The Detroit Tigers travel to New York to play a season-ending series against the New York Yankees. At 63-98, the team has long since been eliminated from playoff contention and are playing for nothing but pride against the Yankees, who have a chance to clinch the American League East with a win. For 40-year-old pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner), however, this may end up being the most significant 24 hours of his life. In his Manhattan hotel suite, Billy awaits his girlfriend Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), but she doesn’t show. The next morning, Billy is told by Tigers’ owner Gary Wheeler (Brian Cox) that the team has been sold and that the new owners’ first move will be to end Billy’s 19-year tenure with the Tigers by trading him to the San Francisco Giants. Billy also learns from Jane that she is leaving that same day to accept a job offer in London. Billy is a famous, accomplished pitcher, but has a losing record this season, is near the end of his career and is also recovering from a hand injury. Wheeler hints that Billy should consider retiring rather than join another team. As he goes to Yankee Stadium to make his last start of the year, Billy begins reflecting about Jane, detailing how they met five years prior. As the game progresses, with friend and catcher Gus Sinski (John C. Reilly) aware that something is on Billy’s mind other than baseball, Billy dominates the Yankees’ batters, often talking to himself on how to pitch each one. While in the dugout resting between innings, Billy also reflects how his relationship with Jane was strained by his shutting her out of his life after he suffered a career-threatening injury in the off-season. The pain of pitching is getting worse as the game goes on. Billy is so caught up in his thoughts that he does not realize he is pitching a perfect game until he looks at the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gus confirms that no one has reached base, and says that the whole team is rallying behind Billy to do whatever it takes to keep the perfect game bid alive. Billy’s shoulder pain has become intense by this point, and after he throws his first two pitches of the inning well out of the strike zone, Tigers manager Frank Perry (J. K. Simmons) makes the call to warm up two relief pitchers in the bullpen. The count goes to 3-0 before Billy recalls pitching to his father (now deceased) in the back yard. He rallies and throws a strike, then gets the batter out on the next pitch. Before the Tigers take the field for the bottom of the ninth inning, Billy has final ruminations about his career and his love for Jane. He autographs a baseball for Wheeler, who has been like a father to him for many years. Along with the signature, Billy also writes on the ball that he will retire “for love of the game.”…

I admit, I like “Bull Durham” and “Fields Of Dreams”, they are different from eachother but still has baseball as the pillar of the story. “For Love Of The Game” is not an exception and we get to see a great performance from Costner in a slightly similar role to the one he did in “Bull Durham”. We are confronted by the difficulties of a relationship and the joy of a relationship, love, trust and as well the realisation that something is coming to an end and how you handle that. I love the idea of how Billy Chapel reflects on the past five years of his life from the pitchers mound and realising, that his life has been anything but perfect, despite the fact that he is pitching a perfect game at the same time. I think it´s well made and believable from many angles. Specifically the baseball games has been handled and shot in a great way and Sam Raimi takes you all along right down to the field to feel the action. I like for example that he crosscut a lot to “televised” shots during the final game in the movie, that gives the whole atmosphere a really authentic feeling with replays and all. Details, great details. Costner feels so at home in a movie like this, and the role itself is just made for Costner. The fact that he himself through god knows how many pitches during the shoot makes the whole environment glow from an in-depth live feeling of baseball. “For Love Of The Game” might have some sappy moments, but the general set up is of my liking. (3 and a half)

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