A Barry Levinson Film
A Tri-Star Pictures Release
SPRING 1918 -- THE MIDWEST PLAINS
Widowed farmer Ed Hobbs (ALAN FUDGE) is playing ball with his 14-year-old son, Roy (PAUL SULLIVAN). Having early recognized that the boy was gifted athletically, Hobbs has coached him in every aspect of his favorite sport--baseball. He has trained him in hitting, fielding and pitching. He has also taught him that talent alone is not enough to succeed, he must have "a clear mind and the ability to see from the heart."
Late one day, Roy is on the farmhouse porch working on his bicycle. His father is splitting wood. Roy looks up and sees his father fall over. He races to his aid, but it is too late. Hobbs Sr. dies and Roy is left alone.
That night there is a violent storm and lightning strikes the giant oak tree on the farm, tearing it asunder. Roy cuts out a piece of the exposed wood and fashions it into a baseball bat. When it is finished, with the sharp point of his penknife, Roy carves the word "Wonderboy" into the thick end of the wood. Above this inscription, he carves a bolt of lightning.
SPRING 1924 -- THE MIDWEST PLAINS
Roy Hobbs (ROBERT REDFORD), now 20, races to meet the girl he loves, Iris Raines (GLENN CLOSE) to tell her that Sam Simpson (JOHN FINNEGAN), a scout for the Chicago Cubs, is taking him to Chicago and a chance at the major league. Roy asks her to marry him, saying he will send for her as soon as he can. They realize their love, then Roy leaves to join Sam.
On the train to Chicago, Roy meets a beautiful girl, Harriet Bird (BARBARA HERSHEY) and is introduced by Sam to baseball great Whammer Wambold (JOE DON BAKER) and sports writer Max Mercy (ROBERT DUVALL). The Whaffner and Mercy are contemptuous of Simpson and his protege. But when the train makes a whistle stop, the passengers get off to join in the merriment of a country fair. Mercy makes a crack about Roy's performance in a baseball throwing concession. Simpson rounds on him and bets ten dollars that Roy can strike the Whammer out on three pitched balls. The contest is on and Mercy stops grinning when his man strikes out. Harriet Bird, who, at first, had eyes only for the Whammer, now focuses her attention on Roy. Back on the train, she tells him that watching him perform was like "watching Sir Lancelot jousting Sir Turquine... or was it Maldemar?" He tells her flatly that "someday I'll break every record in the book."
In Chicago, Roy gets a call from Harriet inviting him to her hotel room. Not sensing danger when it comes in the guise of loveliness, he goes to meet her and, suddenly, his future as a pitcher and his boyhood dream is shattered.
NEW YORK CITY 15 YEARS LATER
Pop Fisher (WILFORD BRIMLEY), manager of the New York Knights is a desperate man. His team is practically in the cellar and they are in the process of losing one more game. Bump Bailey, his best hitter is in a slump and to top it all off a stranger appears at the dugout and announces that he's his new right fielder. Outraged, Fisher shouts, "You're thirty-six, if you're a day." Roy Hobbs, now 35, is impassive. He answers any questions Fisher throws to him, but he volunteers no information. Diplomatically, Coach Red Blow (RICHARD FARNSWORTH) points out that if their best scout sent Hobbs, he must have something. Reluctantly, Fisher tells Hobbs to go to the clubhouse and get fitted up.
In the locker room, Roy is given a uniform by Doc Dizzy (MICHAEL TREANOR), the Knights' trainer, and takes the number nine. Then he sees a face from the past. Max Mercy is talking to Bump Bailey (MICHAEL MADSEN), the Knights' slumping right fielder. On his way out of the room, Roy is stopped by Bailey who introduces himself and asks if he is a new coach. Roy says no, he's a new player. Max Mercy's attention is caught. "Didn't catch the name," he says. Stiffly, Roy tells him.
On the evening of his first day as a new member of the Knights, Roy walks into the elevator of his hotel and sees a beautiful girl to whom he is instantly attracted. In the lobby, she is greeted by Pop Fisher. The manager introduces Roy to his niece, Memo Paris (KIM BASINGER), and tells her he is a new player. Memo is not only Pop's niece, she is also Bump Bailey's girlfriend.
Although he has agreed to pay his contract, Pop Fisher refuses to play Hobbs. Roy is frustrated and angry. As a last ditch effort to whip the Knights into shape, a hypnotist is hired to talk to the team. Disgusted by this nonsense, Roy walks out of the session, further infuriating the manager. Red Blow tries to explain Pop Fisher's behavior to Roy. He tells him that the manager was hurting financially and had been forced to sell ten percent of his shares to Judge Banner making him the majority stockholder of the Knights. Now he fears that the Judge will get complete control of the Knights.
