Making the Grades
Apparently there is nothing as American as baseball and apple pie.So it is no surprise that a few feathers get ruffled in 1957 when a team of young boys cross the Mexican border to compete in their first Little League World Series.
However the trouble with stories based on real events is that viewers are aware of the ending before the movie even starts. Audiences already know Secretariat will win the Triple Crown, that the Thundering Herd will thunder again in We Are Marshall and that the boys, nicknamed "Los pequeños gigantes", will make it to the title game. To combat the loss of suspense over the final outcome, filmmakers have to tell an engaging tale along the way.
Fortunately Director William Dear manages that task well.
I'm not sure if the rag-tag team from Monterrey, Mexico really had only four weeks to field a team. But it is quite amazing to think they could have pulled it off. What is more important is that Padre Estaban (Cheech Marin) takes a hands-on approach to dealing with the boys who wander the streets looking for something to do. Usually it involves property damage or community disruptions. Praying for some heavenly inspiration, the Padre stumbles upon the idea of forming a baseball squad. What he needs next is a coach.
Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.) has recently returned from the U.S. after his contract with a major league baseball team was canceled. (Unbeknownst to the townsfolk, Cesar worked as a janitor, not a player.) Dealing with his disappointment with liquor, Cesar isn't interested in helping out despite his status as the town's baseball hero. He gives the priest one excuse after another. But he is finally forced to pick up a bat when the boys clean up a vacant lot to play in. (How many vacant lots in the world have been reclaimed in the name of baseball?)
Using his connections, Cesar eventually manages to get some uniforms for the boys and a Little League franchise in the small town. Boarding a rickety old bus they head for the U.S./Mexican border where they are interrogated by a couple of guards. Since the bus can only go as far as the border, the team is forced to walk the last ten miles to the town where the first games are held.
At the diamond, the players roll around on the freshly mowed field. It's the first time they've seen manicured grass. The simple act immediately sets them apart from the American kids that have gathered to compete. Before long the racial slurs are flying. But the Mexican boys aren't the only ones who face prejudice. One team includes a young Black player who is forced to sit alone in a restaurant booth despite his contributions to the game. The depictions of racial discrimination remind viewers just how much the game of baseball has changed over the last 50 years.
With a good dose of humor, the characters repeatedly slug their way to victory, winning fans and admirers along the way. Among their biggest supporters is female reporter Frankie (Emilie de Ravin) who faces gender discrimination while covering a "male" beat for the paper.
Faced with an imposing challenge, the characters stand up to bigotry, overcome disappointments and triumph on the mound in The Perfect Game.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Perfect Game.
How do the spectators respond to the Mexican team? Is it easier to mock people or groups that we don’t know? Who faces discrimination in this movie? How does this young team respond? What is the effect of their example?
What impact can sport involvement have on a child? How does the game help motivate these young boys to improve their lives?
In the final game, Mexican pitcher Angel Macias set a record that stands today in Little League championship game history. What was it? What record would you like to set?
To learn more about the real team and their amazing showing during the 1957 Little League World Series, see: