The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Rookie Of The Year’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Rookie Of The Year.”

The info:

The Movie: “Rookie of the Year”

Starring: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Albert Hall

Director: Daniel Stern

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) When an accident miraculously gives a boy an incredibly powerful pitching arm, he becomes a major league pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35 percent

Our take:

Brown: Like Ty Webb had to do last week in our review of “Caddyshack,” we here at the JOE-DOWN had to call in a ringer. 

See, it turns out that “Angels in the Outfield” isn’t streaming anywhere, including Disney Plus. You know, the service that exists to show Disney movies (like “Angels in the Outfield”) at any time. 

That’s now strike two for Disney Plus after they robbed me of a glance at Daryl Hannah’s butt in our review of “Splash.”

So with the Mouse letting us down, I made a call to the bullpen. And what came out was a 12-year-old closer with a medical malady and a mustachioed Gary Busey. 

We’re reviewing “Rookie of the Year,” which gave hope to 7 year olds like me back in 1993 that we could also make it to the majors. All it took was a catastrophic shoulder injury and a scumbag dating my mom. 

Those hopes were later dashed in puberty when I got just one hit in my last year of Little League along with my weight dictating that being an offensive lineman in football was a better option. 

I remembered the basic premise of the movie and not much else. So Froemming, give your initial thoughts while I work on my floater pitch.

Froemming: Like you, I saw this when it came out and it gave hope to a fat kid in Minnesota that I, too, could be good at a sport with pluck, wit and a freak accident giving me a God-like upperhand so I wouldn’t really have to practice or anything.

Boy was I wrong.

Not only did this movie give loser kids like us hope, it gave loser Cub fans hope that one day their garbage team would be a great team. It would take another two decades-plus and the depressing fact John Candy would never see it, but it did come to be. 

And it threw us right into the Darkest Timeline.

Also, I was kinda shocked that Daniel Stern directed this. This guy just cornered the marker in the early 90s of bullshit dreams and nostalgia for kids, while also being terrorized by a sociopathic child left home alone over Christmas

Anywho, Brown as I start building a boat with my goofy friends, why don’t you kick this off.

Brown: So we open up with a bunch of glory shots of Wrigley Field and all the bleacher creatures that inhabit it. All the while, I kept hoping we’d see Harry Carry pop up with an ice-cool Budweiser

It’s the first game of the season for the Chicago Cubs, who back in 1993, were in the midst of a 108-year World Series drought as well as a 71-year pennant drought (both of which were broken in 2016). 

And not that it matters in the grand scheme of the movie, but in the radio booth is none other than John Candy in an uncredited role in what would be one of his last movies, along with ‘Cool Runnings,” “Wagons East” and “Canadian Bacon.”

We here at the JOE-DOWN love John Candy, even if his role in this movie was just… kind of there. He didn’t quite have a presence in his screen time like he did in “Splash.”

Meanwhile, across town, we see three kids running down the street with a baby carriage…?

Froemming: Yeah, and we learn our hero is Henry, a real chucklehead kid who dreams of being called up in his little league team, but usually doesn’t because he is so lousy. I mean, even the kid with asthma was called in before him. And it hit home with me of my memories of being that hosrsehit player in sports as a young child. 

Brown: I’d bench Henry, too, if you’re showing up to your little league game in jeans. Only the crappy players showed up in jeans. Buy a pair of baseball pants, you weirdo. 

Froemming: This is also an era when an adult coach could call these children morons for not playing well. What a time to be alive! 

But Henry does get called in, and manages to trip over the ball, not having the cognitive function to remove his hat from his eyes, and blows the whole play by throwing the ball out of the field instead of home plate.

Henry, take it from me, some people just weren’t meant for sports. Me? I found music and a love of writing. You? Well you will become a raging pervert in the “American Pie” movies. We all have our calling in this work-a-day world.

Brown: I hope brewmaster isn’t in his future after what Stiffler drank from him in “American Pie.” 

Yeah, Henry and his buddies are such losers that I’m shocked they don’t spend their summers in Maine hunting down man-eating clowns. They spend their free time fixing up a motor on a boat that’d immediately sink in Lake Michigan. They also can’t talk to girls which, to be fair, Froemming and I can’t throw shade at because neither can we. 

Froemming: The scene when Henry and his friends try to talk to girls reminded me that I have actually gotten worse at talking to women over the years.

