Little Leaguers make waves
'The Perfect Game' tells the story of a record win
By Ben Apatoff / MLB.com
"The Perfect Game" hits theaters August 8. (Courtesy Lionsgate Entertainment)
More than 50 years ago, a group of boys in Monterrey, Mexico overcame their poverty, lack of experience and insufficient equipment and formed their own Little League team against the odds. That feat alone was extraordinary, but what happened next was even more special: the boys' passion for the sport carried them to the 1957 Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, where the Monterrey Industrials set a record that is still in place today.
This is the story that is chronicled in "The Perfect Game," a forthcoming movie from Lionsgate Entertainment. In the tradition of "The Bad News Bears" and "The Sandlot," "The Perfect Game" recaps an underdog team's struggles in Little League baseball and in everyday life. However, unlike the aforementioned classics, "The Perfect Game" is inspired by a true story, one that is still unknown to many baseball fans today.
The film begins with Cesar Faz, played by Clifton Collins, Jr. (Capote, Babel), being laid off from his janitorial job with the St. Louis Cardinals. The disillusioned Cesar moves back to Monterrey, where a scrappy gang of kids and local priest Padre Esteban (Cheech Marin, of "Cheech and Chong" fame) indulge their baseball fervor. Upon meeting young Angel Macias (Jake T. Austin), an aspiring pitcher who reveres the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax, Cesar impresses the boy by showing off his pitching skills and telling him that he used to coach the Cardinals. Angel is amazed, and through much persistence he convinces Cesar to help recruit and coach Monterrey's first-ever Little League team.
In a constant uphill struggle, the unpolished kids face angry parents and inner turmoil on their way to becoming a respectable team. Guided by Cesar's firmness and Padre Esteban's benevolence, the boys find the focus and dedication that they need to play Little League in America. The team also brings their devoutness into the sport, urging the priest to read them Psalm 108 before each game, in honor of the number of stitches in a baseball. "In baseball," explains Coach Cesar, "the Trinity is home runs, RBIs and batting averages."
Upon their arrival in America, the Monterrey team is greeted with new adversities, including prevalent racism, a language barrier and visa troubles. The boys are much smaller that their American competitors, but they score a series of upset victories that make them darlings of the press and earn them new fans in the United States. The team also befriends a reluctant reporter (Emilie de Ravin) and a wise groundskeeper (Oscar-winner Lou Gossett, Jr.) who assist the boys on their way to the history-making final game.
At the film's heartwarming conclusion, the audience is treated to real-life footage of the 1957 Monterrey Industrials, who capped their winning Little League season with a visit to the White House to meet President Eisenhower. Finally, an afterword on the movie's characters includes the exciting results of Macias' 1962 tryout for the California Angels and the outcome of Coach Cesar's romantic race, which is chronicled throughout most of the story.
Based on a book by W. William Winokur (who also wrote the screenplay) and directed by William Dear (1994's "Angels in the Outfield,") "The Perfect Game" is a strong family movie that will strike a chord with baseball history buffs, or anyone who knows what it is like to be a kid in love with the game.
"The Perfect Game" will be in theaters nationwide August 8.