How many of us can quote James Earl Jones’ soliloquy from Field of Dreams, about the timelessness of baseball, and baseball marching on, Ray, and all that. None can argue that Field of Dreams is a beautiful movie, and only the coldest and darkest hearts don’t roll a tear when Ray Kinsella asks the ghost of his dad to play catch. Baseball seems to inspire these movies that catch a moment in time, pack it in amber and preserve it perfect in a vacuum.
Long Time Coming is not one of these types of movies. It is the story of race, equality, civil rights and fifteen year old boys playing Little League baseball.
I went into the movie cold, it was a Netflix recommendation and sat next to The Battered Bastards of Baseball – a fantastic documentary about the Kurt Russell led Portland Mavericks. But this movie had a much different tone.
The heart of the story is the 1955 Florida Little League All-Star tournament, this is the tournament that decides who plays for the right to go to Williamsport for World Series. It revolves around the Pensacola and Orlando teams, the Pensacola team being comprised of all black players, and Orlando being white. The Pensacola team broke the Little League color barrier in the south, but only because the Orlando team – missing their head coach who quit because “he’s a southerner that lives a southern life and has to live with his decisions” agreed to play. The film focuses on the here and now, leading ultimately to a reunion of the two teams to play a pick-up game, peppered with very short interviews with former Major Leaguers including Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr, Davey Johnson, and Gary Sheffield.
The movie catches up with the principles of the game 62 years later in life and contrasts the experiences of the black players with the white and paints the picture against America in 2017. Where one of the Pensacola players had cigarettes put out on his arms as he participated in the lunch counter sit-in protests of the 60’s, some of the white players have to reconcile their parents’ prejudice.
It’s disappointing to me that we haven’t made any progress in 80 years. Or if we have maybe we’re regressing right now. But there’s a gravity to this particular film that is vital in today’s culture. It’s almost 1:30 in the morning. I turned this film on just as background noise while I sorted cards at midnight, planning on being in bed an hour ago. But here we are.
Make it a point to watch this movie, and share this movie.