"The Natural" doesn't feel like most baseball films or even most underdog sports stories.
Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, a pitcher with a blazing arm and a batting average to match. He's all set to become the next big thing in baseball. Until, that is, a psychotic woman shoots him in the gut and then jumps to her death.
Roy's career is seemingly over, until we flashforward more than a decade later and find that he's been signed to the New York Knights after working his way through the minor leagues. At 35 years old and with the lingering pain from his wound, Roy can no longer pitch, but he's still a slugger at bat and quickly helps launch the Knights from last place to true contenders for the pennant. Nothing can stop Roy, it would seem, except for the beautiful woman, Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), put in his path by the team's owner. The owner has a vested interest in seeing the Knights lose, and he's hoping Memo's charms will distract Roy enough so the team will crash and burn.
The film has its expected moments of triumph (backed by Randy Newman's heroic-sounding score and some gorgeous cinematography by Caleb Deschanel), but by and large, "The Natural" is kind of a quiet movie. It focuses more on Roy's state of mind as his career careens up and down as he considers just how much he truly loves baseball. Director Barry Levinson takes a real understated approach to so much of this, though, that it comes off as a nice contrast to most other films of the sort. Roy has an existential crisis about his choice to keep playing despite risk of death, but it's all handled so matter-of-factly and not an overly dramatic way.
This one isn't to everyone's taste when it comes to baseball movies, but I find it's lingered pretty well with me over the years.
STUFFED BALL PARK FRANKs
1 package Ball Park Angus beef franks
2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
8 slices precooked bacon
1 package whole grain hot dog buns
Preheat broiler on high. Combine mustard, cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard in a small bowl. Slit the hot dogs lengthwise down the center, forming a deep pocket, but not cutting all the way through. Fill pockets with cheese mixture. Wrap a slice of bacon around each frank and secure both ends with wooden toothpicks. Place on broiler pan. Broil for 4 to 6 minutes or until bacon is crisp and cheese is melted. Serve in a bun.
— Recipe from ballparkbrand.com