Film poster and Huffington Post article

The official poster for “Hano! A Century in the Bleachers” is complete, thanks to the efforts of graphic designer and artist Brian Goings. Brian and I have been working on the poster since April, and it features Arnold and his favorite pitch, the screwball, with a beautiful painting of the Polo Grounds by artist Bill Purdom.

Another development was a terrific article about Arnold and the film by Peter Dreier for the Huffington Post. You can read the article here: Hano doc on Huffington Post

We are hard at work, preparing to deliver the second rough cut, and tomorrow we have an interview with legendary author and close friend of Arnold Hano, Ray Robinson.

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Interviews in the Big Apple with George Vecsey, Al Silverman, Stephen Hano, Ron Kaplan & Alex Belth

Production shifted east in the month of May, when I journeyed to Manhattan to interview a stellar collection of individuals with unique takes on Arnold Hano.

The leadoff hitter was world-class sportswriter George Vecsey of the New York Times. George expressed his admiration and respect for Arnold, and listed him as one of the top sportswriters of the 20th and 21st century.

The Bronx was well represented by Alex Belth, the man behind the pen of the excellent blog, “Bronx Banter”. Now in his mid-forties, Alex talked about discovering Hano’s writing for Sport magazine in the 60s during a research project. He also shared a hilarious story about Arnold’s reaction to a journalist who referred to the nonagenarian as “spry”.

After a fine Kosher lunch prepared by our hostess, Jane Paznik-Bondarin, we were visited by Arnold’s son, Stephen Hano. When Arnold took young Steve to his very first baseball game (Giants vs. Dodgers at the Polo Grounds), he witnessed a triple play.

Batting clean-up the first day of shooting was author and blogger Ron Kaplan, whose book, “501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die”, is a treasure. “A Day in the Bleachers” is one of Ron’s favorite baseball books, particularly because it was the first book to offer a story on the game from a fan’s perspective.

The following day, my DP Bobby and I met up at the home of Al and Rosa Silverman in the heart of Manhattan. Al is a highly respected author in his own right, and was editor of Sport magazine from 1951-1963. Al talked about Sport magazine wanting to give the black athlete a better deal than most of the media was offering. Al and Arnold saw that Latins were being treated like caricatures by the media, and decided to feature and praise Latin ballplayers like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou, to give them their due. Al shared an introduction about Arnold for an article of Hano’s that appeared in an anthology of sports stories with this description of his friend of 60 years: “Arnold Hano, a satanic west coast baseball buff…”.

The plan was to also interview another longtime friend and associate with Al Silverman, Ray Robinson. Ray had to bow out due to personal matters, but he will be interviewed in July to share his thoughts on Arnold Hano, and I am very much looking forward to sitting down with him.

A milestone was recently met when I completed the first rough cut of the film, which included all of the NY interviews. Both Arnold and I are pleased and continue our march towards the next milestone, rough cut number two in mid-July.

With George Vecsey, Alex Belth, Stephen Hano, Ron Kaplan, Al and Rosa Silverman, and the Chrysler Building.

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What’s the Score?

How do you embody the spirit of a man and his story in music for a documentary?

I answer this query by turning to Shakedown Mambo, trusted creative partners who have scored my last two documentaries with exceptional results. Shakedown is a two-man team, consisting of Phil Bloch (a potentate of percussion, producer and composer) and Rick Solem (keyboard wizard, composer).

We had our first project meeting yesterday, focusing on the main title theme. Our process is to discuss the qualities and characteristics of the subject and it’s narrative. Real-time composing and brainstorming has been very effective for us, with Rick on a majestic old upright piano and Phil on a hand drum, and me giving them feedback and direction until we’ve sculpted together a musical piece I think will be effective.

Music scoring is a critical component in filmmaking. It can move the story along quickly and effectively, communicating tone, emotion and underscoring the narrative. As a semi-professional musician who knows just enough to get into trouble, I’m able to connect with the composers on a musical level. On my last film, The Day the World Series Stopped, I ended up composing a piece with Rick, a duet between electric bass and piano for a very somber part of the story.

My musical journeys with Phil and Rick have been remarkable and look forward to more of the same for the Arnold Hano documentary project.

You can learn more about the magical, musical world of Shakedown Mambo here: http://www.shakedownmambo.com/

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Felipe Alou and a “Bill of Rights for Latin American Ballplayers”

In November of 1963, a very different article appeared in SPORT magazine. It was entitled, “Latin American Ballplayers Need a Bill of Rights” by Felipe Alou and Arnold Hano.

The Alou name represents one of the most storied families to play Major League Baseball. The Alou brothers had long careers in the big leagues, and two of them, Mateo and Felipe, lead the NL in batting average in 1966. Felipe played 17 seasons from 1958-1974, racked up over 2,000 hits, 200 HRs, and was a three-time all-star. As a manager, he won over 1,000 games with a .503 winning percentage.

I found Felipe to be warm, personable and an excellent interview. He made me feel at home in the villa the Giants provide him and his family during Spring Training in Scottsdale. His memory recall was strong, stretching back some fifty years to recount racism and discrimination in the majors and the minors, from 1956-1964.

The article came about because MLB fined Felipe and other players $250.00 for competing in an off-season tournament in the Dominican Republic. MLB had no idea of the cultural and national sensitivities in play. National players were expected to represent their countries and to sit out would be a slap in the face to their countrymen. One of the games featured Cuba vs. the Dominican Republic, Camilo Pascual facing Juan Marichal. What I’d give to have been able to watch that game!

Felipe, a proud man who attended the University of Santo Domingo in Puerto Rico, was incensed. If the fine was not paid, he would not be allowed to attend Spring Training. He refused to pay the fine and was content with staying home to start the season on principle. The dust-up spurred SPORT editor Al Silverman to assign Arnold Hano to conduct a series of interviews with Felipe to air his side of the story.

SPORT was escapist fare: there were no stories tied to the Vietnam War, Civil rights or other issues of the day. Their stories typically focused on the athletes and games. “Latin American Ballplayers Need a Bill of Rights” was off the beaten track, and gave national exposure to Major League Baseball’s lack of cultural understanding of Latino players and their obligations to their own countries.

A month after the article came out, Felipe was traded by the Giants to Milwaukee. “It broke my heart to be traded”, said Felipe. He felt he was let go due to his perception as a militant, even though he was one of the star players on a team (he had 98 RBIs in 1962) that was crowded with outfield talent, two of whom were Felipe’s brothers.

Felipe, now near age 80, continues to work with the San Francisco Giants as a special advisor. What a pleasure to speak with someone who loves the game and had such a long and distinguished career as both a player and a manager. His interview was heartfelt and moving, and I look forward to sharing it with the world.

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