The Winning Team


1h 38m 1952
The Winning Team

Brief Synopsis

Baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander fights his way back from a blinding injury.

Film Details

Also Known As
Alex the Great, Alexander, the Big Leaguer, The Big League
Genre
Biography
Sports
Release Date
Jun 28, 1952
Premiere Information
World premiere in Springfield, MO: 6 Jun 1952; New York opening: 20 Jun 1952
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States; San Fernando Valley, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

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 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.

Cast

Doris Day

Aimee Arrants Alexander

Ronald Reagan

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Frank Lovejoy

Rogers Hornsby

Eve Miller

Margaret Killefer

James Millican

Bill Killefer

Rusty Tamblyn

Willie Alexander

Gordon Jones

George Glasheen

Hugh Sanders

Joe McCarthy

Frank Ferguson

Sam Arrants

Walter Baldwin

Pa Alexander

Dorothy Adams

Ma Alexander

Bob Lemon Cleveland Tigers

Jerry Priddy Detroit Tigers

Peanuts Lowry St. Louis Cardinals

George Metkovich Pittsbugh Pirates

Irving Noren Washinton Senators

Hank Sauer Chicago Cubs

Al Zarilla Chicago White Sox

Gene Mauch New York Yankees

Bonnie Kay Eddy

Sister

James Dodd

Fred

Tom Greenway

Foreman

Russ Clark

Umpire

Ralph Volkie

Umpire

Fred Millican

Catcher

Robert Orrell

Catcher

William Kalvino

Batter

Pinky Woods

Batter

Arthur Page

Preacher

Frank Macfarland

Johnson

Tom Browne Henry

Lecturer

George Sherwood

Rival manager

Morgan Brown

Clerk

Alex Sharp

1st baseman

Herb Lytten

Eye doctor

Pat Flaherty

Bill Klem

Billy Wayne

Charles "Red" Doonin

Harry Lauter

Eddie Collins

Glenn Turnbull

Reporter

John Hedloe

Reporter

Tom Daley

Reporter

Alan Ray

Reporter

Bill Slack

Reporter

Rodney Bell

Reporter

Clarence Straight

Reporter

Henry Blair

Batboy

Jack Wilson

Trainer

Les O'pace

Speakeasy doorman

Dick Bartell

Johnny

Gordon Clark

Pianist

Steve Darrell

Doan

Larry Blake

Detective

Dick Ryan

Barker

Kenneth Patterson

Dr. Johnson Conant

Kay Marlowe

Box office attendant

Frank Scannell

Emcee

Lou Manley

Fire eater

Jack Carr

Wise guy

John Kennedy

Announcer

Ralph P. Gamble

Announcer

Dayton Lummis

Graham McNamee

Billy Vernon

Douthit

Jack Lemmon

Jessi Haines

Alan Foster

Customer

Tom Dugan

Owner

Jack Kenny

Fan

Ward Brant

Fan

Joey Ray

Fan

Donald Kerr

Angry spectator

John Berardino

Sherdel, pitcher

Joe Mcguinn

Hotel doorman

Frank Marlowe

Cab driver

Brick Sullivan

Policeman

Charles Sullivan

Listener

Allan Wood

Usher

Film Details

Also Known As
Alex the Great, Alexander, the Big Leaguer, The Big League
Genre
Biography
Sports
Release Date
Jun 28, 1952
Premiere Information
World premiere in Springfield, MO: 6 Jun 1952; New York opening: 20 Jun 1952
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States; San Fernando Valley, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Winning Team


Ronald Reagan had been at Warner Bros. for 15 years and had appeared in 40 Warner Bros. productions when he made his last film under contract to the studio, The Winning Team (1952). The film is the biography of baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander, who had died in 1950. Alexander struggled with illness and alcoholism, and was best known for leading the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in the 1926 World Series over a powerhouse New York Yankees team that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Winning Team was a fitting swan song for Reagan, who had worked as a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs before turning to acting in the 1930s, and was an avid sports fan. A few years earlier, Reagan had begged Jack Warner to loan him out to MGM to play pitcher Monty Stratton in The Stratton Story (1949), but Warner told him that "nobody wants to see movies about sports or cripples." After that film, starring James Stewart, became a hit, Warner agreed to make The Winning Team and gave Reagan the lead.

