Angels in the outfield

by Jim Provenzano

No stranger mix of camp, butch, and sexual innuendo thrives than in the classic subgenre, the baseball musical.

In Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra pair up as dancing jocks. As third stooge, Jules Munshin lunks along for comic relief. The trio also filled sailor uniforms nicely in On the Town.

As in many of these buddy musicals, a fair amount of prancing and same-sex flirtation ensues, particularly in the number in which the players brag of their off-field peccadilloes. Gene Kelly once again femmes it up, not unlike any closeted baseball player who covers his gay exploits with ribald tales of gal-chasing.

The team's mascot is aptly named the Wolves, and Kelly initially falsely flirts, but gradually falls for a female, his new owner, Esther Williams. The aquatic star recently revealed the cross-dressing proclivities of her lover Jeff Chandler. Apparently, it bothered her that he had a better wardrobe.

Honey, I wouldn't care if he wore chenille, Ungaro, or a bunny suit.

But back to the manly art of baseball. Take Me Out to the Ballgame also includes Esther's prerequisite pool number, but unfortunately, Gene Kelly doesn't join her in a Speedo. He does, however, finally succumb to her charms at a clam bake, where they smooch, but not before Kelly's lines insert the veiled gay angle.

Kelly implies that his roommate (Sinatra), in his sleep approached him, thinking he was Ms. Williams. "He came to me, and embraced me, then he kissed me, like this." He then kisses her, but still lingering is the spoken, but not seen, image of Gene kissing Frank, leaving everyone either pleased or confused.

Other buddy-buddy bits repeatedly imply a gay angle that perhaps in those days slipped by the general post-war popcorn-chewing public, but not past director Busby Berkeley, who seems to have phoned in his dance numbers.

Nevertheless, the number "Obrian to Ryan to Goldberg" proves that the burly pro wrestler wasn't the first hot Jewish sports entertainment star to cut a rug.

Balled out

The other great baseball musical is, of course, Damn Yankees. Based on the hit Broadway show, the film version is a fun tribute to American traditions; sports victory through divine intervention and selling out. A Tony winner in its original production, the 1997 London revival was canceled shortly into its run, as Jerry Lewis's $100,000 weekly salary left its budget in a chokehold.

The video costs $2 to rent at Tower Video. Anything with Tab Hunter – then gay, now out, and still a looker – is worth watching. Hunter plays the couch potato who trades his soul for a uniform on a winning team, and the physique to go with it. Gwen Verdon's "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" stands as second only to the Aggies routine in Best Little Whorehouse as the greatest locker room dance number. My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston plays Satan with deft aplomb.

And in related Faustian baseball player news, John Rocker was sent to the minors on Monday, June 5. Perhaps his contract with Ray Walston was up, since he's going down in flames. The manners-impaired pitcher was demoted to the Atlanta Braves' Triple-A club in Richmond.

Rocker also was fined "a substantial amount" ($5,000) for Sunday's confrontation with Sports Illustrated reporter Jeff Pearlman, who caught his infamous "Number 7 train" tirade, proof that one should never do interviews while driving.

Braves officials insisted Rocker's demotion was unrelated to the confrontation, or to his being inbred. "Entirely separate incidents,'' general manager John Schuerholz has said. "One is the fine for inappropriate behavior. He was optioned because he wasn't pitching well," not because he isn't well.

The view from the dugout was more medicinal. "You've got one guy being a cancer time and time again,'' said Braves outfielder Brian Jordan. Rocker had also lashed out against fellow teammates, in addition to purple-haired queers with AIDS, etc., etc.

With some cancers, you have to act fast to stop the malignancy.

It would seem that the operation is a success.

To buy a "Rocker Sucks" T-shirt and read more fun stuff on baseball's hunkiest bigot (or most bigoted hunk) and former pro baseball player, visit

For more on baseball movies, visit:

Read my original Rocker column, which, like many others, predicted his ouster, at Sports Complex.