Brown:  Here’s a dramatization of Henry, his friends, Froemming and I all talking to women. 

After school one day, one of Henry’s baseball teammates decides to pick on the kid a little more by hitting a fly ball toward Henry. Well, the ball went in the COMPLETE OPPOSITE direction of Henry, but hey, movie magic!

Anyways, proud-ass Henry runs after the ball, only to trip Charlie Brown style over another baseball. The screen goes blank and Henry wakes up in the hospital with a major shoulder injury. But somehow, he’s showing no signs of pain because he’s apparently invincible? 

Froemming: Well, in the early 90s if you cried or showed pain, you would get your ass kicked, so it was a thing you had to hide from the public.

So Henry has this cast in a weird position, looking like he is constantly giving the signal he is taking a sudden turn on his bicycle. 

During this, we see his mom is going out on a three-week anniversary date with a man who will one day cross Tony Soprano on a property deal.

Henry thinks the guy is moving too fast on his mom, and I agree. Especially when he sniffs her neck after putting a necklace on her. Just creepy, creepy stuff right there.

Brown: Well yeah, the man was walking probable cause. He was the most ‘90s looking man I’ve ever seen, like someone who raided Jerry Seinfeld’s closet and threw up on the clothes with a combination of Zebra Stripe gum, Clearly Canadian sparkling water and Koala Yummies. 

And yes, I loved all those things in the ‘90s. With that said, except for 1994, which produced the best Super Nintendo games ever, the rest of the decade can go. 

Meanwhile, over at Wrigley, things are dire for the Cubs. The team is at the bottom of the National League. Gary Busey is their star pitcher, which bodes well for no one. And, apparently, attendance is so low that if the Cubs don’t sell out every game for the rest of the year, they have to forfeit the franchise.

… Wait, what the (REDACTED) are you telling me?! The Chicago Cubs, a beloved team from a major U.S. market, would be forfeited? Get the (REDACTED) out of here, movie! It’s one thing when it’s the Cleveland Indians Guardians in “Major League,” but the Cubs are never, ever moving or folding.

Froemming: Could be worse. Like the time the Minnesota Twins were run by a little kid.

Brown: In the ‘90s, I think Minnesota would have been OK with that compared to the Pohlads. 

Froemming: Well, Henry’s arm heals, but in a weird way. He now suffers from bullshititis, which causes his arm’s tendons to be super strong. So strong he breaks his doctor’s nose. Which, given the health industry, had to be a pretty severe add on his medical bills. Doctor’s nose broken? At least $50,000 added to that. Good thing his mom has that job selling….flowers?

Brown: I forgot that the term “funky butt-lovin’” comes from this movie, after Henry drills the doctor in the nose with his Howitzer of an arm. Also, good God, kids were uttering “funky butt-lovin’” out in the open and our parents did nothing. This is why the Gen Z-ers go to so much therapy. 

Froemming: Gen Z-ers? The kids of this era are now old millennials….

Brown: I meant my friends and I. 

Froemming: You’re not Gen Z, buddy.

Brown: Come on, man, I need this. I just turned 35 and the world is getting more confusing to me by the day. 

Froemming: Anyway, let’s move on from Brown’s sad cling to youth and continue forward. 

Henry is at a Cubs game with his friends, which is another jarring sight to see for — ahem, *cough* rugged young Gen Z-ers like Brown here — since they are at Wrigley without any adult supervision. I mean, they are in downtown Chicago on their own. My parents gave me a lot of space, but I would never have been allowed to the Metrodome with my friends all by ourselves at that age. 

Brown: Between this movie and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” it’s just a norm for unsupervised Chicago kids to just wander over to Wrigley. It beats going to the South side to go watch an unlikable White Sox team, I guess?

With Chet Stedman (Busey) on the mound, the Cubs… 

Wait, they named Busey’s character Chet Stedman?! Bwahahaha! That sounds like one of the names “Mystery Science Theater 3000” used when mocking “Space Mutiny.”

Froemming: I wonder if Chet Stedman will ever get rid of those sideburns.

Brown: Anyways, Chet is getting shelled because he throws as hard as a freshman on the JV squad. I don’t know if Gary Busey has ever pitched a ball before taking this role because he looked all sorts of awkward. 

Anyways, after a home run, the Cubs fans are throwing the ball back on the field, as is tradition at Wrigley along with getting blind drunk and making threats on the life of Steve Bartman. 

