Film / Angels in the Outfield

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The roughest guy you ever met, until an angel said hello!
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It could happen!

"Even though you can't see us, we're always watching."
Al the Boss Angel, 1994 remake

Angels in the Outfield is a film released in 1951 and remade in 1994.

The 1951 film was directed by Clarence Brown and stars Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh. It's about Pittsburgh Pirates manager Duffy McGovern (Douglas) being visited by invisible angels who will give his team miracles, as long as he stops swearing and controls his violent temper. A girl from the local Catholic orphanage can see the angels, and a woman reporter (Leigh) who's been covering the Pirates prints the story. McGovern's bête noire is Fred Bayles (Keenan Wynn), a snarky sportscaster who wants to get something on him. When the manager is beaned by a fastball he lets slip about "talking to angels", and a sanity hearing ensues. Meanwhile, the angels let McGovern know that his veteran pitcher Saul Hellman (Bruce Bennett) is about to be "signed up" in Heaven, and McGovern resolves to give Hellman one more turn on the mound. Naturally, the Pirates eventually take the NL pennant, and the reporter and McGovern ultimately get together and adopt the little girl.

The 1994 Disney remake, directed by William Dear and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Lloyd, is about a boy praying that the California Angels will win the pennant, mistakenly believing that if they do, he will reunite with his Disappeared Dad. Roger (Gordon-Levitt), currently in foster care, had asked his dad when they will be a family again, to which his father replied sarcastically, "I'd say when the Angels win the pennant." Taking his father's words to heart, Roger prays for God to help the hapless, last-place Angels win. After he prays, a star unseen by Roger twinkles in the sky. Then, in a game attended by Roger and his foster brother JP, Roger sees a group of angels led by boss angel Al (Lloyd) helping the team. Although Roger can see the angels quite clearly, everyone else can only explain the seemingly impossible acts as freak occurrences. Roger's unique ability to see which players are receiving help from angels leads the Angel's skeptical manager, George Knox (Danny Glover) to keep Roger around as a good luck charm/consultant. Due to the much needed help, the Angels start to win games and make a surprising second-half surge to the top of their division, led by the angel-aided resurgence of washed-up pitcher Mel Clark (Tony Danza).

Both versions are standard kids' movies — the original has appeal to adults as well — but feel-good ones ultimately about the power of faith wrapped around a sports story. The 1994 version was followed by two Made For TV sequels , 1997's Angels in the Endzone (Same thing as Outfield, but football) and 2000's Angels in the Infield which replaced Christopher Lloyd with David Alan Grier as the head angel.

Provides Examples Of:

