Hollywood: a town that has had a long tradition of taking the stars and landmarks of our national pastime and blowing them up to silver screen proportions, albeit with large, Tinseltown-sized doses of embellishment and grandeur. Baseball and the big screen(and sometimes small screen) have undoubtedly played a large role in our love affair with the game, whether it's aim is to make us cheer, cry and/or laugh. For the most part, Hollywood's eye has been trained on those teams that us Angels fans have probably grown tired of by now: the Yankees, theDodgers, the Red Sox, etc. Sometimes overlooked, however, are the times when Hollywood got it right; when they fixed their gaze south, past Dodger Stadium, and upon the Angels players and the ballpark they call home. This series is about the times we got to see OUR team represented, the times we got to see OUR guys or OUR stadium. It is sometimes amazing. It is sometimes awful. It is sometimes bizarre. But it's also the Angels. And this is Halos On Film.
In 1997, Walt Disney Pictures released a relatively cheap kids movie called Air Bud, with a relatively simple(in bugnuts-crazy Hollywood terms) plot: boy meets dog, boy learns dog can play basketball, dog leads boy's high school basketball team to a championship. Yep, this was actually a thing. Perhaps due to it's rousing and inspirational storyline(for 10 year olds), or maybe it was due to the sheer star power of having Comet from Full House starring in the film, Air Bud was somewhat of a success. At least enough so for the studio to greenlight one more theatrical sequel, and then a string of straight-to-video/dvd sequels...which any movie buff will tell you is when a franchise's death dirge begins to play, and for the Air Bud series, this was no different. So in 2001, when it was time to make the fourth installment in the increasingly stale Air Bud mythos, the "creative" individuals involved set their sights, and Air Bud's, on the sport of baseball. And it was that idea, coupled with pure, unadulterated corporate synergy, that the Angels(who at the time the movie was made were in the final stretch of 'the Disney Era') were called upon to sit in as the go-to MLB team at the end of the film. The result was the movie we're discussing today, the charmingly titled Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. It's a short cameo for our beloved Halos, strictly at the end of the movie, but it gives more than enough ammunition to lament the days they were owned by The Mouse. At the same time, however, it provides an eerily prescient look at an event that would forever change the Angels and their fanbase.
A little context to this clip, not that it'll make it any less bizarre:
This particular Air Bud opus finds the powerful pooch with the same family as the other Air Bud iterations, however this time he is using his athletic ability to help the younger sister and her jr. high baseball team go from a bunch of rag tag loser to bone-ified(yeah, I went there) winners. You've probably seen something similar play out before in other movies, just probably not with a dog holding a baseball bat in it's mouth and hitting homeruns. There is also a subplot in which a raccoon is enlisted by some scientists to steal Air Bud's puppies so they can study them...or something. Just another day in the Air Bud universe, basically. So, after Air Bud dominates some jr. high kids, he begins a walkabout to find his absconded pups. He is away from his family, they are worried, but then where does he pop up? Yep...Angel Stadium, playing first base for the Angels during the 2002 World Series.
So now we're caught up to speed and can fully appreciate the absurdity that is the above clip. I feel a few things need to be pointed out about this:
- I don't know who the announcer is, but I have to commend the network for ditching Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. They not only get rid of those dopes, but they seem to have gone with just one play-by-play man. Brave move. Also, he appears to be a complete Angels homer. I have no problems with this.
- The Angels are playing against the Padres in the World Series. All of a sudden, a dog playing in the MLB becomes the SECOND least believable thing in this movie.
- Ryan Klesko is up to bat in the last(and only) play of the game. Before hitting the ball, the scoreboard shows the Padres are up 5-1. He then hits into a double play, and somehow the Angels have magically won the game 5-4. This is probably going to lead to a huge scandal.
- I'm not sure what Bill Stoneman was thinking when he decided to sign a dog to play 1B, but it appears to have worked. This type of thinking would later lead him to say "Well, I signed a dog and he was great. So why not Shea Hillenbrand?"
- I wonder how many games this series took. Also, this seems like an oddly scheduled day game for the World Series. I can only assume this was done to try and appease the east coast markets and entice them to watch. Which they didn't.
- The umpire may be signalling a homerun at 0:55. Also, there is a chain link fence behind him, which makes the stadium very Thunderdome-ish. This is a gritty Angels team.
- That is probably the most tame World Series celebration of all time, further causing people to joke about the nonchalant attitude of So Cal sports fans.
This ending could be looked at as a fitting, illogical, reprehensible, saccharine sweet and, ultimately, forgettable end to the majority Disney-owned Angels. All the hallmarks are there to give us a sort of premature nostalgia; a memory that should still be fresh, yet seems farther away once we see the wings on the baseball caps and the Edison logo hoisted atop the scoreboard. It was a more boring, simpler, uglier time but for many youngsters, THIS was the era that got them into the Angels. Well, this and another movie which I'll go over at another time. A time when the stadium underwent a facelift, when the rockpile came to fruition, and when a dog became the Francisco Rodriquez of the imaginary Angels playoff run, coming out of obscurity to help the Halos win it all. All snark aside, it's crazy to think that there was a movie released in 2002 that ends with the Angels winning a championship. Granted, it would have been even more ominous if they were wearing the actual 2002 jerseys, and were playing the Giants. The large presence of the hated pinstripes-and-wings logo is just a stark reminder that this movie was definitely made before the 2002 season, so any luck they had with calling the outcome of the ebullient 2002 team was probably less Air Bud Omen, and more Even A Broken Mickey Mouse Clock Is Right Twice A Day. So, basically luck. But a dog can dream, can't he? (No, really. Can dogs dream?! Weird.)
(previously on Halos On Film: The Ryan's Hope Express)