The Winning Team
The Winning Team is a 1952 biographical film directed by Lewis Seiler. It is a fictionalized biography of the life of major league pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887–1950) starring Ronald Reagan as Alexander, Doris Day as his wife, Aimee, and Frank Lovejoy as baseball star Rogers Hornsby.
|The Winning Team|
Thaatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lewis Seiler|
|Produced by||Bryan Foy|
|Screenplay by||Ted Sherdeman|
|Story by||Seeleg Lester|
|Music by||David Buttolph|
|Edited by||Alan Crosland Jr.|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
It includes his heroic performance in three games in the 1926 World Series against the New York Yankees, where the 7th inning strikeout of Tony Lazzeri is used as the game-ending, Series-winning pitch.
This movie starts with "Alex" (Ronald Reagan) in his birth home on his parents’ farm in Elba, Nebraska. While standing and speaking with his father a man comes up to them and lets them know that there is an exhibition baseball game between the local farmers and those of a minor league baseball team. Grover Cleveland Alexander "Alex" runs to where that game is taking place.
The scene switches to where his fiancé Aimee (Doris Day) is talking with her father. Her father does not have a very good opinion of Alex because he is more interested in baseball than in farming. He is worried for his daughter's future.
The game between the farmers and the team is a betting place. Many come to see this game and they know that with Alex pitching they can't lose. As we watch this game Alex strikes out everyone. When he wins the game he returns home.
Doris is at home waiting for Alex. Aimee's father offers to put a down payment on a farm for his daughter. After a small argument Doris switches to her father's side and promises that Alex will not play baseball.
Now we go forward to a Church meeting where an invited guest was to show film shots of his recent journey to Norway. As he begins his presentation the first film is upside down and way out of focus. He begins to speak about that film once it has been fixed to the screen when a noise is heard. It is the sound of a back-firing automobile. Our peek to outside shows this car drive up to the front door of the chapel. the driver gets out and opens the door which causes the light from outside to blur out the picture on the screen. Then the driver announces that he is looking for Alex. After walking from the back of the chapel to the front and announces his search, he finally sees Alex and asks him to come outside with him. While they are standing outside the driver asks Alex if he can really pitch like he did at the earlier game whenever or was it a fluke.
The next thing we see is Alex pitching to this driver who we now know is the manager of the team he beat. Aimee is shown inside and listening to the presentation which is now interrupted by the sound of a ball hitting a glove over and over again. Alex is offered fifty dollars a month if he will consider playing for his team. Alex agrees to play and is shown playing baseball with the new team, the Galesburg Boosters. He sent a baseball card with his picture along with money on a regular basis so he could buy the farm for him and his fiancé.
During one of the games Alex got on base after being walked. He was warned not to slide as he ran the bases by his coach. the next pitch to the next batter was hit and Alex ran to second base. While he ran the second baseman caught the ball to get Alex out and then threw the ball to first base where it hit Alex right in the head. He woke up three days later in the hospital surrounded by Aimee and his mother. That ended his 1909 season of baseball.
During the off season between 1909 and 1910 he now has enough money to buy that farm and to marry Aimee. There is a funny part between a car and a wagon here. After arriving at the farm he goes out back while his wife is changing and starts chucking mud balls at a fence. His eyes are out of whack and he sees everything in double. He hires a catcher to catch for him and he is always just a bit off because of his eyesight.
In 1910 he returns to baseball after he wakes up one morning and his eyes are perfect again. His record during that year was 29-11 as he now played for the Syracuse Stars in the class B New York State League. Then he is sold to the Philadelphia Phillies for 750 dollars.
We now turn to what Doris Day is known for. The scene is a Christmas at the farm where the family is gathered around and Aimee sings. Now we return to the regularly scheduled movie of baseball.
The first game with the Phillies is the 1911 City Series. He throws five innings of perfect no hit, no run baseball. His official Major League baseball debut is on April 15th of that year. During one game he is facing Rogers Hornsby. The catcher passes on a tidbit of info that if Hornsby strikes out he will be booted off the team. Alex tells the catcher what the next pitches will be and Hornsby is able to connect with one of them.
