It must have been my recent chance meeting with former Dodger legend Dusty Baker that turned my attention to the Dodgers and baseball in particular. Then again, baseball season is right around the corner, so this review was just meant to me.
The truth is, I realized I hadn’t reviewed any baseball movies in a long time. One of my favorite ones is the 1976 film, “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.”
This sports comedy is fantastic and is loosely based on William Brashler’s novel of the same name.
“The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings is one of Berry Gordy’s Motown productions. It was made on a shoestring budget of $9 million, but surprisingly became a huge box office hit collecting $33 million.
“The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” features a phenomenal cast of Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Mabel King and the late, great Ted Ross and Richard Pryor.
The film is hysterical—remember Richard Pryor is in it-- and slightly historical as it tells the heartache and triumph surrounding a ragtag team of talented Negro League baseball players during the 1930s.
The story focuses on the stars of the Negro Leagues back in the day. Guys like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. These are the characters that Billy Dee Williams (Bingo Long) and James Earl Jones (Leon Carter) channel in the movie.
These baseball players were arguably as good and maybe even better than many of the white players. But, because racism ruled the era, these guys never had the real opportunity to show their skills and were relegated to playing little parks and dumpy places.
In the movie, Bingo Long and his crew become frustrated and angry by the owners of the all-black teams. So, he organizes an independent team and gets some all-star players to join on his squad. The player’s former employers conspire to put Bing Long out of business, but the more they start playing against white teams, they become rather entertaining and audiences like the “show” that these players are giving them.
Their popularity soon starts cutting into the bottom line of the actual real Negro League games and now the black players on those teams don’t like it.
This forces Bingo Long’s old nemesis, Sallison (Ted Ross) who owns the Ebony Aces to issue a challenge to Bingo Long. if Bingo's team can beat a group of all-stars, they’re in, but if they lose, the players must go back to their old teams.
Well, there is a major event that occurs. It puts everything in jeopardy and nearly threatens the entire league until a last-minute heroic effort saves the day.
Pryor brings the laughs here especially as he works to brush up on his Spanish so he can break into the major leagues as a “Cuban” player.
Honestly, the entire cast delivers in “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.”
It’s a fun and funny movie and it’s my choice for the Old School Video Pick of the month.