Doris Day, who was top-billed, plays Alexander's wife Aimee, who sticks by him through all his troubles. In fact, the "winning team" of the title refers not to any of the baseball teams for which Alexander played, but to the partnership between Alexander and his wife. This was no coincidence. Aimee Alexander was the film's technical adviser, and her name is featured prominently in the credits. Known at the time primarily for musicals, Day only had one song in The Winning Team, but turned in a strong dramatic performance.

At 41, Reagan was really too old to play Alexander in his prime as a pitcher, but Reagan worked hard, training for three weeks with Jerry Priddy of the Detroit Tigers, Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians, and Arnold "Jigger" Statz, a contemporary of Alexander. They taught him, Reagan recalled, "the difference between throwing from the mound and just throwing." He was believable as a baseball player, and handled the dramatic challenges of the role creditably as well.

But if the baseball looked authentic, The Winning Team suffers from the usual sanitized treatment of biographical films of the era, glossing over some important facts about the pitcher's life. Perhaps the biggest omission is that Alexander's epilepsy is never mentioned by name. In the film, his neurological disorder is diagnosed as double vision. Alexander himself had hidden his illness from the public, preferring to be known as a drunk rather than as someone who suffered from a debilitating illness. Reagan felt that continuing the cover-up in the film added to the stigma. "I've always regretted that we did not use the word, although we tried to get the idea across. The trouble was that a frank naming of the illness would have the ring of truth, whereas ducking it made some critics accuse us of inventing something to whitewash his alcoholism." The Winning Team accurately portrays a washed-up Alexander playing for a comedy baseball team, The House of David, and working in sideshows before his triumphant comeback in the 1926 World Series. But those humiliations actually happened after his career declined and his drinking increased, in the 1930s.

Decades later, baseball historian Bill James called The Winning Team "an awful movie, a Reader's Digest movie, reducing the events of Alexander's life to a cliché." But reviewers at the time were more polite. The Time critic wrote, "The Winning Team dramatizes the ups and downs of Alexander's career in conventional and sometimes fanciful screen style." Variety called it "A conventionally-treated screen biography," and praised the performances: "Ronald Reagan tackles the Alexander character, proving passable as a ballplayer and okay as the man. Doris Day, on whose name rests the film's chief marquee draw, contributes a sincere, moving portrayal as Alexander's wife."

For Reagan, The Winning Team would remain one of his favorites. As Tony Thomas writes in The Films of Ronald Reagan (1980), "The film gave Reagan one of his best opportunities as an actor, and one in which he conveyed both his own enthusiasm for the game and the glorious ups and painful downs of Grover Cleveland Alexander. It is an intelligent, skillful, sympathetic performance."

Director: Lewis Seiler
Producer: Bryan Foy
Screenplay: Ted Sherdeman, Seelag Lester, Merwin Gerard (based on a story by Lester and Gerard)
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Editor: Alan Crosland, Jr.
Costume Design: Leah Rhodes
Art Direction: Douglas Bacon
Music: David Buttolph
Cast: Doris Day (Aimee Alexander), Ronald Reagan (Grover Cleveland Alexander), Frank Lovejoy (Rogers Hornsby), Eve Miller (Margaret), James Millican (Bill Killefer), Rusty Tamblyn (Willie Alexander), Gordon Jones (Glasheen), Hugh Sanders (McCarthy), Frank Ferguson (Sam Arrants), Bob Lemon, Jerry Priddy, Gene Mauch (ball players).
BW-99m.