Bump Bailey continues to slump and when he's caught napping during an important game and misses an easy catch, Pop Fisher finally sends in Roy Hobbs. He strikes out twice but on the third pitch, he swings Wonderboy and connects with such force that there's a ripping sound as it screams towards the pitcher's head. When he picks it up to throw, he finds to his horror that he holds only the cover. The Knights win the game. The fans go wild, the reporters want to know who Roy Hobbs is, and bat boy Bobby Savoy (GEORGE WILCOSZ) is mesmerized by Roy and his wondrous bat. The only person who is not happy about the outcome is Judge Banner (ROBERT PROSKY) who had his scout sign Hobbs because he thought he was a joke. Just before Roy makes the winning swing lightning strikes in the sky. With this first successful game the team's spirit soars. One of the players puts a catch with a bolt of lightning on his uniform sleeve--other players follow suit, wearing the 5 patch, each believing it will mean good luck for the team.
Roy Hobbs is now news and one person in particular wants to know more about him. Max Mercy knows that he's seen Hobbs before but he can't remember where or when. He's determined to find out. Hobbs gets so much press coverage that Iris Raines, now living in Chicago, reads about him in the papers.
Although impressed by Roy's ability, Pop Fisher gives Bump Bailey one more chance to redeem himself. But when he's killed trying to make an impossible catch, Roy becomes the new right fielder.
Roy has not been able to forget Memo and when he plays, his eyes are always straining to see if she is in the stands. He is drawn by her beauty. The Knights continue to win and Roy's fame increases. Angered by the possibility that Pop Fisher might have a pennant-winning team, Judge Banner sends for Roy to come to his office. He compliments him on his contribution to the team's success, then asks him if a new contract for more money would interest him. Roy is indifferent and tells the Judge he will do nothing to help him take the Knights away from Pop Fisher. The Judge dismisses him.
On leaving the stadium, Roy is stopped by Max Mercy, who has remembered their initial meeting in 1924 and offers him $5,000 for his exclusive story. Roy lets Mercy take him to a supper club where they meet Gus Sands, a wealthy gambler who tells Roy that he lost money that day by betting against him. Memo Paris is with Sands but before the end of the evening, she and Roy go off together into the night.
Returning to the team's hotel early in the morning, Memo and Roy are met by Pop Fisher. As Memo heads for the elevator, Pop warns Roy that his niece is bad luck and that he believes it rubs off on other people.
Roy falls into a hitting slump and once again the Knights' chances for a pennant look slim. Then, during a game in Chicago, a Lady in White stands up and looks steadily at Roy. He sees her and their eyes lock. As a pitch comes hurtling at him, he swings and the ball soars in the air and smashes the big field clock. After the game, Roy receives a note from the Lady In White--Iris Raines--the girl he left 15 years ago. They meet in an ice cream parlor and he invites her to come to the game the next day. When it is over he tells her the story of his lost years and he learns that she has a son.
By the time the Knights return to New York, the pennant is in sight. Memo ask Roy to a pre-playoff game celebration party. At the party, Roy collapses and is taken to the hospital. There he is told by his doctor that he risks losing his life if he plays ball again. While he's in the hospital, Roy is visited by both Memo and Iris--both of whom love him but in vastly different ways. He also is called upon by the Judge who offers him money not to play to win.
On the day of the game, Pop Fisher is nervous. Roy is late arriving. After a confrontation with the Judge, Gus Sands and Memo, he gets to the stadium. There he finds during the early innings that the Judge has reached a fellow team member. For eight innings the Knights are scoreless. Roy is obviously suffering. Time is running out. Iris, who has come to watch the game with her son, hands an usher a note. He gives it to one of the Knights who passes it along until it reaches Hobbs. Roy reads the note and his face is transfigured. Then it is his turn at bat. The stadium lights flash on as the night darkens. He swings and the ball lifts foul into right field. He swings again and "Wonderboy" splits in two. The crowd moans, the Knights are dejected. Roy asks Bobby Savoy to pick him out a winner. When he gets the new bat, he grips it for a long moment and blood begins to seep through his shirt. The umpire asks if he's all right. Roy says, "Let's play ball." The Pirate pitcher, a sneer on his face, releases his pitch and Roy swings and the ball explodes in the air heading straight for the stadium's lights. One light goes, then in a chain reaction the lights go--pop, pop, pop. There is pandemonium. The fans are delirious, Pop Fisher and Red Blow are overjoyed. For Roy Hobbs, the news in the note means far more than any baseball game.