Bang the Drum Slowly [1973]

Only those with ice water in their veins won't get misty-eyed watching this moving film about the friendship of two professional baseball players, one of whom--in every sense--is playing his last season. A pre-stardom Robert De Niro portrays a rather simple-minded rookie catcher who comes under the wing of a veteran pitcher (Michael Moriarty). When De Niro's character is diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, Moriarty tries to help him get through one more season. Directed by John Hancock and based on the novel by Mark Harris (who also wrote the screenplay), the film builds on baseball's ability to foster its own lore of courage, nobility, loyalty, and--sadly--tragedy. Watching the youthful De Niro and Moriarty, with all that promise in their bones, adds to the overall romance of the film today. Also appearing are Vincent Gardenia and Danny Aiello. A perennial favorite for many. --Tom Keogh

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