The Winning Team (1952)

97-98 or 100 mins | Biography | 28 June 1952

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Producer:

Bryan Foy

Cinematographer:

Sid Hickox

Production Designer:

Douglas Bacon

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of the film were Alex the Great , Alexander, the Big Leaguer and The Big League . As depicted in The Winning Team , Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887--1950) suffered head injury, epilepsy and alcoholism, yet made one of the greatest comebacks in sports and is still considered one of the most successful pitchers in Major League history. His pitching was considered controlled, graceful and economical, with little wasted motion, and his fastball was hard to hit. Although the major facts of Alexander's life depicted in the film are true, some are presented out of order. According to a modern source, although there were rumors about Alexander's drinking habits, his alcoholism did not affect his playing until much later in his career. Alexander did suffer from double vision after being struck on the head by a ball, and seizures became apparent during his military service in 1918, which also caused partial deafness.
       Alexander's greatest years as a player were between 1911 and 1917, when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. He and his lifelong friend, catcher Reindeer Bill Killefer, were sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1917. In 1926, Cubs manager Joe McCarthy sold Alexander to the St. Louis Cardinals. That same year, as depicted in the film, Alexander struck out Tony Lazzeri, then pitched two hitless innings, which insured the Cardinal's victory in the World Series.
       Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Dec 1951 HR news items add Michael Smith, Michael Howard, Jimmy McGann, Leroy Strand, Barry Buehler and Emil Meyer to the cast. According to a Jan 1952 HR ... More Less

The working titles of the film were Alex the Great , Alexander, the Big Leaguer and The Big League . As depicted in The Winning Team , Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887--1950) suffered head injury, epilepsy and alcoholism, yet made one of the greatest comebacks in sports and is still considered one of the most successful pitchers in Major League history. His pitching was considered controlled, graceful and economical, with little wasted motion, and his fastball was hard to hit. Although the major facts of Alexander's life depicted in the film are true, some are presented out of order. According to a modern source, although there were rumors about Alexander's drinking habits, his alcoholism did not affect his playing until much later in his career. Alexander did suffer from double vision after being struck on the head by a ball, and seizures became apparent during his military service in 1918, which also caused partial deafness.
       Alexander's greatest years as a player were between 1911 and 1917, when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. He and his lifelong friend, catcher Reindeer Bill Killefer, were sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1917. In 1926, Cubs manager Joe McCarthy sold Alexander to the St. Louis Cardinals. That same year, as depicted in the film, Alexander struck out Tony Lazzeri, then pitched two hitless innings, which insured the Cardinal's victory in the World Series.
       Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Dec 1951 HR news items add Michael Smith, Michael Howard, Jimmy McGann, Leroy Strand, Barry Buehler and Emil Meyer to the cast. According to a Jan 1952 HR news item, James Millican was recalled to the studio to build up his role as catcher "Bill Killefer." Millican and his brother Fred, who made his acting debut in the film, were former professional baseball players. Ronald Reagan, who portrays "Alex" in the film, was a radio baseball announcer before Warner Bros. "discovered" him in the mid-1930s. According to Warner Bros. production notes, portions of the film were shot on location at the Warner Ranch in Calabasas and on Southern California playing fields, including the training field of the Pacific Coast League's Hollywood Stars in the San Fernando Valley. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 May 1952.
---
Daily Variety
22 May 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 May 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 51
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 51
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 52
p. 6.
Los Angeles Daily News
30 Jun 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 May 52
p. 1373.
New York Times
20 Jun 52
p. 19.
New York Times
21 Jun 52
p. 12.
Newsweek
7 Jul 1952.
---
Time
14 Jul 1952.
---
Variety
20 Feb 1952.
---
Variety
28 May 52
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
And The Big Leaguers:
Cleveland Tigers
St. Louis Cardinals
Washinton Senators
Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees
James Dodd
Alan Ray
Dick Bartell
Allan Wood
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
From a story by
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Tech adv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"Old St. Nicholas," music and lyrics by Inez James and Buddy Pepper
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game," music by Albert Von Tilzer, lyrics by Jack Norworth.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Alex the Great
Alexander, the Big Leaguer
The Big League
Release Date:
28 June 1952
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Springfield, MO: 6 June 1952
New York opening: 20 June 1952
Production Date:
12 December 1951--late January 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 June 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1795
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
97-98 or 100
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15757
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1908, in rural Nebraska, telephone linemen Grover Cleveland Alexander is saving to buy a farm, so that he and sweetheart Aimee Arrants can marry, but his neighbors know that he would rather be playing baseball. When Alex stands up Aimee and her father to pitch against a "real" team from Galesburg, Illinois, Aimee's father reneges on giving them the down payment on the farm as a wedding present. However, Alex's strong, accurate pitching gets the attention of the team's manager, George Glasheen, who offers him $100 a week to pitch. Alex cannot resist the offer and joins the team, but sends his earnings to Aimee to put in the bank for their farm. However, during the season, he is struck in the head by a relay pitch and is knocked unconscious for three days, awakening with double vision. Unable to pitch accurately, Alex marries Aimee and resigns himself to farming, but secretly makes frustrated efforts to practice. At Christmas, Aimee admits to her mother-in-law that she was secretly glad when he had to give up baseball, but would now give anything for his happiness. During the winter, Glasheen trades Alex to Philadelphia, and after Alex's vision returns one morning in early spring, he and Aimee leave for spring training. At a pre-season game at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Aimee befriends Margaret, the wife of catcher Bill Killefer, and begins to learn the details of the game, while Alex strikes out his opponents. During the next few years, Alex's pitching makes him a baseball hero. In 1915, while playing in St. Louis, Bill tells Alex that opponent Cardinal rookie, Rogers Hornsby, is about to be dropped unless he ... +


