Film Review: Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball StoryHeartwarming, important, but slackly paced coverage of a crucial event in little league baseball history.
Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story centers around the Pensacola Jaycees All-Stars, the first entirely African American little league baseball team of in Florida. Back then, the other, wholly white teams did not want to play them. When told that they must, they decide to forfeit rather than play. The Jaycees were declared the victors, but as they advanced towards the state tournament in Orlando it was made clear to them that a forfeit by other teams could only advance them one round in judging.
Similar stuff was brewing in Charleston, SC, where the all-black Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars became that state’s champion after six teams likewise forfeited rather than play against them. But instead of sending them to Rome, GA for the regionals, Little League executive director Pete McGovern decided not to let them advance, citing threats made against them in that state.
Meanwhile, the Jaycees, about to play the Orlando Kiwanis, were stymied when one of that team’s coaches quit. But the other coach, who had a kid playing for the team, had no problem with integration. The two teams faced off, and history was made.
Jon Strong’s meditative, nostalgic film reunites the surviving members of both teams. It will warm your heart when you see how, even after decades, now as senior citizens, they instantly recognize each other. They all agree that that game changed their lives. Serendipitously, as they reminisce, a group of kids walk up to them curious to hear the full, stirring story.
The basic problem here is one of pacing. It takes forever to get to the meat of the matter, which is the individual men’s stories—with many of them going into the military. The filmmaker admirably puts thje tale in the context of its time, with newsreel footage delineating the American racism which did and still exists. There are various interviews with baseball legends like Hank Aaron as well as an outline of little league baseball history and its rules. But much of the stuff involving the aged players is repetitive and unfocused, diluting viewer interest in what should be nothing but compelling.