The Batter’s Eye: It Happens Every Spring

Vernon (Ray Milland) is a chemist and baseball superfan. He accidentally creates a chemical that repels wood, so he coats a baseball in it and lies his way onto the St. Louis team as a pitcher, and cheats his way to a World Series win.

Poster for It Happens Every Spring

Clearly, the morality of It Happens Every Spring (1949, directed by Lloyd Bacon) is questionable (although by the final scene, he’s run out of his chemical) but Milland is fun and his friendship with catcher Monk (Paul Douglas) is sweet. The two of them form the movie’s core relationship. Vernon’s engagement to Deborah (Jean Peters).

There isn’t that much to this movie. Despite some hijinks dealing with Vernon’s lie about his leave of absence (he plays baseball under a fake name and refuses photos), the movie is mostly Vernon cheating his way through the baseball season and hanging out with Monk. Deborah is given a bit more to do later in the movie after she finds out Vernon’s secret (everyone does eventually) but most of the characters are fairly one-note overall.

Still, no one is going to watch this movie for any sort of depth. I was here for the baseball action, which is really good and surprisingly well-edited, and also for the goofy special effects of the baseball avoiding the bat. There are some decent jokes — at least, I laughed a few times, and at less than 90 minutes, it doesn’t over-extend its premise. It’s a movie that knows what it is. This isn’t meant to be a masterpiece but a pleasant diversion.

I would hesitate to call this an undiscovered classic but I had fun with this one. Is it worth seeking out? How much do you like zany baseball movies? I doubt I’d seek it out again but I wouldn’t mind having it on for a rewatch if I ever came across it again.