Remember the Chicago White Stockings? How about the first tape-measure home run, slugged 573 feet by Babe Ruth into the Arkansas Alligator Farm in Hot Springs, Ark.?
These are just some of the tidbits to be found in The First Boys of Spring, a feature documentary about the earliest days of major league pre-season baseball. The film is the latest effort of Larry Foley, chair of the journalism department at the University of Arkansas.
Narrated by actor Billy Bob Thornton, the documentary is set to make its debut Saturday at 6 p.m. on the MLB network. From a report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
“I think this is a national story,” said Foley. “Unlike what I typically do, go to PBS, I thought I’m going to see if MLB would like this because this is my target audience.”
“A few years ago they acquired Ken Burns’ Baseball, but they don’t really acquire many films. As I talked to them they said, ‘If you look at our lineup, we produce almost everything, but we like your show.'”
Foley calls the day last March when dozens of actors in period costumes gathered at Lamar Porter Field to recreate a 1912 game between the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates “one of the best professional days of my life.” On the film’s official website, the period-authentic jerseys that were manufactured for that day and worn just once are being sold for $85 apiece as keepsake souvenirs.
The Emmy Award-winning professor’s numerous other documentaries include: The Lost Squadron, about a World War II squadron that crash landed in Greenland in 1942; Sanatorium Hill, a look at some of the former patients of the TB Sanatorium in Booneville; and 22 Straight!, a revisit of the 22-game winning streak enjoyed by the Arkansas Razorbacks football team from 1963 to 1966.