Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews The Saint of Second Chances

Josh Reviews The Saint of Second Chances

I am head over heels in love with the documentary The Saint of Second Chances, directed by Morgan Neville (who directed the wonderful Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and Jeff Malmberg.

The film explores the story of Mike Veeck.  His father was Bill Veeck, one of the last non-super-wealthy baseball team owners.  Mr. Veeck (pronounced Veck) spent his life in baseball, and at different times in his life he was the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox.  Mr. Veeck was, apparently, a large personality (that might be putting it mildly), and he was a showman, willing to do all sorts of wild and creative things to get people to come to the ballpark.

His son Mike had many of those same qualities.  He shared his dad’s deep love of baseball.  But Mike had some tough times growing up in his father’s shadow, as the film explores.  Unfortunately, Mike found himself persona non grata in baseball for years, after a promotion that he was responsible for went disastrously awry.  That would be the “Disco Demolition Night”, in which disco-haters were invited to a game at Comiskey Park with the promise of burning disco records.  The full story of that night is detailed in the doc; suffice to say, the game turned into a destructive riot, and that seemed to be that for Mike Veeck and baseball.

The film tells the story of how Mike eventually made his way back to baseball.  Along the way, the film takes the time to explore two key relationships in Mike’s life.  The first is with Darryl Strawberry, who was a humongous super-star for the Mets in the eighties before falling from grace because of drugs.  In the nineties, Darryl was untouchable and unhireable.  That is, until Mike (at his wife Libby’s insistence) took a chance and hired Darry for his tiny team, the Saint Paul Saints (who weren’t even a minor league team — they were in another league not connected with Major League Baseball).  Without that move, Darryl would have never been able to eventually find his way back to the Yankees.  (As a huge Mets fan in the eighties, I was fascinated by this segment — this is actually the hook that got me to watch this film in the first place.)  The second is with Mike (and his wife Libby)’s daughter Rebecca.  I don’t want to spoil any of that.

To bring these stories to life, Mr. Neville and Mr. Malmberg make clever use of reenactments, in which Mike is played by Charlie Day, as well as a jovial narration by Jeff Daniels.

But the star of the show is the affable, chatty Mike Veeck himself, who is featured throughout the film looking right into the camera and telling his story.  It’s a bit unusual, but the approach works.  The film feels like Mike is just spinning us some yarns, telling us the story of his life.

I adored this film.  I thought it was beautiful.  It’s fun and raucous and also unexpectedly poignant by the end.

It’s a delightful expression of the love of baseball, and also a wonderful and nuanced story about fathers and their children, and about second chances.

Give it a watch — it’s worth your time!!

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