by Margarita Landazuri
The Winning Team

The Winning Team

Ronald Reagan had been at Warner Bros. for 15 years and had appeared in 40 Warner Bros. productions when he made his last film under contract to the studio, The Winning Team (1952). The film is the biography of baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander, who had died in 1950. Alexander struggled with illness and alcoholism, and was best known for leading the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in the 1926 World Series over a powerhouse New York Yankees team that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Winning Team was a fitting swan song for Reagan, who had worked as a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs before turning to acting in the 1930s, and was an avid sports fan. A few years earlier, Reagan had begged Jack Warner to loan him out to MGM to play pitcher Monty Stratton in The Stratton Story (1949), but Warner told him that "nobody wants to see movies about sports or cripples." After that film, starring James Stewart, became a hit, Warner agreed to make The Winning Team and gave Reagan the lead. Doris Day, who was top-billed, plays Alexander's wife Aimee, who sticks by him through all his troubles. In fact, the "winning team" of the title refers not to any of the baseball teams for which Alexander played, but to the partnership between Alexander and his wife. This was no coincidence. Aimee Alexander was the film's technical adviser, and her name is featured prominently in the credits. Known at the time primarily for musicals, Day only had one song in The Winning Team, but turned in a strong dramatic performance. At 41, Reagan was really too old to play Alexander in his prime as a pitcher, but Reagan worked hard, training for three weeks with Jerry Priddy of the Detroit Tigers, Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians, and Arnold "Jigger" Statz, a contemporary of Alexander. They taught him, Reagan recalled, "the difference between throwing from the mound and just throwing." He was believable as a baseball player, and handled the dramatic challenges of the role creditably as well. But if the baseball looked authentic, The Winning Team suffers from the usual sanitized treatment of biographical films of the era, glossing over some important facts about the pitcher's life. Perhaps the biggest omission is that Alexander's epilepsy is never mentioned by name. In the film, his neurological disorder is diagnosed as double vision. Alexander himself had hidden his illness from the public, preferring to be known as a drunk rather than as someone who suffered from a debilitating illness. Reagan felt that continuing the cover-up in the film added to the stigma. "I've always regretted that we did not use the word, although we tried to get the idea across. The trouble was that a frank naming of the illness would have the ring of truth, whereas ducking it made some critics accuse us of inventing something to whitewash his alcoholism." The Winning Team accurately portrays a washed-up Alexander playing for a comedy baseball team, The House of David, and working in sideshows before his triumphant comeback in the 1926 World Series. But those humiliations actually happened after his career declined and his drinking increased, in the 1930s. Decades later, baseball historian Bill James called The Winning Team "an awful movie, a Reader's Digest movie, reducing the events of Alexander's life to a cliché." But reviewers at the time were more polite. The Time critic wrote, "The Winning Team dramatizes the ups and downs of Alexander's career in conventional and sometimes fanciful screen style." Variety called it "A conventionally-treated screen biography," and praised the performances: "Ronald Reagan tackles the Alexander character, proving passable as a ballplayer and okay as the man. Doris Day, on whose name rests the film's chief marquee draw, contributes a sincere, moving portrayal as Alexander's wife." For Reagan, The Winning Team would remain one of his favorites. As Tony Thomas writes in The Films of Ronald Reagan (1980), "The film gave Reagan one of his best opportunities as an actor, and one in which he conveyed both his own enthusiasm for the game and the glorious ups and painful downs of Grover Cleveland Alexander. It is an intelligent, skillful, sympathetic performance." Director: Lewis Seiler Producer: Bryan Foy Screenplay: Ted Sherdeman, Seelag Lester, Merwin Gerard (based on a story by Lester and Gerard) Cinematography: Sid Hickox Editor: Alan Crosland, Jr. Costume Design: Leah Rhodes Art Direction: Douglas Bacon Music: David Buttolph Cast: Doris Day (Aimee Alexander), Ronald Reagan (Grover Cleveland Alexander), Frank Lovejoy (Rogers Hornsby), Eve Miller (Margaret), James Millican (Bill Killefer), Rusty Tamblyn (Willie Alexander), Gordon Jones (Glasheen), Hugh Sanders (McCarthy), Frank Ferguson (Sam Arrants), Bob Lemon, Jerry Priddy, Gene Mauch (ball players). BW-99m. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

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, December 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items add Michael Smith, Michael Howard, Jimmy McGann, Leroy Strand, Barry Buehler and Emil Meyer to the cast. According to a January 1952 Hollywood Reporter 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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992

Released in United States Summer June 28, 1952

Released in United States on Video April 29, 1992

Released in United States Summer June 28, 1952