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The Stratton Story

Director: Sam Wood

Cast: James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Morgan, Agnes Moorehead

Okay, let’s get it out in the open: I’m a sucker for schmaltz. This is one of my favorite older baseball movies (along with It Happens Every Spring).

Both Van Johnson and Gregory Peck were considered for the role of baseball star Monty Stratton in the 1949 biopic The Stratton Story before settling upon the real Stratton's own first choice, James Stewart. The film covers several years in the 1930s, as Texas farm boy Stratton rises from the minors to the Chicago White Sox. Along the way, Monty marries an Omaha gal named Ethel (June Allyson), who gives him a son.

In November 1938, Monty accidentally shoots himself in the leg while on a hunting excursion. When the leg has to be amputated, it looks as though Stratton's pitching career is over. He broods over his bad luck for months before snapping out of his self-pity and learning to walk with his new prosthesis. To prove to himself that he's overcome his handicap, Monty takes a job pitching with the Southern All-Stars. His return to baseball is rough sledding (the other team persistently bunts balls out of his reach), but Monty Stratton is finally able to make a successful comeback.

Only occasionally playing fast and loose with the facts (the time-frame of Stratton's real-life return to baseball is telescoped by several years), The Stratton Story was one of the best and most profitable baseball pictures ever turned out by Hollywood. Fans of the game will get an extra kick from the presence in the cast of big-leaguers Bill Dickey and Jimmy Dykes.