  • And Starring: Christopher Lloyd
  • Angrish: Duffy's foul, filthy mouth is depicted by cutting the audio to pieces, sticking it back together at random and playing it backwards.
    • Knox in the remake is said to be profane, but to keep the rating appropriate for small children the audience just hears Knox muffled and from a distance. Roger covers up JP's ears and then suggests to Knox that the angels might not like to hear so much cussing.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: In the remake, the team owner is outraged with Knox's "hogwash" story about real angels helping the team, which is how anyone would respond—except that the entire country has been watching miracles occur on the field hundreds of times over the course of the season. Now, granted, angels are still a far-fetched explanation, but is it all that crazy at this point?
    • The whole "Real Angels" deal being rejected might seem ludicrous since this is set in the USA, where the overwhelming majority of people are Christians. Christians not believing in heavenly help might just look silly, but many actually do not believe in that level of direct intervention and certainly not in sports as opposed to, say, natural disasters where people inexplicably survive. In the original film, the nuns discount angelic assistance on the ballfield and Sister Edwitha loudly denies it to the press, insisting that Bridget had "been out in the sun too long." She later has the child hospitalized and brings in a psychiatrist. Bridget is completely cognizant of what's going on: "Sure. You want to find out if I'm wacky."
    • The arbitrary distinction is lampshaded by Maggie at the sanity hearing.
      Maggie: When a professional football player drops to one knee to thank God for making a touchdown, nobody laughs at that. Or when a pitcher crosses himself before going to the mound, no one laughs at that either. It's like you're saying it's okay to believe in God, but it's not okay to believe in angels.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In-Universe example; the Angels are largely nonchalant about the fact that they are on a fifteen-game losing streak, and after just watching their coach and pitcher resort to fisticuffs on the mound are much too quick to blow it off before Knox comes in and gives them a damning putdown of their embarrassing performance. It's only after the real angels have given them a real shot at the pennant that they take their next loss a lot more seriously.
  • Artistic License Sports: In the remake. In 1993, the American League was divided into two divisions of seven teams each. The Angels would still have to go through another seven-game series against the Eastern champion to win the pennant. note 
  • Bad Boss: Duffy starts off as this. He gets better though.
    • George Knox likewise.
    • Played straight with Ranch Wilder, who constantly cuts Wally off in his broadcasts.
  • Big Brother Bully: Miguel is a light, foster version of this to JP, such as telling him that "you could drop dead after dinner" because of poisoned Jello.
  • Billed Above the Title: During the opening credits, Danny Glover gets his name in before the production company.
  • Bowdlerize: In the remake, George Knox accuses his players of having their "heads up [their] butts." TV airings change this to "screwed on backwards."
  • Brick Joke: The "prison photo" quip.
  • Butt-Monkey: David exists so funny things happen to him and the audience can laugh at his reaction.
  • Cassandra Truth: First Roger, then Knox when trying to convince people about the angels. It nearly costs Knox his job.
  • Catch-Phrase: JP's "It could happen!"
  • Children Raise You: Duffy learns a lot from Bridget and becomes more of a Reasonable Authority Figure as he begins to ease into a fatherly role.
    • Knox in the sequel, by surrogate parenting Roger and JP.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Pitcher Whitt Bass. The announcers even run down several crazy things they've seen him do during the season. This also makes him the butt jokes by the team; the Latino players trick him into thinking "The Star-Spangled Banner" is about a guy named Jose.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: You never see the angels in the original film. It's all done subtly and explained as the angels inspiring Duffy and his players to make better decisions on the field. At one point Duffy tells the batting coach "Tell him to bunt — No. Let him hit away." The batter socks it over the left field fence and the coach asks how he knew, since this man isn't much of a longball hitter. Duffy says he just "had a feeling", but his hat is knocked off seconds later and we're to understand one of the angels did it in affection.
    • In the remake, when an angel shows up besides a player, Roger has to convince Knox to use him even if it goes against all common sense. For instance, Roger suggests that Knox have his light-hitting bench player pinch-hit for his cleanup hitter in the bottom of the 9th because of an angel presence.
    Knox: I can't substitute my WORST hitter for my BEST hitter!
  • Crazy-Prepared: David becomes this after the boys ruin the first of his many linen suits.
  • Crisis of Faith: Roger suffers one after his dad gives up custody even after the Angels start winning. The kicking line comes the night after the court hearing (Roger is sullenly throwing a baseball into his glove over and over):
    JP: Look, it's God's thumbnail!
    Roger: That's just the moon, JP. No God up there. (Roger's throw misses his glove and the ball rolls away from the porch.)
  • Combined Energy Attack: A mundane variety; in the final game, the entire crowd does the "An Angel is Here" signal to inspire Mel Clark.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: Roger's dad's quip of him and Roger getting back to becoming a family again "maybe when the Angels win the pennant" was meant to be the equivalent of "when pigs fly", seeing as how at the All-Star Break (a little after the mid-point of the season) the Angels were dead last and mired in a 15-game losing streaknote . Roger thought he was being literal and prayed to God for this to happen. Subverted when Roger's dad officially gives up custody and walks out of the courtroom just as Roger enters despite the Angels' sudden turnaround in the standings. Then Double Subverted when, after the Angels win the pennant, Roger does get adopted by Knox (along with JP).
