Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty stand out in this film version of Mark Harris’ novel about Bruce Pearson (De Niro), a clumsy, oafish, second-rate country boy baseball catcher stricken with leukaemia who wants to play another season with his (fictional) New York baseball team, the Mammoths, before he dies.
Telling the engrossing tale of how stylish star pitcher Henry Wiggen (Moriarty) helps his terminally ill catcher through one last season (Wiggen threatens not to sign his new contract unless Bruce’s position on the team is secured) this 1950s-set heartbreaker resonates with emotional truths while evoking nostalgia for a more innocent era.
It’s superlatively performed by De Niro (then unknown) and Moriarty, with excellent support from Vincent Gardenia (as their manager who expends considerable effort investigating lies that Henry tells in order to obscure the real reason why he’s protecting Bruce) who was nominated for an Oscar.
De Niro researched his role by signing on as a pitcher with a real baseball team for a month, and according to director John Hancock, he “didn’t even want to take off his baseball uniform. He lived in it.”
The story is somewhat cliché-strewn but doesn’t become overly sentimental.
Robert De Niro