After another home run, the ball ends up in the hands of Henry and his buddies. They don’t want to embarrass themselves on national TV (with Cubs games on WGN and all), so Henry decides that sure, he can take more embarrassment. 

Only, when Henry throws the ball with his creaky shoulder, he fires off a rocket that makes it all the way to home plate! You know, over 400 feet away. In seconds. 

*sigh* (REDACTED) you, movie. 

Froemming: Throwing the ball back seems like a dumb tradition. But whatever, I once saw, in a single game in Kansas City in the 90s, two different people sitting by me get whacked by foul balls. One was an old man telling his grandson he needed to keep his eyes peeled for foul balls, only to look up and have his nose shattered.

The second was a few innings later, when a drunk, shirtless man with a mullet was screaming loudly and a foul ball hit him in the back of the head, knocking him out cold.

It was the best baseball game I ever went to.

But Henry here has caught the eye of the owner’s nephew, who looks suspiciously like Richard Nixon. Also, I love the owner of the Cubs in this is the same guy who owned Wally World in the original “Vacation” movie. 

So, this whole next part of the movie is about violating every child labor law known to man, and how the Cubs could actually have lost their franchise due to putting a child in harms way by putting him on a field where balls fly more than 100 mph at people’s heads. 

Brown: In the owner’s box, they utter the line “This Henry’s just a kid.” That should have been the end of the movie. 

Major League Baseball has an age requirement of 18 years old (17 for international players) in order to play. This isn’t some “Air Bud” nonsense where you can be all “It doesn’t say in the rule book that a dog can play.” This is a written rule. 

Yes, this movie is somehow less realistic than “Air Bud.”

Froemming: It takes place in Chicago, known for nefarious politics like dead people voting for JFK and, or course, Barack HUSSEIN Obama. This all checks out, according to OAN. 

Brown: It’s a MLB rule, not a Cubs rule.

Froemming: Yeah and the electoral college has rules too. Didn’t stop the mob from swinging an election to Kennedy

Anyway, the Cubs send some guy to take a look at this minor, who is a child in school, to see if he has what it takes to play for the big leagues.

He absolutely does not. He is a little kid. This whole premise is stupid. 

Brown: Also, yes, Henry throws 100 MPH. Great. You know who else can do that? A lot of major leaguers (granted, not as many in 1993 as today, but still). You know what major league hitters can do with relative ease? Hit fastballs when they know they’re getting a fastball. We’ll get into that later. 

Anyways, the Cubs sign Henry to play. I was really hoping at his introductory press conference that the reporters would just keeping asking “is this a joke” like they did when Homer Simpson and Barney Gumble were vying to join NASA in a space launch. Unfortunately, Chicago doesn’t have a Toby Hunter from the Star Tribune.

When Henry joins the team, we get the whole fish-out-of-water gags, like when he sees grown men dressing in front of him. You know, because having a joke alluding to a 12-year-old boy changing in front of grown men was something you could get away with in the ‘90s. 

Also, pretty sure the Cubs’ coaching staff is dangerously unqualified after we meet pitching coach Phil Brickma, which is director Daniel Stern basically being a Tom Green character?

Froemming: Man, I didn’t know what to make of this character. All I knew is I wanted him dead. 

Anyway, it is Henry’s first game and we realize they have not practiced much with him, because he has no idea what to do. I get baseball could be fast-and-loose in the 90s, based on every movie about it from the era, but I feel they could have prepared this child better. 

But nope. They just throw him in the game, where he gives up a home run right away, beans a few players and Gumps his way into a save. 

Brown: I think that homer Henry gave up to Heddo, the slugger for the Mets that probably moonlights as an ‘80s wrestling villian/”Over the Top” extra, is still in low orbit. As it should be when all the kid can throw is fastballs. 

As Henry is adjusting to life in the majors, his mom’s boyfriend sees dollar signs as he’s trying to get endorsement deals all over the damn place. My question is, did Henry’s mom sign off on this to happen? Henry gets the tryout because Jack (the boyfriend) sets it up, seemingly without mom knowing. I feel like everything would have to run through her before, you know, something insane happens eventually, like getting dealt to the Yankees. We’ll touch on that later. 

Henry also has to balance school and a social life, with his friends unsure of their friend’s new-found fame. Because Henry’s friends suck. Don’t begrudge the success of other people, you rubes. 

