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BCB After Dark: What does MLB Network have against Ian Happ?

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks how good a left fielder is Ian Happ

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It’s another Wednesday night here at BCB After Dark: the hippest hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Please join us. There’s no cover charge tonight. It may be cold out there, but it’s warm in here. Grab any available table. 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.

Last night I asked you if the Cubs should have beaten the Brewers offer for free agent first baseman Rhys Hoskins. I think that poll question got more response than any other one in the history of After Dark, which is weird. But I’m glad I gave you all something you had an opinion on. But in the end, 55 percent of you said “Nay!” Only 19 percent thought the Cubs should have offered more and 26 percent of you were “whatever.”

So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.

Tonight we have a colorized video of saxophonist Dexter Gordon in Belgium in 1964. George Gruntz is on piano, Guy Pedersen on bass and Daniel Humair is on drums. This is the jazz standard “Body and Soul.”

You voted in the BCB Winter Western Classic and it was a close one. But at least you obeyed my wish and didn’t have it end in a tie. By a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent, you picked Rio Bravo over Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One thing I’ve learned doing this is that you really like Rio Bravo. You also like Dean Martin. Honestly, I can’t blame you for either of those positions.

Tonight we have a matchup of two oaters, both directed by John Ford and both starring John Wayne. The first one is 1939’s Stagecoach, which is the film that kicked off the Western craze in America. The second one is 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which, along with The Searchers, is probably John Ford’s best-looking movie.

As always, I’m going to repeat what I wrote the first time about these two movies. I will add that the basic concept for Stagecoach—a group of people from different walks in life thrown together—has been re-used dozens of times in movies and television, including Gilligan’s Island. If being partially responsible for Gilligan’s Island is a point against or in favor of Stagecoach is for you to decide.

As some of you mentioned the first time Stagecoach was up for a vote, the stunts from that film have been imitated in many films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Stagecoach (1939). #7 seed. Directed by John Ford. Starring Claire Trevor, John Wayne and Andy Devine.

I feel like I have Stagecoach is seeded too low here, because I think it’s close to a perfect movie. It may seem somewhat cliché at times, but that’s only because so many films made since have copied its setup.

There were a ton of Westerns made before Stagecoach, but by the 1930s, they were all cheap B-movies made mostly for Saturday afternoon matinees for children with a dime to spend. John Wayne starred in a lot of them. Ford wanted to make a Western with a big budget that adults could enjoy, like he had done in the silent era. He also insisted upon casting Wayne, whom he thought had star potential. The studios wanted a bigger name (Gary Cooper was suggested), but Ford said it was Wayne or no one. Eventually producer Walter Wanger relented, but the better-known Claire Trevor had to get top billing and a much bigger salary.

The success of Stagecoach (and a few other films) kicked off a Western craze in the US that would last until the early-seventies.

Stagecoach is an “Ark Film,” which is a term that means you take a bunch of random people with little in common and throw them together in a situation where they are stuck with each other. You’ve seen other films or TV shows that have used this concept. Stagecoach, naturally enough, is about the dangerous passage of a stagecoach through hostile Apache territory, with Geronimo on the warpath. There are nine people on the stagecoach, and they all have their own story.

Buck (Devine) is the good-hearted but somewhat bumbling stage driver. When the town gets the message that the Ringo Kid (Wayne) has escaped from prison, Marshal Curley (George Bancroft) decides to ride shotgun—both to protect the stage from the Apache and to bring Ringo, for whom he has a soft spot, back to prison alive.

The passengers are diverse as well. Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), is a pregnant and aristocratic Southern lady who is determined to be with her cavalry officer husband when she gives birth. A shifty gambler of poor reputation named Hatfield (John Carradine), recognizes Lucy as the daughter of the man he served under in the Confederate army. He decides to go on the stage to protect her.

Two people have no choice but to get on the stage as they are being kicked out of town. Dallas (Trevor) is the stereotypical “hooker with a heart of gold” who has been run out of town by the local Decency League, as has Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell). While Doc Boone is an actual doctor, his alcoholism has turned him into an undesirable as the town drunk.

Gatewood (Burton Churchill) is the local banker who gets on the stagecoach because he’s been embezzling funds and is trying to get out of town before the law catches up to him. Finally, there is Peacock (The aptly-named Donald Meek), a timid whiskey salesman from Kansas City, Kansas. Doc Boone naturally wants to sit next to him.

Shortly after the stage leaves, the group runs into the Ringo Kid in one of the greatest entrances in the history of film. (Video) Wayne flags down the stage and twirls his rifle with Monument Valley serving as the backdrop; the camera moving in for a closeup.