In 1908, in rural Nebraska, telephone linemen Grover Cleveland Alexander is saving to buy a farm, so that he and sweetheart Aimee Arrants can marry, but his neighbors know that he would rather be playing baseball. When Alex stands up Aimee and her father to pitch against a "real" team from Galesburg, Illinois, Aimee's father reneges on giving them the down payment on the farm as a wedding present. However, Alex's strong, accurate pitching gets the attention of the team's manager, George Glasheen, who offers him $100 a week to pitch. Alex cannot resist the offer and joins the team, but sends his earnings to Aimee to put in the bank for their farm. However, during the season, he is struck in the head by a relay pitch and is knocked unconscious for three days, awakening with double vision. Unable to pitch accurately, Alex marries Aimee and resigns himself to farming, but secretly makes frustrated efforts to practice. At Christmas, Aimee admits to her mother-in-law that she was secretly glad when he had to give up baseball, but would now give anything for his happiness. During the winter, Glasheen trades Alex to Philadelphia, and after Alex's vision returns one morning in early spring, he and Aimee leave for spring training. At a pre-season game at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Aimee befriends Margaret, the wife of catcher Bill Killefer, and begins to learn the details of the game, while Alex strikes out his opponents. During the next few years, Alex's pitching makes him a baseball hero. In 1915, while playing in St. Louis, Bill tells Alex that opponent Cardinal rookie, Rogers Hornsby, is about to be dropped unless he makes a hit, so when Hornsby comes up to bat, Alex generously throws him a pitch down the middle, which he easily hits. In 1917, both Alex and Bill are sold to the Chicago Cubs, but Alex is soon drafted and while in France, suffers dizziness. After the war, Chicago sports fans welcome Alex back, but Alex, now suffering dizzy spells, collapses on the field. The team doctor assumes that Alex suffered a sunstroke from the 104 degree temperature, but Alex secretly visits Dr. Johnson Conant, who diagnoses epilepsy and believes that Alex should quit baseball, as each blackout will leave him with less strength. Overwhelmed by the news, Alex makes Conant promise not to reveal his diagnosis. He then wanders the streets dejectedly, until he is invited into a speakeasy by a fan, and drinks too much. The next day, the newspaper reports that Alex is a "lush." Although he is not pitching well, Alex tries to hide his illness from Aimee and the team, but continues to drink. Confused by his behavior, Aimee leaves him. Later, when Alex is found passed out in the street, Joe McCarthy, the Cubs manager, fires him and sports fans are mystified why "Alex the Great" has fallen so low. After reading about Alex's troubles, Conant searches for Aimee to tell her about his disease. Meanwhile, Alex drifts from minor league teams to local teams and then drops out of sight. When he is found by the private investigator Aimee hires, he is part of a carnival sideshow. Aimee begs Hornsby, who is now the Cardinals' manager, to give Alex a chance. After consulting with Bill, Hornsby risks the team's opportunity for the pennant and hires Alex, who makes a splendid comeback. In 1926, the Cardinals are up against the Yankees in the World Series. The opener is to be the first game broadcast transcontinentally and the largest crowd ever is in attendance. Although everyone assumes a Yankee victory, Alex strikes out Babe Ruth and the Cardinals win. That night, seeing how tired Aimee is, Alex tells her that he looks for her in the stands and steals energy from her. The next day, which is the final game of the series, Alex is not scheduled to pitch, so Aimee stays home to pack. However, during the game, the pitcher develops a blister and Hornsby calls Alex to pitch. At home, when Aimee learns that Alex will be playing, she drops everything and rushes to the station. In the seventh inning, with the score 3-2 in the Cardinals' favor, the Yankees have loaded the bases with two outs. Alex is feeling dizzy, but sees Aimee in the stands as Tony Lazzeri comes up to bat. With the strength he gets from Aimee, Alex strikes Lazzeri out, and the Cardinals win the World Series. Alex's heroics become part of baseball legend. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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