Froemming: Well, perhaps the most dangerous element of all this was when Chet Steadman is asked to help teach Henry how to pitch and becomes his de facto guardian on the road. I mean, that is Gary Busey, that alone probably violates all sorts of laws in this country. Eventually, Chet takes a shine to the kid and gives him an autograph, because baseball players are notorious for their non-autographing shit ways. 

Brown: Based off the advice that Chet tries to relay to Henry, Child Protective Services should absolutely be called.

Also, I can almost guarantee this was Busey ad-libbing. I mean, this is how the guy talks unironically. 

Froemming: There is no doubt about it. 

But with his insane nonsense, Henry seems to do better. Which, I guess is a thing. Might as well have Charles Manson yelling his nonsense, it is basically the same thing. 

Brown: Who do you trust more to supervise Henry: Chet or Coach Brickma?

Froemming: Neither. 

Brown: The correct answer is the State of Illinois.

Froemming: Well, Henry helps win the game with his fastballs, fastballs the opposing teams just can’t predict for some damn reason. So now he is accepted by the team. Because it is not how you play the game, it is whether you win or lose. And the Cubs are now winners. 

And here we come to the first road game, where Phil Brickma is like a creepy stranger to Henry, telling him about how to save free food for later and just popping into his hotel room like a more psychotic Kramer. 

Everything about Phil Brickma is jarring and unhealthy and he is one step away from owning a white van with tinted windows. 

Brown: Everything about Brickma screams “body in a wood chipper.”

During a road game at Los Angeles, the Cubs’ manager, Sal Martinella, keeps Henry in for another inning (which is rare for a closer). But by doing that, Henry has to take an at-bat, which is unheard of for a closer and frankly, poor managing. Considering that Sal keeps Brickma employed although Brickma absolutely has bodies buried in his basement like Gacy, Sal should have been canned a long time ago. 

Anyways, Henry hits the deck a few times but draws a walk in the at-bat, all because he’s got too small a strike zone. 

On the bases, Henry starts mocking the Dodgers’ pitcher in a way that would absolutely get him ejected by a professional umpire. If this were an adult pulling this nonsense, the first baseman would absolutely cold-cock the annoying baserunner. 

Froemming: I don’t know, Brown. You sound kinda like a…

Brown: At least you didn’t say I had a big butt. 

All this BS works for Henry as he reaches second on an error. And eventually, he scores a run. 

So yeah, the Cubs are Gumping their way to the top of the division. We get the typical montage of Henry striking out batter after batter, including *checks notes* Bobby Bonilla and Barry (REDACTED) Bonds?!

Froemming: This is obviously before the steroids made Bonds look like The Incredible Hulk. 

But, as we slide into the third act, we find Jack get brutally cucked at a Cubs party by Mary and Chet. So viciously cucked, that he agrees to trick her into selling Henry to the Yankees. Because if there is one thing about the Yankees in the ‘90s, they were basically an all-star team on their own. Especially with George Costanza on their side.

Brown: At the party, there’s one point where Henry and Coach Brickma blow off a pair of attractive women to play a pinball machine right behind them. Getting past the part where these women were looking at 12-year-old Henry with lust in their eyes, that’s exactly what you and I would do at a party like this. I’d get way more enjoyment out of living my inner Tommy than making small talk with strangers. 

Froemming: I think we may have done that at the arcade bar we went to when you visited me here.

Anyway, things are not going so smoothly for Henry. He tapes a Diet Pepsi commercial where he sings (quite horribly) the jingle Ray Charles did for them at that time, reminding me of how depressing things were during the 1990s for musical legends. This causes him to be late to work on the boat with his friends, and he ends up getting into a fight with the fat one that looked too much like me at the time for my comfort. 

Things are not going well for Chet, as Jack’s agreement to get Henry with the Yankees was for the Cubs to ditch their second best pitcher, leading me to realize Larry does not have the makings of a great league owner. So, he finds out the hard cold truth that he is benched for the rest of the season and will be dropped at the end. Out of spite.

If only he had shaved those sideburns.  

He then drives Henry home, where Jack is so upset with Henry’s attitude of wanting to hang out with his friends and be a kid that he basically calls his mom a slut.

Which, I imagine before she beats the bejesus out of him, this went off in her head:

Brown: Jack got sent outside not unlike what Adam Sandler did to Robert Smigel in “Happy Gilmore.”