In 1918 Alex spent most of that year in France as a Sergeant with a Field Artillery unit where he was exposed to mustard gas and a shell that exploded near him caused partial hearing loss. As a result of the shell he developed epileptic seizures. This didn't help matters because he also suffered from a drinking problem. He was now back in the states and was still pitching in 1919.
He was traded from Philadelphia to Chicago and pitched for the Cubs during the 1920 season where he won the triple crown while pitching. While playing a Game at Forbes Field his hearing problem returns. In the sixth inning while on the mound, Alex falls down and his teammates carry him off the field. It turns out to be an epileptic seizure.
The next scene shows Alex in his doctor's office. He has just been told that if he wants to live he should probably go back to that farm life he grew up with. Alex is not hearing of that. He tells the doctor that he really doesn't want his wife Aimee to know.
As Alex is walking down the street, he is in front of a speak-easy and, after letting a couple of people in, the doorman recognizing Alex and invites him in for a drink, "On the house." He is shown totally inebriated. As he lays his head down into his arm a customer is seen walking to a telephone booth. He asks for the sports desk. When the person on the other end answers the person tells the other end that he knows why Alex fell at the ballgame today. It is because, "He's a Lush." The papers are filled with stories of the drinking problems of Alex.
We are now taken to a baseball game where Alex fields a ball and basically throws it away to the first basemen. He is removed from the game.
Alex is next shown where drinking seems to be his new pastime. We see him as he stumbles down an alley and then falls as he reaches the end. he is removed from the cubs and sent to a team called the "House of David." All this time his wife is trying to find him because she lost track of where he was.
Aimee is finally told where "Alexander the Great" is. He is now on a main show liner at a circus. He is touted as the man who can answer all your questions about baseball--and specifically about pitching. Aimee buys a ticket, but when he comes out from the rear of the tent she hides. He spews out many facts and figures about his own career and then asks if anyone has any questions. Aimee leaves without contacting him.
When Aimee does get in touch with him she tells him that she knows of his medical conditions. He is contacted by his old friend Roger Hornsby, at the bequest of Aimee, and is offered a pitching job with the St. Louis, Cardinals.
We are now taken to the World Series of 1926 when the St. Louis, Cardinals and the New York, Yankees are squaring off. Alex pitches the second and the sixth games of the series and they win both of them. At the conclusion of the sixth game Alex and Aimee have a conversation in the tunnel of the stadium. It is here when she learns that he looks to her and gets his strength while pitching during this season. He also tells her that she looks tired because he has relied on her so much.
The Cardinals tie up the series at 3-3. It is now the seventh game. Aimee is not at the stadium because she is packing their stuff for a vacation that will start as soon as the game is over. Alex is not expected to pitch today at all. It is a close game. They are at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis and in the seventh inning the pitcher of record has allowed the bases to be loaded. Roger Hornsby, player/manager comes in and pulls the pitcher. He somehow gets a message to the bullpen for Alex to come out and pitch them out of the mess. When Alex gets to the mound he looks and finds that Aimee is not there. Aimee is at the street ready to call for a taxi when she reads on the ticker-tape board across the street that her husband has now been called on to pitch. She has the bell hop at the street to get her a taxi right away so she can get to the stadium.
While she is in traffic Alex is pitching to this batter without her as his rock. He pitches out of the inning and Aimee arrives at the stadium before the ninth inning. She sits in her chair and he sees her. The Cardinals win the series!
Baseball writer Bill James called the film "an awful movie, a Reader's Digest movie, reducing the events of Alexander's life to a cliché."
- Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander
- Doris Day as Aimee Alexander
- Frank Lovejoy as Rogers Hornsby
- Eve Miller as Margaret Killefer
- James Millican as Bill Killefer
- Russ Tamblyn as Willie Alexander
- Gordon Jones as George Glasheen
- Hugh Sanders as Joe McCarthy
- Frank Ferguson as Sam Arrants
- Walter Baldwin as Pa Alexander
- Dorothy Adams as Ma Alexander
- Bob Lemon as Jesse 'Pop' Haines
- Jerry Priddy as Ballplayer
- Peanuts Lowrey as Ballplayer
- George Metkovich as Ballplayer
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953