FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The MLB – Major League Baseball — Network has scheduled two showings of University of Arkansas journalism professor Larry Foley’s latest documentary,The First Boys of Spring. The one-hour documentary is narrated by Academy Award winning actor Billy Bob Thornton and recounts the origin of Spring Training in the Arkansas resort town of Hot Springs. The national broadcast premier will be at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, with a second showing at 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 21.
For fans who can’t wait for the pitchers and catchers to report (starting Feb. 17), or the first Razorback baseball home game (Feb. 19) – or anyone interested in the history of the game –The First Boys of Spring should be just the ticket.
The Spring Training started in 1886 in Hot Springs and continued there for parts of eight decades. The film features tales of baseball Hall of Famers who worked out, gambled and partied in Hot Springs, including Cy Young, Satchel Paige, Honus Wagner and baseball’s first superstar, Mike “King” Kelly. The young Babe Ruth is there too, belting a 573-foot home run into the Arkansas Alligator Farm while trying to convince Boston Red Sox management to play him every day, even though he was already the game’s dominant pitcher.
The documentary was written and produced by Foley, who is also the chair of the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. It was shot by Jim Borden, edited by journalism professor Dale Carpenter, and the original musical score was composed by U of A professor emeritus James Greeson.
Among highlights in the film:
- The story of the 1886 Chicago White Stockings, the first team to travel to Hot Springs for spring training, an event was chronicled in the first edition of The Sporting News.
- John McGraw’s 1901 effort to get around the unwritten color barrier by trying to pass off African-American infielder Charlie Grant as an American Indian named Chief Charlie Tokahoma of the Cherokee Nation. Charles Comiskey of the White Sox foiled the plan.
- Tales of what the players did in Hot Springs during the spring training heyday, including gambling, betting at the Oaklawn Park horse racing track, ostrich races and trips to the alligator farm to watch gators eating chickens.
- Stories of Negro League stars who trained in Arkansas including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston.
- Rare 1934 sound film of Rogers Hornsby.
-Courtesy of Arkansas Newswire