Cast & Crew
Larry "Coop" Cooper works as a peanut vendor at Whacker Stadium, home of the Bisons, a baseball team, on which Coop used to play. Coop, a widower, is also a devoted father to his nine-year-old son Christy, to whom he has imparted his vast knowledge of baseball. The Bisons are the worst team in the league, much to the dismay of their owner, Fred F. Whacker, and Coop blames manager Billy Lorant for mishandling the players, such as third baseman Pete Haines and outfielder Bobo Noonan. One day, the fiery Coop argues with concessions manager J. R. Johnson and loses his job. After Coop gets drunk by trading his baseball glove for liquor, Christy decides to get his job back and sneaks into the stadium to confront Johnson. The unforgiving Johnson chases Christy away, and while he is running, he meets secretary Marion Foley. When Christy confides in Marion that he wants to be a batboy, she presents him to Whacker, who is so impressed by his baseball knowledge that he hires him and orders Johnson to take Coop back. Lorant is displeased with the undersized batboy, but Pete, who is Marion's fiancé, helps him adjust to his new job. Frustrated by Pete's batting slump, Coop gives Christy advice to pass along to him, and in the next game, Pete gets three hits. Pete is thrilled by his success, but tells Marion that he will quit the team at the end of the season to accept a steady job. Later, Christy gives Pete more of Coop's advice, and his improved batting helps the Bisons to win, which stuns Whacker. Pete's hitting streak prompts him to turn down the other job, and Marion reproaches him for basing their future on what a child tells him. Later, Coop says goodbye to Christy as the boy embarks on a team road trip, and urges him not to reveal who is behind the advice Christy has been giving to Pete. One night, Christy goes over Coop's notes with rookie Johnny Grant, and soon his performance improves dramatically. Lorant takes credit for the Bisons' successes when Whacker questions him, while the players, learning that Christy has been helping Pete and Johnny, all begin seeking his help. When the team returns home, Coop congratulates Christy on his work, although soon after, Lorant deduces that Coop is behind Christy's helpfulness. The spiteful Lorant tells Christy that his father, rather than being the star player he claims, was a tempermental loudmouth who ended his career in the minor leagues. Lorant fires Christy, but when the Bisons start losing without him, they appeal to Whacker to reinstate the boy. Whacker offers Christy the job of managing the team, prompting Lorant to quit when Whacker asks him to "front" for Christy. Marion convinces Whacker that having a nine-year-old manager would be a sensational publicity stunt, and soon the sports world is focused on the boy manager. The jeers of the other players are quashed by the Bisons' improved play, and Christy realizes that Bobo's poor catching is due to myopia. The Bisons' winning streak soon has them in position to enter the playoffs, although Pete's depression over the end of his relationship with Marion has resulted in a batting slump. Marion tells Christy that, at thirty-five, Pete is getting too old to play, and asks him to help Pete to become more realistic about his future. The Bisons' progress is briefly interrupted when Christy is arrested by a truant officer, but his devotion to the game persuades a judge to allow him to return to his job. Soon the Bisons are in the running for the pennant, and Pete realizes that his slowness could prevent the team from reaching the World Series. Pete removes himself from the lineup, although Christy persuades him to serve as a coach for the rest of the season, and Marion gratefully embraces Pete when he gives her the news. During the next game, Christy falls ill and the doctor diagnoses him with pneumonia. With Christy hospitalized, player Hunchy Harrison takes over as manager, but the Bisons lose their next three games. Desperate to help, Christy reveals to the players that Coop has been their real leader all along, and they unanimously vote to make him manager. Despite his fear of failure, Christy accepts the job, and during a crucial game with the Yankees, his unusual strategy enables the Bisons to win the pennant. With his self-confidence restored, Coop celebrates Christy's recovery by making him the third base coach, while Pete becomes the first base coach. The Bisons then begin the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Marion and Whacker watch with delight as Coop and Christy exchange smiles.
James F. Stone
Anthony De Mario
A. G. Sandsberry
The Kid from Left Field
The picture was marketed as a comedy -- and is often described as one even today -- but surprisingly the label doesn't truly apply. As author Hal Erickson has written, "The picture has the brooding quality of a film noir, with the baseball stadium itself (L.A.'s Wrigley Field) looming over the action like some sort of shadowy, all-encompassing prison. The normally ebullient Dan Dailey's portrayal...is a study in chronic self-loathing, while Richard Egan's characterization of the arrogant and vindictive Billy Lorant makes one worry that little Christy Cooper (Chapin) will be strangled in his sleep before the fade-out." Critics at the time were all over the place in their descriptions of the film, with Variety correctly saying the "yarn is played straight and not for laughs" and The New York Times deeming it a "spoof."
A few real baseball personalities appear in the film. Umpire John "Beans" Reardon plays an umpire who settles a dispute with the diminutive manager in memorable comic fashion. Former Cleveland Indian infielder John Berardino plays Hank Dreiser, and three actual radio announcers of the era play themselves: Mark Scott, Bob Kelly and Larry Thor.
Richard Egan won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer for both this film and The Glory Brigade (1953), which by a fluke opened together as a double feature, at least in some cities. (Hugh O'Brian and Steve Forrest also shared the same Golden Globe award that year.)
Dan Dailey had previously played major league pitcher Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St. Louis (1952), which like The Kid from Left Field was directed by Harmon Jones. And young Billy Chapin later played one of the two kids hunted by Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter (1955).
A 1979 television movie remake starred Gary Coleman as the kid, this time managing the San Diego Padres.
By Jeremy Arnold
The Kid from Left Field
The working title of this film was The Kid in Left Field. Although some contemporary and modern sources refer to Dan Dailey's character as "Larry 'Pop' Cooper," he is called "Larry 'Coop' Cooper" in the film. According to a February 12, 1953 Daily Variety news item, George Winslow was considered for the title role, and the picture was going to be filmed in 3-D. Although the first Hollywood Reporter production chart also lists the film as "stereoscopic," it was not filmed in 3-D. Hollywood Reporter news items include Gene Thompson, John Goddard, Ron Hargrave and Malcolm Castle in the cast, but their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed.
A March 23, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that infielder Lou Stringer of the San Diego Padres (then a minor league team) was prevented from appearing in the picture after after he signed a new contract with the ballclub. John "Beans" Reardon, who appears as himself in the picture, was a well-known major league umpire. Contemporary sources note that the picture was partially filmed on location at Wrigley Field, a minor league baseball stadium in Los Angeles, CA. The Kid from Left Field marked the first time that Anne Bancroft received above title billing. Dan Dailey and director Harmon Jones had previously collaborated on the 1952 Twentieth Century-Fox production The Pride of St. Louis, about pitcher Dizzy Dean (see below). The Kid from Left Field was remade in 1979 as an NBC television movie. The remake, broadcast on September 30, 1979, was directed by Adell Aldrich and starred Gary Coleman and Robert Guillaume.