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Roger's dad breaks his heart when, after the Angels are well on their way to winning the pennant (which he sarcastically said would be when they could be a family again), he gives up custody of Roger to the state.
  • Down to the Last Play: Both versions have the Bottom of the Ninth version.
  • Expy: Owner Hank Murphy is one for famed country singer Gene Autry, who was the long-time owner of the Angels. It's pretty much limited to Murphy's ten-gallon hat and on-the-ranch sayings.
  • Exact Words: Roger never mentioned his father being a part of the family in any manner, although that was his intention when he makes his prayer in the beginning. In the end, when Roger's dad gives up custody but the Angels have won the pennant, we find out that, of all people, Knox calls child services about adopting Roger. And he's even willing to adopt JP to boot!
    "God... If there is a God... if you're a man or a woman... if you're listening, I'd really, really like a family. My dad says that will only happen if the Angels win the pennant. The baseball team, I mean. So, maybe you can help them win a little."
  • Game of Nerds: In the 1994 version, Roger has a whole team full. Understandable since they're all ten years old or younger.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: Roger, JP, and Knox do this to David every time they need to shoo him away and talk about the angels.
    Knox: Buy them Angels jackets!
    David: It's ninety degrees outside!
    Knox: Get your butt up there now!
  • Good Luck Charm: Duffy has a "good-luck piece" he loses, and it's when he goes out on the deserted infield to find it that he first hears the angel (whose first words to him are "Oh, shut up!"). When the angel departs, a feather floats down onto third base; he finds his good-luck piece there.
    • Knox doesn't believe in the angels, but the team is winning when Roger and JP are there, so he has it arranged so they'll be at every home game to keep the winning ways going.
    • The players also touch a pole in the clubhouse after a game as a good-luck tradition. Hemmerling mentions that after 15 straight losses, they should find something else to rub; resident cuckoolander Bass makes a good point by remarking that they should probably touch the pole before the game.
  • Guardian Angel: Al, and it's implied the unnamed angel who talks to McGovern in the original is his guardian angel.
  • God Is Good: All the orphans and the nuns are huge Pirates fans and Bridget's been praying for the team ever since they hit the slump. Her prayers are answered by angels descending from Heaven to help The Team.
    • In the remake, Roger prays for a miracle (The Angels team winning the pennant), although his motivation is different.
  • Happily Adopted: Bridget ends up adopted by Duffy and Jennifer.
    • Knox adopts Roger and JP in the ending and they are all ecstatic.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Bridget White, eight years old. She has lived in the orphanage all her life.
    • Both Roger and JP but especially JP because he's also The Cutie.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ranch badmouths George and the entire team on air in the final play of the game right after the entire stadium throws all their support behind Mel on the pitcher's mound. Murphy hears it all and fires him after the game.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Seems to be a prerequisite for seeing angels. Only the innocent children can do it. Duffy never sees the angels even after he completely reforms. Out of all the children, only Bridget sees them, reasoning that it's because she's been praying for the team. Knox can see Al at the very end of the movie when he completes his Character Development.
  • Ironic Echo: "Less is more!"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Duffy, obviously.
    • Lots of them in the Disney version with Knox being an obvious example. Despite the cranky personality he's baseline good.
  • Jerkass:
    • McGovern starts out as one, and Bayles isn't much better.
    • Ranch Wilder. It's heavily implied that he slid spikes up into George Knox's knee which caused the injury that ended his career. Not only does he all but gloat to him about it on the air (prompting a well deserved punch to the face), but he takes every opportunity to smear Knox to the Angels faithful. He also manipulates the naive and distraught JP into spilling the beans on the assistance from on high, resulting very nearly in Knox's termination as manager. This windbag deserves every inch of what he gets at the end of the movie - fired.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: "Al" derives his name from the "AL" American League logo on an umpire's hat.
  • Literal-Minded: Roger's dad was being sarcastic when he said that they could become a family again "when the Angels win the pennant" (they were in last place and in the midst of a 15-game losing streak). Roger takes it literally and prays to God for the Angels to win the pennant.
  • Magic 8 Ball: Whitt Bass consults one to see if he'll win his start. The best it will give him is "Maybe" but he'll take it.
  • Magic Feather:
    • In the original, the angels tell McGovern they're withdrawing their aid before the final game, since he lost his temper during a sanity hearing. But they say, "You've been on your own a lot of times this season without knowing it."
    • In the remake, the whole crowd at an Angels baseball game makes wing flapping gestures to help their pitcher make an out, without the divine intervention they've been relying on these past few months.
      • There was also a point in the movie during the montage of amazing plays the Angels perform on their late-season climb where the divine intervention didn't show. Knox sees an amazing play made, and starts making the Angel Sign happily... only for Roger to shrug, meaning that wasn't an angel's doing. Knox is understandably shocked.
  • Missing Mom: In the Disney version, we learn this in the second line of the movie. In the original, we are never told what happened to Bridget's parents, only that she's lived at the Home her entire life.
  • Motivational Lie: When Knox goes out to give Clark a pep talk at the end of the climactic game, a clearly fatigued Clark says he doesn't have anything left. Although he knows they won't show up, Roger begins to make the angel motion and the rest of the dugout and the stadium follows suit. Knox re-instills confidence in Clark by telling him that's the signal that Clark has an angel with him. Since Knox believes that angels and faith are ultimately the same thing, it could be From a Certain Point of View.
