowengartner” is hard to pronounce, borrow your friend’s Disney+ login and watch “Rookie of The Year” this Thanksgiving break.