Mini-Review: Branca’s Pitch


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Branca’s Pitch

This is a fascinating bifurcated documentary about the man who threw the pitch that became “the shot heard ’round the world.” The bifurcation comes not only from not only telling his life story, both before and after that seismic moment, but also discussing the ghostwriting of his autobiography. There was also a shocking turn in this film, which is as much as I’ll say but baseball fans are in for quite a fascinating turn of events if they weren’t already aware of recent developments regarding that Branca-Thomson at-bat.

The most interesting part of the ghostwriting aspect of the film is that it really examines how everyone has their own story that is their individual truth. Aside from the fact that it it illuminates a career that was otherwise quite accomplished that got reduced to that moment, that is it’s most valuable contribution.


Short Film Saturday: The Holy Grail

If you follow this blog closely, you’ll know that I love ESPN’s 30 for 30 films. One aspect of these films I have not gotten into are the shorts, until now.

One of the hobbyist phases I went through was collecting sports cards, especially baseball cards. The Honus Wagner card was one I knew of when I was younger. All the details regarding the most well-preserved of these rare cards, as well as the controversy about its condition, were news to me.

You can view the film here.

Short Film Saturday: The Deal

If you follow this blog closely, you’ll know that I love ESPN’s 30 for 30 films. One aspect of these films I have not gotten into are the shorts, until now.

In view of all the infamy of Alex Rodriguez’s stay in New York, which seems to be trudging for an inglorious ending, it can be easy to forget the ins and outs and the hoopla of his being traded there. This short, featuring interviews with the key figures involved, reconstructs it well.

You can view the film here.

The Spirit of Little League


ESPN’s series of documentaries 30 for 30 tackled the 30 biggest stories in sports since ESPN’s launch in 1979, and many acclaimed filmmakers took the helm. The ESPN Films brand have since spun off to further sports docs. While I have not been able to catch all of them I have seen many and the series of films has been even more fascinating and riveting than many anticipated (Note: many of these films now stream on Netflix).

Little Big Men,the tale of the Kirkland, Washington team that captured the 1982 Little League World Series title, originally aired, interestingly enough, after this 2011 tournament’s completion; which made sense since most of the film dealt with their lives after the championship was claimed, and how the sociopolitical climate was ripe for these kids to be put on a pedestal, which made them heroes and symbols to be looked up to, and then taken down.

As is typically the case, there are mixed emotions in this film. All the players loved the experience and were still glad to have won in spite of the unforeseeable hoopla that followed them.

They also drove home the point that they played, trained and strove for the title because they wanted it and no one forced it upon them, which in this day and age is a legitimate concern.
The Little League World Series is a great event, having been there several times, it seems that all the players take it as a great experience regardless of outcome. However, the sentiments of the Washington players do bear repeating as the notion of enjoyment of the game being paramount is one that needs to be cultivated and should not be taken for granted. Just as players and parents need to learn and practice sportsmanship, so are constant reminders needed about the joys of baseball.

Here are a list of some films that vary in their quality, but all remind us why the game is great and will bide the time between now and next year’s Little League World Series:

The Perfect Game

The true story of the 1957 Monterrey team that won it all.

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan

Both versions of the tale need acknowledging, so I figured I’d highlight the end of the trilogy.

The Bad News Bears (2005)

It’s one of those remakes that make you scratch your head…until you see it. My apologies again, Billy Bob.

Amazing Grace and Chuck

It’s only about baseball, and sports in a roundabout way, it’s really about nuclear disarmament and a movement; but it starts and ends on the diamond with one Little Leaguer and is one of the best examples of the power of sport.


This is a film that was delayed and limited in many ways. Little League even assisted in the production, but I believe it began filming in an age when age fraud was largely fiction. Then the Almonte scandal broke. The film means well but is really a bad and misguided cautionary tale that does bad mentioning.

Small Ball: A Little League Story

This is a PBS documentary about a team from Aptos, CA that made the 2002 World Series that is a very balanced look at the process.

Commentary: Chris Massoglia – Sandlot to Silver Screen

It is not unusual for an athlete to either be an actor, or to become one at some point in their career. In this age of social media, and of the multi-taskers and multi-talented, it is not unusual at all. One hardly needs to list former athletes turned actors, for those who watch films frequently will likely know of at least one. However, one hardly hears of an athlete turned actor with a tale such as that of Chris Massoglia.

In the summer of 2004, Chris and the Robbinsdale Little League of Robbinsdale, MN, were one game away from a trip to Williamsport, PA and the Little League World Series. Playing the Regional final meant an appearance on ESPN for all the players. By that time Chris Massoglia had already appeared on TV. He was on an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent the year before and had just recently appeared in two episodes of Criminal Investigation, using the stage name Chris Kelly.

The commentators talked about Chris and his acting pursuits because on the ESPN questionnaire all the players get, so that the broadcast team can get a sense of who they are, Chris listed his nickname as “Hollywood.” He was dubbed so by his teammates due to his acting pursuits and now it seems that the moniker is quite prophetic and not the simplistic ribbing initially intended.
After a few more TV stints he appeared in the independent film A Plumm Summer, which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. However, his big break is still ahead with two upcoming lead roles. Now going by his given name, Massoglia has landed two huge roles.

First, he played Darren Shan in The Vampire’s Assistant. The film, was an anticipated potential franchise, featured a star-studded cast.

Chris also co-starred in Joe Dante’s Venice Film Festival Award-Winner The Hole.

One if not both of these films should be the launching pad for Massoglia’s stardom, and have him become one of the more unconventional athlete-turned actor-tales we’ve seen.