Bang the Drum Slowly

Director: John D. Hancock
Year Released: 1973
Rating: 2.5

Professional baseball pitcher Wiggen (Michael Moriarty), playing for the (fictitious) New York Mammoths, discovers his good friend and teammate Pearson (Robert De Niro) has Hodgkin's Disease and feels obligated to keep Pearson's illness a secret from the team, but the club's manager (Vincent Gardenia) is suspicious of Pearson's trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. This somber effort focuses more on how Wiggen handles the responsibility of covering up for his pal and the mechanics of how a baseball squad acts than on Pearson's condition - the De Niro character, tobacco chewin' and none-too-bright, has little to say and is basically the movie's sacrificial lamb. Still, the vernacular of the players - and especially Gardenia as the scene-stealing coach - is fun to listen to and provides fitting distraction from the inherently tragic situation.