    • None of this happens in the original film; instead, Hellman is clearly tiring, Duffy wants to take him out but he says he wants to continue.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Mel Clark, who's even smoking in the clubhouse hot tub. Unknowingly, Mel has lung cancer and only has months to live.
  • No Indoor Voice: Duffy McGovern and George Knox have loud and exuberant voices.
  • Oh, Crap!: Knox in the remake when he realizes that he's going to be fired for saying that there are real angels.
  • Orphanage of Love:
    • In the original film, St. Gabriel's Home for Orphan Girls is this and it's run by pleasant, practical-minded Hollywood Nuns.
    • Maggie's house in the Disney version isn't a bad place to be, either. Maggie is an Apron Matron that serves Jello.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The angels fit the standard good-guys-with-wings image, as befits a feel-good kids' movie. They are repelled by foul language, being pure and ethical in all respects. The one who originally exhorts Duffy to change his ways is a pretty tough but clean talker and hints he and the other angels (the "Heavenly Choir Nine") are former ballplayers.
    • At one point, Al intervenes to interrupt Knox's argument with an umpire. He makes Knox pleasantly agree with the umpire instead.
      • This happens to Duffy, and he reminds his angel that he has to be able to argue with the umpires; the angel tells him there's plenty of clean language he can use. He begins by reading Shakespeare and using Flowery Elizabethan English epithets:
      Umpire. Fair!
      Duffy. (stalking out onto the field) Fair? Fair? Fair ball? Why, thou knave, thou dolt! Thou hast eyes but seest not!
      Umpire 2. You heard him, he said fair.
      Duffy. Fie, fie upon you and a pox upon you too. Thou art blind, thou black-livered bat!
    • In the original, they work mostly by influencing the players' and manager's intuition.
    • In all fairness, the new version just had them lending a hand, so to speak. In both pictures, they don't influence every play of every game and explicitly don't show up at all for the championship.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Al and JP are about humor; Al for the oddball humor and JP for more Comically Missing the Point.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: In both versions, Hellman in the original and Clark in the remake — only there's a minor variation. It was the manager's idea, not the player's.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Hank Murphy, the owner of the Angels.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: A great one - even having to work with language that could fit in a kids' movie, it's a scathing rant - in the 1994 film when the Angels lose yet another game:
    George Knox: One more loss! One more loss which could've been a win! And you call yourselves professionals. I have never, ever seen a worse group of twenty-five players! You don't think as a team, you don't play as a team, you don't even LOSE as a team! You've all got your heads so far up your butts, you can't even see the light of day! One more loss and I'll...and I'll do this... (throws a chair at a rack of bats) to each and every one of you! (...) I want you here in uniform at nine tomorrow! We're going back to practicing fundamentals!
    • In the original they don't get this explicit. "I would like to say a few words about today's endeavour with the Cincinnatis. OF ALL THE..." [the rest is gibberish, but Jennifer's shocked expression tells us what he's saying]
  • Rousing Speech: At Knox's press conference in the Disney version, Maggie gives one of these about the angels helping the team win, which inspires the entire team to profess their faith in Knox and allow him to keep his job.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Played for Laughs in the remake. One of the ball players tries to share an optimistic moment with Coach Knox for shedding a tear during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" before a game. Knox shrugs it off as sunscreen getting in his eye.
  • Save Our Team: From being the one that sucks the most!
  • Secretly Dying: Hellman, and he probably knows it.
    • In the remake, Mel Clark. Even he doesn't know he has terminal lung cancer.
  • Sequel: Angels in the Endzone and Angels in the Infield
  • Spiritual Sports: Baseball with angels.
  • Throwing Out the Script: George Knox is being forced to make a statement to the press denying the involvement of real, heaven-sent angels in his team's recent winning streak... but when Roger, J.P. and Maggie come into the room, he abandons his planned speech and instead reaffirms his belief that angels are helping the team win.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Ranch constantly sidelines Wally in their broadcasts by turning his mic off just to get in more of his own airtime, reasoning "Less is more". Wally returns the favor when Ranch is fired at the end.
  • Volleying Insults: In the 1994 film:
    Ranch Wilder: You leave Cincinnati after ten years of winning ball clubs - although the really big one always seemed to be just out of reach - and you come out here to manage our Angels. Now, expectations were high that you could turn this team around. But that just doesn't seem to be happening.
    George Knox: Season's only half-over, Ranch.
    Ranch Wilder: And your club's in last place.
    George Knox: You oughta know how one incident can change the course of events.
    Ranch Wilder: Well, you know, you play the game. You take your chances. Sometimes, you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    George Knox: Yeah, you're an expert at that.
    Ranch Wilder: I could say the same about you.
    George Knox: Well, actions speak louder than words.
  • Wham Line: "That won't make any difference, he won't be around next season. We're signing him up in the spring."
    • "I came to check up on Mel. He's coming up soon. Going to be one of us."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gates, the pitcher George jumps for being insubordinate is seemingly out of sight for the rest of the season.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: JP counts because his Catch-Phrase is "It could happen!" No matter what "it" is.

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