Follow TV Tropes


Film / Rookie of the Year

Go To

The Chicago Cubs needed a miracle... they got Henry Rowengartner.

12-year-old Henry Rowengartner is a Little Leaguer who is a little...inept at playing (as in, he inadvertently throws a fielded ball over the outfield fence instead of to the infield). When he breaks his arm trying to catch a fly ball, it seems like another downer for the kid - until he discovers that the tendons in his arm have healed a little too tight, giving him the ability to throw the ball with amazing force.

After a startling demonstration of this newfound ability at Wrigley Field, Henry is signed on as a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, where he learns that being a professional baseball player is a lot harder than it looks. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues.

Was the big acting break for future American Pie star Thomas Ian Nicholas. Also featured Gary Busey, Albert Hall, Daniel Stern (who also directed), Eddie Bracken, Dan Hedaya and Amy Morton. It also features John Candy in an uncredited supporting performance as Cubs announcer Cliff Murdoch.

One of two big semi-family-oriented baseball movies in 1993. The other was The Sandlot.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Athlete: Discovered after his healed arm allows him to throw a home run ball from the outfield bleachers all the way back to home plate.
  • Accidental Misnaming: The team's manager constantly misremembers Henry's last name.
  • Amusing Injury: Henry accidentally hits his doctor in the nose while testing his completely healed arm.
  • Artistic License Biology: Tendons don't act like springs or generate significant force on their own. That's the muscles' job and the muscle mass required for Henry's arm to be anywhere near that powerful exceeds that present in the average kid's, let alone one who has spent a significant amount of time in a cast.
  • Artistic License Medicine: In case it isn't clear, no, we cannot make people into superhuman pitchers via breaking their arms.
  • Artistic License Sports / Loophole Abuse derailed: In real life, the minimum allowed age for a Major Leaguer is sixteen.
    • When Henry throws the home run ball from the outfield bleachers back to the catcher, the players and ump treat it like a live play. It isn't. Although, this can be excused by the fact that everyone was visibly stunned by the ball suddenly flying across the field and, having never experienced such a wild situation before, weren't entirely sure where to take the action from there, so they just decided to treat it as live.
    • At the end of the film, Henry is allowed to play in Little League after his Major League stint. Even if he were able to pitch in the Majors (see above), that would disqualify him from playing in Little League.
    • After Henry steals a base against the Dodgers, their pitcher hits Suarez and shouts at Henry "That's for you, kid!" Saying out loud that he intentionally threw at a batter out of anger would have him immediately ejected.
    • Like a similar goof-up in Major League, Heddo is the last batter Henry faces in the climactic game after setting down eight in a row. However, that would've meant Heddo should've been the last batter Steadman faced before leaving (even weirder, everyone acts surprised Heddo is even coming to bat, as if he just materialized into the game). This one could, however, be adequately explained if Heddo were coming in as a pinch-hitter. This is likely the writers' intent since Heddo was not shown fielding during the game, but why would the Mets leave a slugger like Heddo on the bench until the ninth inning of a playoff game?
    • The hidden ball trick is a time-honored tradition in MLB; however, the way they used it in the climax here should have been called a balk, as Henry is standing astride the rubber without the baseball. Further, he hides the rosin bag in his glove to further fool the runner, a big no-no in baseball (he can only use it to dry his pitching hand; he can't apply it to anything else, including the ball.) At the very least, the runner should've been at second; at the very worst, Henry should have been ejected.
    • As was the case in The Scout, it would be incredibly unlikely, if not impossible, that a player who has never played a game of professional baseball in his life would jump directly to the Major Leagues.note  Henry would have almost certainly pitched in the Minor Leagues first to learn how to actually play at the professional level, and to get some actual game experience, before being called up.
      • Of course the main point of bringing Henry directly to the Cubs was as a publicity stunt designed to fill the stadium to avoid forfeiting the franchise. This sort of stunt had been done before in real life, although obviously not with someone this young.
    • The Cubs and Mets play their final game to decide the division winner. The announcer declares the winner would "go on to the World Series", but in actuality, they would have to face the league's other divisional winner in a best-of-seven series to determine the pennant winner and a trip to the World Series. The film's release year, 1993, would also be the last time baseball's postseason would be in this format after 24 years, expanding to three division winners and a "wild card" spot to the next-best record per league the following year.
    • Also, whenever Henry fans one of his many victims, the umpire calling it makes a verbal call, even on a swinging strikeout; in real baseball, umpires reserve the dramatic, verbal calls for called strikeouts (backwards Ks), while being quieter on swinging ones (simply making fists).
  • As You Know: Used between Cubs announcers Cliff and Ernie before going on the air to tell the audience about the historic futility of the Cubs.
    Ernie: I think this is gonna be the season for the Cubs!
    Cliff: The season, why would you think this would be the season? When we haven't won a pennant since '45 and a Series since, uh...
    Ernie: 1908!
  • Big Bad: The closest thing there is to one is a player named in the credits as "Heddo", a hard-hitting slugger who plays for the New York Mets and is a massive jerk.