So the fight stems from both Henry blowing off his contractually-obligated commercial AND over Henry and his mom finding out about the Yankees deal. 

However, we never see Henry go to the Yankees and never get that resolved. … How did he end up not going to New York?! Yes, Henry’s mom didn’t know what she was signing, but she still signed a document approving the move. He should be ending this season in pinstripes!

Froemming: Because he is a (REDACTED) underage child who should not be playing professional baseball. 

Brown: I’d agree with you completely if his mom hadn’t signed the contract. But, she did, so boom, done deal. 

Froemming: Unless it breaks labor laws such as playing in the MLB one has to be 18 or older. Then the contract is void. You just went over this earlier! You know, for a *ahem* *cough* Gen Z-er (?!) you sure have the memory of an old, old man.

Brown: *Rushes to the bathroom to check for grey hairs*

OK, still see all brown hair. Panic attack averted. 

The owner reaffirms his commitment to Henry, but after a day of reconciling with his friends and endangering the lives of their female classmates, Henry says he’s not playing next year. Instead, he just wants to be a kid. 

But there’s still one more game to play. It’s the regular-season finale and the winner of the Mets/Cubs game will play in the World Series. 

… Wait, what? That’s not how baseball works. Back in ‘93, the Cubs and Mets each were in the NL East. Say the Cubs win this game, they’d go into the playoffs to face the NL West champion in a best-of-7 series. The winner of THAT would play in the World Series. 

*sigh* I’m trying to make sense of a movie where a child plays in the majors.

Froemming: I’ll let Ben Affleck explain this.

Because the owner found out Larry tried to sell off Henry, he is out and that means Chet is back in to start the game. But age and, let’s admit it, insanity has taken its toll on old Steadman, he puts in a good start but his arm goes to hell after his last pitch. So, time for Henry to finish out the game!

Only Henry, as we saw at the start of this movie, is a damn klutz and trips over a ball and somehow — almost magically — undoes the super tension in his arm, making him a worthless little kid on a team full of adult athletes. 

He is, as they say, completely (REDACTED). 

But, he comes up with a plan to at least trick the Mets out of two outs. One is the classic (?) hidden ball trick. He walks a guy, only for the first baseman to actually have the ball. 

Which I just googled and found out is not legal in the sport. 

This movie lied to me. This movie can go right to hell! (REDACTED) you Brown for picking it. 

Brown: The hidden ball trick is legal, just not the way Henry did it, where he put the rosin bag in his glove like it was the ball. That should absolutely be a balk. 

The second out comes after another intentional walk. Henry antagonizes the base runner into taking off for second, faking him out and getting the runner out. 

There’s one out left and up to bat is the burly slugger Heddo. You know, the guy who blasted the ball into the Andromeda galaxy in Henry’s first game. 

Meanwhile in the dugout, the team is letting it ride with Henry. Uhh, Skip, you have other relief pitchers, right? And the players on the field know Henry’s arm is gone… is no one going to let the bench know what the scoop is? 

Also, the Cubs are surprised when Heddo steps up to the batter’s box. … Why? You have a batter’s lineup in your dugout. You should have known Heddo was coming up.

Of course they won’t. Because we got a game to win with some bullshit. 

Froemming: Henry throws a changeup, which I love to do when I play baseball video games because it always frustrates the hell out of people. Then Heddo hits a foul ball that probably lands on Mars. Man, I miss steroids in baseball.

Then, on the third pitch, Henry sees the name on his glove is that of his mother’s. She was the one who was a baseball nut in her younger years, not his dumb father who ran out on him. She then speaks to him via telepathy because there is no way in hell he is hearing her voice on the field. She advises he throw a floater, which is also how Tom Haverford bowls in “Parks and Rec.” 

And Heddo strikes out, costing the Mets the game. And, if the ending is to be believed, results in the Cubs winning the World Series. 

Brown: At the end, we see Henry back playing little league baseball. Except when we close in, he’s wearing a Cubs World Series ring. 

And he’s still wearing jeans instead of baseball pants. Did the Cubs not pay you, Henry? You should have enough money to purchase the right equipment. 

Froemming: I am sure Jack swindled all that money from the family.

Brown, let’s run home to recommendations. 

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Brown: Why not? It’s a dumb, innocent kids movie. Watch it if you have children. Don’t watch it if you’re in your mid-30s and don’t remember what generation you are.

Froemming: Yeah, it is a fun enough kids sports movie.

Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN

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