This spry baseball comedy, inspired by some actual history, is great fun, especially when seen as a vehicle for its talented stars. Billy Dee Williams plays Bingo Long (based on the real-life Satchel Paige), a charismatic pitcher for the Negro League in 1939, who gets VERY tired of having to deal with sleazy team owners such as Sallie Potter (Ted Ross). So he recruits fellow baseball player Leon Carter (James Earl Jones) (based on Josh Gibson), and various others, to join him in a quest to start their OWN flashy, barnstorming baseball team. Naturally, they will have many roadblocks in their path to success
Charming, irresistible entertainment, and you don't have to necessarily be a baseball fan in order to enjoy it. Granted, it gets nasty at one point (for a PG rated film), and gets somewhat serious as well, but it never becomes so ugly that you can't still stick with it. It gets most of its juice from the dazzling performances of its stars, Williams and Jones. Jones appears to be having a grand old time, and co-star Richard Pryor unsurprisingly steals many of his scenes as a ballplayer who thinks that his key to success is passing himself off as Cuban and joining the white league. (There's a hilarious payoff for him near the end.) There's some more than respectable recreations of the period, a jaunty score (by William Goldstein), and wonderful old-time songs (belted out by Thelma Houston). The fair amount of familiar faces in the cast also includes stuntman Jophery C. Brown, Tony Burton of the "Rocky" franchise, Stan Shaw ("Snake Eyes"), DeWayne "Otis Day" Jessie ("National Lampoon's Animal House"), Mabel King ('What's Happening!!'), Sam Laws ("Hit Man"), Ahna Capri ("Enter the Dragon"), Joel Fluellen ("Porgy and Bess"), and Jester Hairston (John Wayne's version of "The Alamo").
Although it has a rather lengthy running time (at 111 minutes), this movie never feels that long, due to an entertaining narrative and characters, and many scenes that hold ones' attention. It's intelligent, making some points about race relations and the way that athletes are treated, but never gets heavy-handed about it, while remaining engrossing both comedically and dramatically. It doesn't seem to be remembered by many nowadays, which is just too bad.
Ken Foree of future "Dawn of the Dead" fame makes his film debut as a muscle man.
Eight out of 10.