1991 Directed by Robin B. Armstrong. Starring William Russ, Glenn Plummer, Noble Willingham, Jeffrey Tambor, Dierdre O'Connell, Scott Plank.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 4, 1991
Stop reading here if you don't want the ending revealed.How do I spell hokey? P-a-s-t-i-m-e. Roy Dean Bream (Russ) is a 41-year-old relief pitcher for a minor league baseball team in central California. The year is 1957. His glory days consisted of a three-week stint in the majors 12 years earlier -- before he got bumped back to the minors after he blew a bases-loaded pitch to Stan Musial. Roy Dean is a “never-was” who can't give up the ghost. Baseball is his whole life. He's benched for most of his class D team's games (which they're managing to lose very nicely without him, thank you) and he's got to swallow pills and apply liniments to keep his aging body in some semblance of condition. Still, what Roy Dean has going for him is that he has heart, decency and true love for the game. His team members are all put off by his spirit and dedication, seeing in him glimpses of their own futures as bush league has-beens. A young, black kid, 17-year-old, Tyrone Debray (Plummer), joins the team. This new pitcher's got “smoke” in his arm and Roy Dean immediately spots the raw talent and takes the kid under his wing. Roy Dean imparts his wisdom, teaches Tyrone his secret “Bream Dream” pitch and, basically, inspires the kid with determination, dignity and self-respect. Inevitably, Bream is cut from the team and in a frenzy of desperation he climbs the ballpark's fence late at night and proceeds to pitch ball after ball until...guess what...he drops dead on the mound. And that's, more or less, the way this whole script works -- obviously. The team even goes on to “win one for Roy Dean.” What saves this from becoming an utter boys-of-summer cliché-fest is the acting. (Pastime also slides in some cameo performances from major leaguers Ernie Banks, Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, Bill Mazeroski, Don Newcombe and Duke Snider.) The lead performances are all outstanding: Plummer and Russ as the rookie and his mentor, Tambor as the cash-hungry owner of the team, Willingham as the team's crusty but kindly manager and O'Connell as the bartender Roy Dean finally gets the nerve to ask out. They all bring a sense of the genuine to their roles. Their vitality and sincerity save Pastime from becoming a test of endurance.