By Jon Weisman
Just for fun during this holiday season, here’s the Turner Classic Movies plot summary for the incredibly realistic 1949 movie “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, with only slight changes. For the names of the characters in the movie, I have made small, modern-day substitutions …
In 1906, A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw, star players for the Dodgers baseball team, reunite with their teammates in Sarasota, Florida, after completing their offseason jobs as vaudeville entertainers. At the hotel near the training field, A.J. and Clayton lament their lost freedom and long for the days when they could stay up late and date women. The strict training schedule upsets A.J. more than it does Clayton, who has always had difficulty meeting women because of his shyness.
The team celebrates the new season with a party, but the celebration is dampened by news that the recently deceased owner of the Dodgers has bequeathed the team to a distant relative, C.L. Wall. When the team is told that C.L. will be participating in the management of the team, Clayton and A.J. lead a rebellion against the change even before the new owner arrives. The team members, who have assumed that C.L. is a man, are astonished when they discover that she is a woman.
One day, at a practice session, C.L. steps up to the mound, gives A.J. a batting lesson and proves that she possesses an exceptional knowledge of baseball. C.L. eventually earns the respect of the team, though her formal style is mocked by some of the players. Determined to get C.L. to ease her harsh penalties for breaking training, A.J. sends Clayton to charm her. A.J. takes over when Clayton bungles his mission, but C.L. sees through his ploy.
Training season eventually comes to an end, and the first game of the season opens with Clayton, A.J. and their teammate, Scott Van Slyke, performing a clown act on the field. During the game, Ellen Melson, a fan of the team and an admirer of Clayton, comes to his rescue when he is knocked unconscious in a scuffle with the umpire. Ellen is not aware that her companion, Joe Lorgan, is an underworld figure who is betting heavily on the Dodgers. Despite Clayton’s lack of interest in Ellen, she continues to aggressively pursue a romance with him and chases him around the stadium to prove her devotion.
While the Dodgers enjoy a winning streak on the road, Lorgan continues to make a fortune betting on them. Lorgan eventually changes his betting practices when he finds an opportunity to fix the game in his favor. As part of his plan, Lorgan coaxes A.J. into leaving the team to pursue a full-time career as a performer, hoping it will hurt the team. A.J. starts rehearsals right away and continues to play baseball during the day while rehearsing his act at night.
His busy schedule begins to take its toll on his game, and his team goes into a slump. C.L. soon suspects that A.J. is playing badly because he is in love with her, so she offers her affections to him in an attempt to reverse the team’s fortunes. A.J. eventually discovers Lorgan’s scheme, but not before C.L. finds out about his moonlighting and suspends him.
Desperate to get back on the team, A.J. enlists the help of a group of children to start a protest movement to get him back on the field. The plan works, much to the dismay of Lorgan, who has counted on A.J.’s suspension and bet $20,000 against the Dodgers in their next outing. Fearing that A.J. might win the game for the Dodgers if he is added to the lineup, Lorgan plots a scheme to keep him from playing. Ellen, who finally realizes Lorgan’s crooked ways, warns Clayton that A.J. will be in danger if he is placed in the lineup. Clayton deliberately knocks A.J. unconscious with a baseball, hoping that it will prevent him from getting hurt or killed by Lorgan.
A.J. is removed to the locker room just as the game begins, and Lorgan sends two of his men, posing as doctors, to guard him. When Ellen tells C.L. about Lorgan, C.L. sends her players to subdue the fake doctors and release A.J. After Lorgan is exposed and knocked unconscious by C.L., A.J. returns to the field and hits a game-winning home run. All ends happily as A.J. looks forward to a real romance with C.L. and Clayton finally takes notice of Ellen.