DATELINE: Watch That Beanball
Dead St. Louis Cardinal Stuffed into His Locker
They don’t make’em like this anymore.
Death on the Diamond is a murder mystery movie based on Cortland Fitzsimmons’s novel. Set in the early 1930s, it tells the story of the St. Louis Cardinals—yes, the old Gashouse Gang with Dizzy Dean where and when a murder plot could be believed. The film was made in 1934.
You better believe MLB would never approve this script today.
Robert Young (before he knew best as Father and Dr. Marcus Welby) is hotshot pitcher Larry Kelly, one of many suspicious characters. When players start to be murdered during the pennant drive, no one cancels a game. You can lose a bunch from your starting lineup—but winning is contagious.
The show must go on—and so must the baseball game. They don’t even have a moment of silence. We loved those old days. A player may be strangled in the locker room between innings, but batter up!
If this high gloss production from MGM were not enough in glorious black and white, you have Mickey Rooney as the bat boy and Walter Brennan making hot dogs as a vendor. We recommend you don’t put any extra mustard on that dog.
The film is utterly ridiculous and the perfect way to start spring training. You have a greedy, hostile takeover owner ready to bounce the manager by wanting him to lose. You have a couple of players thrown out of the game for gambling. And, don’t forget the Mob that tempts your favorite athlete with women and drink, as well as bribes. And, the local newspaper reporter is no saint.
Uncovering the homicidal maniac is only half the fun, making the tune “Take Me out to the Ball Game” utterly sinister when it plays.