Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swingin’ afterparty for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re all still celebrating tonight’s big win, so please come in and join us. There’s no cover charge. If we can do anything to make your stay better, let us know. There’s still one good table available, if you hurry. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
For the second-straight night, the Cubs blew out the Reds, 16-6. In doing so, they set a modern (post-1901) team record for runs in back-to-back games with 36. The previous record was 35, set against the Astros in 1987. As Jim Deshaies said, he was on that Astros team but surprisingly didn’t pitch in either of those two games. Even more surprising, Nolan Ryan did.
But the Cubs lineup just looks like a different beast with Jeimer Candelario in it. I suppose he’s not going to have four hits every game, but he certainly has put a charge into the lineup. Braves fans told us that Dansby Swanson was a streaky hitter, and right now he’s on a hot streak. And so is pretty much everyone else. Yes, the starting pitching has some concerns, but this looks like the best Cubs team since at least 2019. Maybe even 2017.
Last night, I asked you to grade the Cubs trade deadline. The overwhelming winner, with 63 percent, was a solid “B.” Although again, if Jeimer Candelario keeps getting four hits a night, we may have to re-grade. In his first stint with the Cubs, he played 16 games and had six hits. In his second, he’s played two games and has eight hits. Candy has never had back-to-back four-hit games before.
The Cubs have now won 12 of their last 15 games and are just three games out of first place and 2.5 out of the Wild Card. Their Fangraphs playoff odds are up to 33.3 percent as I write this, although the Dodgers are still playing (and winning big), so that could change slightly. I’ve been holding off on Judy, but I think this recent showing merits her.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Let’s keep the party going with Benny Goodman playing “Sing, Sing, Sing.” This is from the movie Hollywood Hotel. Of course, Gene Krupa has the famous drum solos here and Harry James is on trumpet.
With the trade deadline, the Women’s World Cup and family obligations (it’s my anniversary), I haven’t really had the time to watch many movies this week. I did watch the pre-code film Hell’s Highway, which is one of two films that came out in 1932 that attacked the use of chain gangs in southern prisons. The other one was the far-superior I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. The two films—but mostly the latter—turned the elimination of chain gangs into a movement in the United States.
Hell’s Highway was directed by Rowland Brown, a true character of early Hollywood whose career as a director ended in the mid-thirties because of his violent and volcanic temper. He was fired from at least one film after he punched out a producer (which one is a matter of some debate) and walked off the set and quit on several others. He also had some kind of tie to organized crime, although again, it’s not clear how “connected” he was or whether he just wanted people to think he was so they’d be scared of him. He did continue in the business for a few years after that as a screenwriter and got an Oscar nomination for writing Angels with Dirty Faces in 1938.
I don’t have a lot to say about Hell’s Highway. Richard Dix stars as “Duke” Ellis, a career criminal working in a brutal chain gang. The prisoners have been contracted to build a “Liberty Highway” (ironic) and are being driven by a cruel foreman hired by a contractor who cares about nothing other than completing the road as quickly and cheaply as possible.
After a prisoner dies after being put in a sweat box (a corrugated metal booth left out in the hot sun), Duke hatches a plan to escape. But as he’s breaking out, Duke discovers that his younger brother Johnny has been sentenced to serve in the same chain gang. Apparently Johnny tried to kill the man who “snitched” on Duke. (Johnny missed and got 1 to 5 years for assault with a deadly weapon.)
Duke decides his younger brother won’t survive the chain gang without him, so he doesn’t make a break for it with the other prisoners. Instead, he cuts a deal with the overseer. In exchange for Johnny being given a desk job, Duke (who is well-respected and a leader amongst the inmates) will keep the other prisoners in line and working.
Of course, Johnny doesn’t like this special treatment and he doesn’t like that Duke is looking at life in prison being fingered for another robbery as a habitual criminal. But Duke (and Johnny, to a lesser extent) also discovers a lot more violence and corruption coming from the contractor running the place.
This is a pre-code film, so the film was allowed to portray the system and the powers-that-be as a lot more evil than they would have just a few years later. The heroes are allowed to be more flawed as well—there is no suggestion that Duke and Johnny are actually innocent. And while the stars of the film are all white, the film does take the time to show the Black inmates working on the chain gang as well. They even get a musical number. Chain gangs were basically legalized slavery, permitted by that “punishment for a crime” loophole in the 13th Amendment. Hell’s Highway makes sure you get that point.
Hell’s Highway isn’t a great film. It’s barely a good film. But it’s a short (just over one hour) pre-code message film about the evil of the chain gang. As that, it’s a decent piece of history.
I don’t have any clips to show, but the entire film is available on YouTube. It’s also currently featured on the Criterion Channel.
Tonight’s question is simple: How will the Cubs’ season end?
Tonight in talking to Taylor McGregor after the game, Christopher Morel predicted that the Cubs would make the postseason. You want to see the Cubs players optimistic about that, but you don’t have to be.
So will the Cubs make the playoffs? Will they make some noise in the postseason and win some series? Or maybe they won’t even finish with a winning record? Give us your predictions now that the trade deadline is over and the rosters are mostly set.
How will the Cubs’ season end?
This poll is closed
With a losing record
Winning record, but missing the playoffs
Wild Card round loss
Division Series loss
World Series—win or loss
Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week and especially thanks to everyone who commented or voted. We’ve had a great time this week and we hope you have too. Please clean up your table and recycle any cans or bottles. Get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.