Rare Sports Films


     By the end of 1938, both major leagues were making plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of baseball back in 1839. As part of the festivities, each league produced a 40-minute B & W film with emphasis on the league, its players and the happenings of 1938. As this was long before the days of television, the public showing of these films was a success, and so yearly films, produced by each major league were made until World War II interrupted production for 1942. Even though these films had very little World Series action, they were the forerunners of the annual World Series highlight films that began with the 1943 World Series, and continued through 1986.

     The 1938 American League film celebrates the first century of baseball with a look back into the history of the game as depicted by actors over 60 years ago. However, most of the film shows the American League players and playing techniques of "modern day" 1938! After an introduction by A.L. President William Harridge, the development of the game is depicted, from 'town ball', to the beginnings at Cooperstown in 1839, through Cartwright's contributions, to the invention of the curve ball. As Harridge's league office was located in Chicago (likewise the old Major League Film Bureau), most shots of the players were filmed at old Comiskey Park unless otherwise noted. Here is a rundown of what you'll see on this rare 40-minute film, now available for the first time on video:

     Bob Feller of the Indians and Sam Chapman of the Athletics. Johnny Allen of the Indians. Ted Lyons is shown throwing his knuckleball in Comiskey Park, likewise the Senators' Dutch Leonard and the Chisox's Monte Stratton. Spud Chandler and Monte Pearson (the only A.L. hurler to toss a no-hitter in '38), of the Yankees are shown in slo-motion as they deliver pitches. Next shown is Bobo Newsome, the Browns' 20-game winner, along with George Caster of the A's and Lefty Gomez of the Yankees.

     Joe Cronin of the Red Sox shows fundamentals of good batting and other top A.L. hitters are then shown such as Jimmy Foxx, Cecil Travis of the Senators, Lou Gehrig, the Yanks sensational young rookie Joe Gordon, Jeff Heath of the Indians, Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers and Hank Greenberg, who hit 58 homers in '38! Hank speaks on this film, with some advice for young hitters.

     Marvin Owen of the White Sox shows how he can hold seven baseballs in one hand! Then Joe Cronin demonstrates good fielding at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. First baseman George McQuinn of the Browns is shown at Briggs Stadium. Also shown are Ken Keltner, Bill Werber and Lefty Grove. At Old Timers Day in Cleveland July 6, 1938, Ed Walsh, Tris Speaker and Cy Young are shown. Bob Feller and Johnny Vander Meer pose for photographers at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

     Another segment of the film shows players in civilian clothes relaxing away from the ballpark. Pete Fox drives up in his new car and says 'hello' to George McQuinn, out walking his dog. Young Joe Gordon signs autographs for young fans outside Griffith Stadium. You'll see Luke Sewell, George Case and Cleveland teammates Mel Harder and Joe Vosmik ready to go hunting. Next shown are a couple of old patriarchs of the game, Connie Mack (with son Earle in the dugout) and Clark Griffith, owner of the Senators. They exchange ideas and comment on the "good ol' days" sitting in a hotel lobby! There's a look at Spring Training, too. Shown in the south are Harry Heilman with Charlie Gehringer and Detroit manager Del Baker and coach Bing Miller. In other camps are Jim Bagby Jr. of the Indians, Red Sox coach Herb Pennock, Bucky Harris of Washington and Col. Jake Ruppert with manager Joe McCarthy of the Yankees. The umpires are covered (Steve Basil) with a look at some close plays. Larry Rosenthal of the White Sox is shown, then manager McCarthy speaks from his office on the importance of youngsters playing baseball. A brief look at the 1938 World Series winds up the film. Manager Gabby Hartnett of the N.L. Champion Cubs and Yank pilot McCarthy are shown shaking hands before the opener at Wrigley Field. Very brief action from all four games of the Yank sweep are shown, including Dizzy Dean's heartbreaking loss in game #2 (Crosetti's 8th inning HR) and Joe Gordon's big hit in game #3 at Yankee Stadium, as well as Crosetti's 2-run triple in game four that wrapped up the series for New York.


      Presented by General Mills and dedicated to the youth of America during the months prior to WW II, the 1938 National League Film "The National Game" is similar in format to its counterpart, the 1938 A.L. film "The First Century of Baseball". This 42-minute black & white film begins with shots of kids playing on the sandlots, a business executive going to a game at Wrigley Field, and town folks sitting around outside the general store listening to a Red Barber radio broadcast from Wrigley Field. Then follows a history of the game and the National League, portrayed by actors, beginning with the story of Doubleday inventing the game in the early 1800's. Next comes Cartwright's contribution, along with the rise of the sport through American history including the Civil War and President Lincoln's thoughts on the game. Following that is a portrayal of William A. Hulbert's historic meeting in New York and the formation of the National League in 1876. At this point the film arrives at "modern day" 1938 and begins to show the National League players of that season.

      Six of the eight ballparks in the league are shown, with only Braves Field and Shibe Park missing. Especially nice are shots of Forbes Field, Crosley Field at All-Star time, Ebbets Field, and Wrigley Field, Chicago. Scenes of the players in the film are mostly shot at Wrigley Field, Chicago unless otherwise noted.

      Here is a rundown of the players you'll see on this video:

     Stan Hack of the Cubs shown eating breakfast (Wheaties of course) with his wife and young son at home. Gabby Hartnett, Rip Collins, Phil Caveretta, and Ken O'Dea play some amazing pepper! Pittsburgh Manager Pie Traynor in the Pirate dugout. Cub pitcher Larry French gets a rubdown on the training table. An instructional part of the film follows showing N.L. players demonstrating different aspects of baseball. Segments and players shown are as follows:

Batting: Cardinals Joe Medwick and Enos Slaughter. Lee Handley of the Pirates, Mel Ott of the Giants, Ernie Lombardi of the Reds, Lloyd Waner of Pittsburgh, Ival Goodman of the Reds, Hartnett of the Cubs, Hershell Martin of the Phillies, Joe Moore of the Giants, Frank McCormick of Cincinnati, Johnny Rizzo and Arky Vaughan of the Pirates, Billy Herman of the Cubs at the Polo Grounds, Ray Mueller and Debs Garms of the Braves at Ebbets Field and Harry Danning of the Giants.

Bunting: Leo Durocher of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field and Stuart Martin of the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Throwing & Pitching: George Scharein of the Phils and Buck Jordan of the Reds. Vince DiMaggio throwing from the outfield to nip a runner at the plate at Ebbets Field. Next, Carl Hubbell demonstrates his perfect control at the Polo Grounds. Paul Derringer of the Reds, Bill Lee of the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and Curt Davis of the Cardinals at Sportsman's Park all demonstrate pitching. Also, Tot Pressnell shows his knuckler, Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds in Sportsman's Park, and Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons at Ebbets Field. More great shots from the outfield looking toward home plate at Ebbets Field, with Debs Garms and Dolph Camilli.

Sliding: Pepper Martin's head-first slide.

Catching: Al Lopez, Mickey Owen, Virgil Davis and Lombardi. Finally Dolph Camilli of Brooklyn is shown playing first base.


You can get your own copy of both these rare films now available on DVD for the first time ever! Send $29.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling (Illinois residents must add $2.00 tax) to:

"RARE SPORTSFILMS N", 1126 Tennyson Lane, Naperville, IL 60540 (630) 527-8890

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