    • Jack Bradfield (the guy who Mary is dating and briefly becomes Henry's sports agent) and Larry Fisher (scheming nephew of Cubs owner Mr. Carson) are also pretty villainous, in that they scheme to sell Henry's contract to the Yankees for a boatload of money, although at least in Fisher's case, it's more out of desperation due to the financial struggles of the team. He just goes about it in a very sneaky way.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Becky Fraker. Henry tries to give excuses why he can't talk to Becky, the Head-Turning Beauty at school, but George is quick to point out her obvious assets.
    Henry: Forget it, guys. She doesn't like me. And besides, she's not that hot.
    George: Not that hot?! She's stacked! Just look at her sipping that milk. Milk's done that body good.
  • The Cameo: Then-major league star sluggers Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Pedro Guerrero cameo as victims of Henry's strikeouts.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mary's underhanded lobs.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Brickma, full stop.
  • Credits Gag: The end credits list Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Pedro Guerrero, all playing themselves, as "Three Big Whiffers"; they all strike out against Henry during a montage in the film.
  • Curse Cut Short:
  • Custom Uniform: Henry's Little League team allows him to wear jeans and sneakers rather than the proper stirrup pants and cleats. Hand Waved by saying he never gets to play in the first place.
    • At the end of the movie, he's wearing his giant World Series ring while playing!
  • Death Glare: During his first game, Henry yells out some Little League-style encouragement to his idol Chet, who promptly gives up a base hit amidst the noise; Chet gives one of these to Henry, who meekly sits back down.
  • Description Cut: While the hapless Cubs are getting pummeled yet again:
    Ernie: Poor Mr. Carson, his last season as team owner. He must be really depressed.
    (cut to Carson looking at his Cracker Jack prize)
  • Disability Superpower: The entire premise of the movie is based on Henry breaking his arm and having it heal in an unusual way, causing his arm to snap when he rotates his shoulder.
  • Disappeared Dad: Henry's dad
  • Down to the Last Play: The last game is Cubs 2-to-1 by the time they field Henry. Henry strikes out batters all the way to the final inning where he accidentally trips over a ball sitting on the field. He lands the same way as in the beginning of the movie and, while he doesn't re-break his arm, he ruins the healing that let him pitch fast. Because they can't just yank him back out, he is forced to use some guile and force the batters out through other means. Then Heddo shows up...
  • Foreshadowing: Fisher threatens to have his aide demoted to hot dog vendor when he thinks the latter's joking about their mystery fast thrower (Henry) being a child. When Fisher's plan to sell Henry to the New York Yankees is revealed, guess where he ends up.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Steadman's surgically-repaired shoulder finally gives out in the final game of the film. Henry also resets his tendons accidentally after taking a fall similar to the one earlier in the film, and loses his superhuman velocity for the final inning.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: "Ffffffff-Funky butt-lovin'..." He plays it as if he's about to make an Atomic F-Bomb, but corrects himself on the Fffff.....
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Chet delivers a long, rambling Rousing Speech to Henry during one of his first times on the mound, all about "The Have-To". As he heads back to the dugout...
    Chet: The 'have-to'? What the heck was I talking about?
    Henry: What the heck was he talking about?
    Manager: What did you say?
    Chet: You wouldn't understand.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Why Henry tells the owner he's going to give up playing for the Cubs once the season is over.
  • Innocent Innuendo: When Brickma shows Henry all a baseball party has to offer, he stops in front of two gorgeous women.
    Brickma: Excuse me, ladies.
    [the women stare at him expectantly]
    Brickma: Excuse me.
    [confused, the women leave, to reveal a pinball machine behind them]
  • Jerkass: Heddo, who mocks Henry during the game.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chet Steadman.
  • Locked Up and Left Behind: Brickma accidentally gets stuck between the connecting doors of two hotel rooms and only gets rescued when housekeeping finds him. Then before the final game, he gets locked in his clubhouse locker and is stuck there the whole time.
    • The first thing he does when he's first seen in the film is catch the clubhouse locker door as it's closing before he gets locked in. It seems to be a recurring issue for him.
  • Mama Bear: Henry's mom.
    (Henry dives back to first on a pickoff attempt)
    Mary, watching on TV while working: HE HIT HIM TOO HARD!
    Mary's client: He was just trying to make the tag—
    Mary: (turns gardening knife on him) Hey...
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": While everyone is watching Henry's press conference on TV:
    Fish: You wanna see Henry pitch? Come out to Wrigley!
    *cut to everyone watching on TV*
    Henry's teammates: AHHHHHHHHH!!!!
    Henry's Little League coach: AHHHHHHH!!!!
    Henry's doctor sits on his patient's leg: AHHHHHHHH!!!!
    • Everyone's reaction when the last player Henry needs to strike out is Heddo, the exact same person whom he pitched against at the start of his career and who scored a home run off him. Heddo summarizes it by telling Henry, "I'm your worst nightmare!"
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Bruce Altman goes for it during Jack's Villainous Breakdown.
  • Montage: The four months Henry's been in the cast, as well as when he becomes a pitching sensation.
