What: Saint of Second Chances
Type: Documentary feature – 1 hr 33 minutes
Worth Watching: Not really, UNLESS you love those “old timey baseball stories” old guys tell you in a bar over a beer.
Verdict 3 fouls and a pop-out.
I love baseball, and I love baseball stories but Saints of Second Chances is trying so hard to entertain you with the saga of Mike Veeck (“rhymes with wreck”) then decides to just go full out sentimental that the result is very little baseball and a lot “hey one time. this guy actually….”
Bill Veeck, Mike’s father, represented the last of a bygone age when normal people (not billionaires) could be owners of a baseball team for the love of the game. As the owner of the under-funded sagging Chicago White Sox, Veeck turned to his son Mike to create buzz and revenue. Mike, instead, creates disco demolition night – which started as a dog whistle for young, angry, white males (you know – the grandfathers of those “you will not replace us” tiki torch nazis in Charlottesville) , and ended as a riot that destroyed the field, a musical genre, and his father’s career/life.
The story starts a redemptive arc wherein Mike leaves baseball, starts boozing, drugging, has a son and ignores him, etc. Eventually he ends up at the independent league Saint Paul Saints where he gets a chance to make things right. Except. He doesn’t.
The story creates a “The Natural”-esque myth about the power of baseball and a daughter’s love to change a man, but the reality is – he doesn’t change, and the “Saints” had very little to do with any of the redemptions in the film. (It claims they redeemed Daryll Strawberry, but he literally spent 6 weeks there).
The tough part for me is that Mike Veeck is an unlikeable character. His laugh is so annoying it made my spine twitch every time he does it (and he does it a lot). Bragging and blowing about things no one should be proud of = he operates on the predecessor of “fake it til you make it” (ask Elizabeth Holmes how well that works out) – which was ‘What could happen?” – There is no evidence in the film he ever learns that jumping into crazy ideas without looking at the risk is not a great policy. He consistently repeats the error. Even at his most humbled, dealing with the illness and death of his daughter, he cackles and chuckles about his mishaps. In talking about his “great regrets” – he shows no regret.
I had always heard about the “Disco Demolition” from the music history side of the event – a rock DJ was fired because his station changed formats to Disco. He gathers a following of angry young white people who felt disco and funk (the music popular in black, brown, and gay communities) was replacing their precious head banging and in a stunt to feed the flames, causes a riot at Comisky park that served as a signal to the end of the Disco craze.
I was interested in the baseball side – but there’s not a lot to it. Veeck wasn’t a racist/homophobe/rabble rouser. He was just a guy trying to make money who thought “Hey, what could happen?”. After the ruin, he does it several more times until his wife (the real hero of this story) says “You need to grow up or you’re going to miss your daughter’s whole life.”
Once the film realizes Mike’s exploits have given you all the beery chuckles it has, it turned into a father spending the last days with his daughter sentimental tearjerker. I feel badly for his loss, but the Saints had nothing to do with it or helping him. Veeck is not a bad guy, and he tries to be a good guy, but it’s really not enough to carry a film.
Shot in re-enactments and hyper-cut video, the movie jabs you with it’s elbow all the way through saying “It’s funny? Right? Right?”
It will wear you down, though leave you none-the-wiser. I really wanted this to be a better movie.
For a good movie about the power of local baseball and glory days of bygone teams – watch “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” (also on Netflix).