The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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And now pitching for the Chicago Cubs... Robert Redford!

March 25, 2011 |  4:17 pm

Robert_redford Most of the mainstream media has been treating the news that Robert Redford will be at Wrigley Field, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs March 31 home opener, as a feel-good story. After all, it was Redford who starred in "The Natural," which is on everyone's Top 10 list of all-time great baseball movies. And even better, the 74-year-old founder of the Sundance Film Festival was teammates with Dodgers Hall of Famer Don Drysdale at Van Nuys High back in the 1950s, even earning a baseball scholarship to the University of Colorado as a pitcher.

But despite Redford's baseball pedigree, it's pretty obvious that he got the gig for an entirely different reason. As it turns out, Redford is doing an entirely different kind of pitching -- as in movie promotion. Redford has directed a new historical drama, "The Conspirator," a behind-the-scenes drama involving the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which is due out this spring from Roadside Attractions.

But here's the real tie-in. The movie is the first release from the American Film Co., which finances historically-oriented movies. The American Film Co. is owned by Joe Ricketts. And if you're a Cubs fan, like I am, you know that it's the Ricketts family who owns, ahem, the Chicago Cubs. So the Redford pitching assignment is actually a cozy insider tie-in for a Ricketts family movie production.

All in all, that wouldn't be so bad, since, if you ever watch any baseball on Fox Sports, you know that this would hardly be the first time a media company plugged one of its own products. But Cubs fans are still in mourning over the loss of our beloved third-baseman icon Ron Santo, who died last  winter after spending years making a joyful noise in the Cubs' broadcast booth. If anyone should be throwing out the first pitch, it should be a member of the Santo family, surrounded by Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and a clump of other Cubs legends.

That would be the kind of emotional moment any team would love to stage for its opening day ceremonies. The Cubs have announced that Ron Santo Jr. will be singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch, but it's just not the same thing as having one of the Santo clan start the game with a triumphant toss to home plate. Let's at least hope that Redford throws a strike and doesn't wear a "Conspirator" T-shirt. That would be taking movie promotion day at Wrigley too far for this Cubs fan.

--Patrick Goldstein 

Photo: Robert Redford at a news conference for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters