Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Best Sports Movie You Can't See

Illustration for article titled The Best Sports Movie You Cant See

Check out this lovely tribute to the late Paul Hemphill by Richard Hyatt:

I ended up at the Atlanta Constitution writing sports. A colleague told me about a former pitcher for the town baseball team in LaGrange. He had made Ripley's Believe Or Not by pitching both games of a doubleheader — tossing a no-hitter in one game and a one-hitter in the other.

By the time I visited him in the old mill village in LaGrange, Scoopie Chappell's baseball exploits were relegated to aging scrapbooks and stories he told at the beer joint down the hill. I wrote a feature story about him for the Sunday Journal-Constitution.

The article got me a phone call from Paul Hemphill. He wanted Scoopie's phone number and directions to his house. Hemphill was researching a book about minor league baseball and he figured Scoopie was someone he wanted to visit.

The non-fiction book never materialized but Long Gone did. To me it is the quintessential baseball novel and equally good as an HBO film. It came out in 1987 and you'll find Bull Durham — as good as it is — is a ripoff of Hemphill's book.

Scoopie morphed into Stud Cantrell, played on the screen by CSI's William Petersen. The character of Stud is as good as you'll find in any work of fiction. In the movie, there's even a speaking role for Teller — the small mute half of Penn & Teller.

If you haven't read the book, do. If you haven't seen the movie, find it.

Amen. William Petersen's Stud Cantrell is closer to Paul Newman in "Slap Shot" than Costner in "Bull Durham." He doesn't go in for poetic speeches. The ending of the movie is corny, a racial side plot is contrived, but the rest of it sings. (Oh, man, Henry Gibson and Teller as father and son is inspired). And Hemphill's novel is a beaut.


The movie was released on HBO but you can't find it these days. It's not on DVD. Something should be done about this.

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