Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Mystery Solved

What it says about me, I'm not sure: I've always loved finding sports references and cues in movies.

For years, I've treasured the bit of business in "Rain Man" where Raymond is listening to a ballgame. It's a Giants game, and we hear the announcer mention Bob Brenly and Candy Maldonado. A real broadcast? If so, what game? I've never really taken the time to check.

So I tip my cap to Milwaukee-based blogger Larry Granillo, who has nailed down the details of a beloved baseball scene. It's the one where Ferris Bueller and his buddy Cameron take in a Cubs game during "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".

You can read Granillo's detective work here and a followup report here. Short version of the story: Granillo is able to establish not only which Cubs game Ferris and Cameron attended in 1985, but who hit the foul ball Ferris caught! That would be longtime big-leaguer Claudell Washington, the Berkeley High grad who came up with the A's as a 19-year-old phenom but, by '85, was playing for the Braves.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" includes TV footage of a Cubs-Braves game (you may recall that Principal Rooney looks away from a TV in a pizza joint just as Ferris is seen catching the foul ball). OK, I know this is Hollywood; actor Matthew Broderick didn't really catch a live foul ball at an actual ballgame. But it sure looks like it, and the cutaway shot shows the Cubs on the field along with a team in blue road uniforms that sure look like the Braves' 1985 roadies.

This is where Granillo's detective work kicks in, and where we learn just how careful the late filmmaker John Hughes was. The cutaway shots were picked up at a different game in 1985, with the Cubs playing a different opponent: the Montreal Expos. But in '85, both the Braves and Expos wore the same all-blue uniforms on the road, so the shot works.

As a baseball fan and a movie fan, I'm thrilled to see how much effort went into both the movie and the followup investigation. The only thing missing in this story is the Cubs' failure to hold a "Ferris Bueller 25th Anniversary Day" last summer. It would have been cool to have Claudell Washington see if he could hit a few balls to Matthew Broderick in the left-field stands.

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