Roy Hobbs: I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book.
Iris Gaines: And then?
Roy Hobbs: And then? And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.
Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, The Natural is a 1984 film starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a supernaturally gifted young baseball talent whose career is derailed when he is shot in the gut by a deranged fan. Years later he makes his belated big league debut, but his dark secret threatens to destroy him.
Calling Your Shots: Subverted: The Whammer (a Babe Ruth expy) calls his shot in an impromptu showdown with young Roy Hobbs, but goes down on strikes.
Dark Is Evil: Implied with the Judge, who refuses to light his office. Roy doesn't hold this belief so, saying that the only think he knows about the dark is "you can't see in it."
Dawson Casting: 48-year-old Redford plays a teenaged baseball prospect in the opening sequence. Even after the flash-forward, he's too old to play a big league athlete. He tends to get forgiven because, y'know, it's Robert Redford. They do make a minor plot point of his being "the oldest rookie", have other players calling him Grandpa, stuff like that. His character isn't that old (35) but for a rookie baseball player that's ancient.
Expy: "The Whammer", played by Joe Don Baker, is obviously inspired by Babe Ruth. For that matter Hobbs is both a tremendous pitcher (he strikes out the Whammer) and a fearsome slugger, much as Ruth was in real life.
The Film of the Book: Adapted from the novel by Bernard Malamud. Malamud's novel is considerably darker in tone and has a Downer Ending in which Hobbs strikes out at the end and is disgraced, while the movie has a completely opposite ending.
Also, in the book, Hobbs becomes an arrogant Jerkass as a result of his sudden fame.
Gretzky Has the Ball: The New York Knights somehow are batting in the bottom of the inning in Chicago despite being the visiting team.
Hero of Another Story: The young pitcher who faces off against Hobbs in the final game, and who nearly strikes Hobbs out, is described by the game's radio announcer in the same terms that Hobbs is described at the beginning of the movie. This pitcher is another "Natural", and its clear that, given time, he'll end up being one of the greatest players in the game, just like Hobbs.
Mundane Made Awesome: The film makes games in which Hobbs plays seem like Ragnarok. Hobbs knocks the cover off of balls, wedges the ball into the net when he pitches, and at the end his homerun hit destroys the lighting fixtures, causing explosions of sparks to rain down on the field.
Noodle Incident: Baseball players are renowned for being hilariously superstitious. For the Knights, the number 11 is unlucky for some unexplained reason, and their supply manager warns Roy off.
Put Me In, Coach!: Knights manager Pop Fisher is initially highly reluctant to let his absurdly old rookie play in a game.
Throwing the Fight: The Judge wants his own players to throw the climactic game so that he can force out Pop Fisher and take total control of the team.
Truth in Television: Players have indeed hit home runs into scoreboard clocks, light arrays, and through the outfield fence. When Greg "The Bull" Luzinski was playing for the Phillies back in the 1970s, he hit a ball off the Jumbotron. It started smoking and they had to turn it off.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Eddie Waitkus was shot in the chest in his hotel room by a deranged fan in 1949. He recovered from his wound and played six more seasons in the big leagues, starring with the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Philadelphia team that won the National League pennant.
Bump Bailey's fatal collision with an outfield wall was inspired by a similar (but thankfully non-fatal) accident involving talented young Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser.
Whole Plot Reference: To Morte d'Arthur, right down to the manager's name being Fisher (Fisher King), the team being called The Knights, Roy's bat being named (as Excalibur was), broken, and "healed" (in this case, a replacement).