  • Musical Gag: The opening drumming fanfare when the classic Fox logo comes up initially makes the viewer think they're going to hear the famous studio theme; instead, the drums slightly changes melody as it instead segues into the film's main theme.
  • Now What?: Henry's best friends, Clark and George, had an existential crisis after seeing him off on his first road trip.
    George: Let's go back to our dull lives to search for meaning.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Henry hears his arm making a creaking noise as he's about to throw the baseball back in the field.
    • Henry, Mary, and Chet all have a continuous one when the manager sends Henry out to bat.
    • Fish, when Henry mentions to Carson that Fish went behind his back to sell Henry to the Yankees.
  • Old Shame: In-Universe. The manager beaned Brickma during their playing days, implying that brain damage from that beaning led to how he acts today. He also implies this is why Brickma has his current job.
  • Parental Substitute: Chet Steadman quickly becomes a father figure for Henry.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Henry is just a kid, but he can throw fastballs at over 100 miles an hour because his arm healed funny.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Henry's fame nearly ruined his friendships with George and Clark, and they eventually get in a fight. They would repair their friendship after Jack was cut out of Henry's life.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mary and Chet get increasingly angry at what they perceive to be the Dodgers pitcher throwing at Henry (despite the fact he's basically outside the batter's box and is so skittish, he falls even if when it's not close to him).
    *Henry takes another dive during a pitch*
    Mary: You big ugly piece of--
    Chet: SHIT!
  • Product Placement: Henry makes a commercial for Diet Pepsi, singing along with Ray Charles's famous jingle for the product at the time. Amusingly, Henry isn't very good at it, considering he's 12.
    Director: I need you to be
  • Public Secret Message: Down to the final out vs. Heddo, Henry without his superhuman velocity is out of ideas, but his catcher has one of his own, putting down a fastball sign to Henry and stresses aloud "He can't hit your fastball." Henry understands and throws his kid-level "velocity", completely fooling Heddo, expecting a 100+ mph fastball and flails wildly for strike one. The bench and announcers believe Henry purposefully threw a change-up.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: When Mr. Carson finds out Fish tried to sell Henry to the Yankees, he demotes him to selling hot dogs in the stands.
    • Also counts as Ironic Echo. Fish threatened another employee with this very fate.
  • The Reveal: Henry peeling back the masking tape on his glove to reveal it was his mother's, figuring out that all the stories she told allegedly about his "pitcher father" were actually about her.
  • Running Gag: Doors closing of their own accord behind Brickma. It causes serious trouble for him a couple times in the film.
  • Save Our Team: The Cubs have to sell out every game for the rest of the season, or else MLB will seize control of the franchise. This is what gives Fish the impetus to sign Henry (as Carson was planning to hand the reins over to him), but then the subplot is essentially dropped, as selling out seems to be taken as a given once Henry starts playing. It's also possible that they were able to raise ticket prices, creating some breathing room.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Henry finally tires of Jack's scheduling of endorsement shoots and wants to go back to his friends, which then reveals Jack's corrupted nature.
  • Shipper on Deck: Henry for his mom and Chet Steadman.
  • Shout-Out: The way Henry tries to enter the Cubs' clubhouse is a nod to Dorothy at the gates of Oz.
  • Sore Loser: After Henry finally strikes Heddo out and wins the final game, Heddo throws a tantrum on home plate.
  • Stunned Silence: Henry causes an entire stadium to fall silent when he chucks a ball from the outfield bleachers to home plate.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Played with. A man in the stands who failed to throw back a home run gets angry when Henry throws another one from the nosebleed section of center field to home plate, thinking it was to show him up. He tries to go after Henry, but his friend stops him, saying simply "He'd kill ya" if he tried to fight a kid with such a strong arm.
  • Talk to the Fist: How Mary finally ends her relationship with Jack; it knocks him out the screen door and down the front steps.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Mary's boyfriend Jack goes from a dorky, if well-meaning guy to a complete and total ass as soon as he gets a taste of big money. Also becomes jealous when Mary and Steadman grow close.
  • Try Not to Die: Chet's very brief pep talk to Henry before the latter goes to bat for the first time.
    Chet: Remember, stay low.
    Henry: Yeah, and?
    Chet: And....don't get killed!
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Henry is signed because of his blazing fastball, but his first few outings on the mound go badly because he's so raw; he struggles to find the strike zone, gives up home runs, and has to be bailed out by the rest of the team's fielding.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Double Subverted. Mary told Henry stories of how his dad was a great baseball player. She later admits that he walked out on them when she was pregnant with Henry and was never a baseball player. However, Henry confessed that he knew all along, his grandmother told him the truth when he was in the second grade. He never said anything because he thought his mom liked it when she tells him stories about how "great" his dad was. Near the end of his last game, he discovers that his mom was the great baseball player all along.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: The team manager finally gets Henry's name right in the Division Championship after Steadman's arm gives out. This actually confuses Henry.
    Henry: What did he call me?