Cast & Crew
Edward G. Robinson
Every year, young men dreaming of a career in professional baseball come to the New York Giants training camp in Melbourne, Florida. On the first day, the eager young athletes are greeted by John B. "Hans" Lobert, a former third baseman who now runs the camp. Hans is pleasantly surprised by the arrival of his niece Christy, who works in the Giants' front office. Later, new roommates Tippy Mitchell, Bobby Bronson, and tough-talking Julie Davis get acquainted, and the others are impressed to learn that the shy Tippy's father is famous first baseman Wally Mitchell. Meanwhile, Christy tells her uncle that the home office is under pressure to replace him with someone who can get better results, and Hans pins his hopes on the new group of trainees. While walking on the diamond, Hans and Christy encounter a late arrival, third baseman Adam Polachuk, who has come from a small mining town in Pennsylvania. Training begins the following morning, and sports columnist Brian McLennan shows up to write a story about the camp. Hans puts the young players through their paces, taking particular interest in Adam. As the week goes on, Christy befriends Adam, who confides that his mother deserted the family when he was a teenager. At the end of the first week, the first cut is made, and the remaining players are assigned to teams. Adam becomes depressed when he learns that Brian's column will be published in his home town newspaper, and his poor performance at practice alarms Hans, who tells Christy that the great pitcher Carl Hubbell will arrive soon to make his report to the front office. That evening, Adam sadly packs his suitcase and prepares to leave the camp. Christy finds him at the bus stop and presses him for an explanation, and Adam admits he told his hard-working immigrant father that he was leaving home to attend college. Christy urges Adam not to give up on himself, and he embraces her. The next cut is made, and Bobby, a brash but talented pitcher, is let go. The day before the big game against the Brooklyn Dodgers rookies, Hubbell arrives at the camp, along with Tippy's father Wally. Hans is unable to tell Wally that Tippy is not a very strong player, and against his better judgment, puts the young man in the starting lineup. The following morning, Tippy insists he does not deserve to be a starter, but Hans does not waver, despite the pressure to win the game. Right before the game is to start, Christy introduces Hans to Adam's father and little brother Joe, apprising her uncle of Mr. Polachuk's opposition to his son's baseball career. Hans reluctantly agrees to cut Adam from the team after the game, and Mr. Polachuk and Joe take seats in the stands, next to Wally. The Dodgers easily seize the lead, due in part to Tippy's weak performance, and Wally realizes his son is not cut out for a career in baseball. Mr. Polachuk, on the other hand, learns that many immigrants, such as Joe DiMaggio, have used their athletic abilities to achieve great success. During the seventh inning, the Dodgers bring in a replacement pitcher, and Hans and his team are stunned to see that it is Bobby. The Giants are still behind when the ninth inning begins, and a minor injury forces Bobby to leave the game. With two men out and two men on base, Adam hits a home run and wins the game. Mr. Polachuk proudly approaches Adam on the field and encourages him to be like DiMaggio. Camp ends, and Adam receives a contract to play with the farm team in Sioux City. As Adam and Christy kiss, Hans warmly says goodbye to the departing players.
Edward G. Robinson
Donald "chippie" Hastings
John B. "hans" Lobert
Albert Von Tilzer
Edwin B. Willis
Big Leaguer - BIG LEAGUER
Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, organized a filmmaking unit for finding new talent. With obvious nepotism, Mayer crafted this group out of the sons of the men who had helped him found MGM many years ago, even going so far as to dub them "The Sons Of The Pioneers." One was producer Harry Rapf’s son Matt Rapf who picked, as his first production, The Big Leaguer, a story set in the New York Giants' training camp in Florida. Five kids are among the many competing for a handful of contracts for the Giants' farm team, their first step towards the majors. Looking over them is John Lobert, the Giants' chief scout, driving the five through grueling tryouts to see if they have what it takes to succeed. The scout’s beautiful daughter, meanwhile, provides another reason for competition.
A former co-worker of Aldrich's, Herbert Baker, mentioned him to Rapf as a likely director for The Big Leaguer. Like many others with his background, Aldrich was looking for a break in film and had already proved his talent as a director in television. Plus, he was already on the East Coast where the film would be made. He got the nod and set off to the Giants' training camp in Melbourne, Florida to start work. Fourteen days were set aside for this modestly budgeted feature intended for the lower berth on a double bill.
Along with all the rookies, Aldrich got a major star on his first film - Edward G. Robinson, cast as the chief scout. Robinson's career had gone into decline since his halcyon days in the 1930's, mostly due to the "greylist." As opposed to the blacklist, the greylist was an even more insidious part of the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950's, being reserved for those who were suspected of having liberal sympathies despite having never been named. Since there was no real evidence, only suspicion, those on the greylist could not do anything to defend themselves. Robinson had tried to restart his film career in Europe, but failing that, he returned to America and roles in lower budgeted movies. Robinson might have been allowed to work, but this movie starring him was not even given an exhibition in Manhattan, the first time that had happened for a film featuring the actor in a lead role.
The Big Leaguer does show some examples of the directorial bravado to be seen in such later Aldrich classic as Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). Those with a keen eye can also spot some great sports legends making cameo appearances in the film such as All-Star pitcher Carl Hubbell, Dodgers general manager Al Campanis and the NFL's Bob Trocolor.
Producer: Matthew Rapf
Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenplay: Herbert Baker
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Cinematography: William Mellor
Editing: Ben Lewis
Music: Alberto Colombo
Cast: Edward G. Robinson (John B. "Hans" Lobert), Vera-Ellen (Christy), Jeff Richards (Abraham Polachuk), Richard Jaeckel (Bobby Bronson).
BW-70m. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady
Big Leaguer - BIG LEAGUER
The character of sportswriter "Brian McLennan" provides voice-over narration throughout the film. John "Hans" Lobert (1881-1968), a well-regarded third baseman, played professional baseball for fourteen years, including three years as a member of the New York Giants. After coaching at West Point and managing in the minor leagues, Lobert returned to the Giants. From 1945 to 1967, he worked with Carl Hubbell, the former Giants pitcher who directed the team's player development program.
According to a January 27, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, Henry Morgan was originally cast in the role of the sportswriter. The film was shot on location at the Giants' training camp in Melbourne, FL. Big Leaguer was dancer Vera-Ellen's first nonmusical role, and her last assignment at M-G-M. The picture also marked Robert Aldrich's film directing debut.
Released in United States 1953
Released in United States 1994
Feature directorial debut for filmmaker Robert Aldrich.
Released in United States 1953
Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Apocalypse Anytime! The Films of Robert Aldrich" March 11 - April 8, 1994.)