Curley arrests Ringo but he knows that they’ll need another gun to get through Apache territory and Ringo gives him his word that he’ll surrender when this is all over. But Ringo is also heading to their final destination, Lordsburg, to have a final showdown with the three Plummer brothers who killed his kid brother. Ringo is not expecting to survive long enough to go to prison. Ringo is an outlaw and a killer, but a good-natured one that we’re supposed to root for. That seems old hat today, but it was revolutionary in 1939.

Everyone in the stage has their own agenda and point of view. Ringo and Doc Boone are the only ones to treat Dallas with any respect at first, but she earns the respect and friendship of the very proper Lucy along the way. Lucy gives birth along the route, and Doc Boone has to sober up enough to deliver the baby.

Of course, Dallas and Ringo fall in love. Dallas, as a “fallen woman,” doesn’t feel worthy of Ringo’s love. Ringo says he knows all he needs to know about Dallas and the rest doesn’t matter. Dallas begs Ringo to run—away from certain death at the hands of the Plummer brothers and away from Curley taking him back to prison.

The best scene in the film is also the most problematic—an incredibly thrilling Apache attack upon the stagecoach. (Video) It’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road 75 years earlier. Yes, the Apache are unthinking and bloodthirsty savages, but the attack is so well-filmed that you don’t really think about that stuff. And we have to give a special credit to someone who wasn’t credited in the film, legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. The stunts in Stagecoach are thrilling and have been imitated, but never topped, in many films over the years since.

One of the reasons the stunts are so terrific is that it’s amazing what you can do if you really don’t care if horses or stuntmen live or die. But Canutt was a master at planning a stunt and even though they were very dangerous, if everything went right, he’d get out of it alive. Ford had to get it all in one take because Canutt wasn’t doing it again. Almost thirty years later, Canutt got an honorary Academy Award, the only stuntman to ever get an Oscar.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) Directed by John Ford. Starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru and John Agar.

John Ford made a lot of great-looking movies in his career, but none is more gorgeous than She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. This film looks terrific. Working in Technicolor, Ford captures the beauty of his beloved Monument Valley like he never had before. The mountains are beautiful. The mesas are beautiful. The desert is beautiful. The horses are beautiful. The sets are beautiful. The costumes are beautiful. And Joanne Dru is especially beautiful, never more so than when she’s riding sidesaddle wearing a cavalry cap and jacket with a yellow ribbon in her hair.

Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch deserves a lot of the credit for the look of the film, which he based on the art of the Old West by Frederic Remington. It’s ironic that Hoch and Ford reportedly didn’t get along during the shoot, with Ford’s rumored insistence that Hoch keep shooting as a thunderstorm rolled in a big point of contention. But I’ve got to say, that scene with the thunderstorm looked great too. And Hoch deservedly won an Oscar for Cinematography for his efforts.

(John Ford is the director who got shot by a Japanese fighter plane at the Battle of Midway. When his cameraman went to offer assistance, Ford screamed at him to get back to shooting. He was not one to let potentially-lethal danger get in the way of a good scene.)

Ford was not planning on casting Wayne in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, since the part of Captain Nathan Brittles was a man approaching retirement and Wayne was only 42 at the time. But Ford was so impressed with Wayne’s acting in director Howard Hawks’ Red River that he decided to give Wayne the part. And certainly, Wayne is never more appealing that he is in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Brittles is second-in-command at Fort Starke. He’s absolutely beloved by his men for his good nature and the way he cares about them. Captain Brittles is smart, tough-but-fair, charming and gregarious and so is Wayne’s performance. He mourns his beloved wife at a small gravesite by the fort and talks to her regularly. But Brittles never takes that sadness with him to the job. He prefers to negotiate with the Indians than shoot at them. His one negative character trait is that whenever someone apologizes for anything, Brittles is quick to say “Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.”

It’s hard to summarize the plot of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon since it doesn’t really have one. It’s basically an episodic look at the final week of Captain Brittles’ career in the Army before retirement. There’s an overarching plot of the Cheyenne and Arapaho going on the warpath and the cavalry having to get them back on the reservation. Brittles makes it his mission to do so without bloodshed, but his commanding officer doesn’t think he can do it before his scheduled retirement in a week. But that’s mostly an excuse to have some amazing shots of both the cavalry and the Native Americans riding horses along the gorgeous desert.

Other things going on in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is Brittle’s commander, Major Allshard, has his wife Abby (the always great Mildred Natwick) and his niece Olivia Dandridge (Dru) with him and he wants to get them back east where they’ll be safe if the Indians attack the fort. So Brittles has to take them along on a scouting party so they can drop them off at the stagecoach. On top of that, two of Brittle’s subordinate officers, First Lieutenant Cohill (John Agar) and Second Lieutenant Pennell (Harry Carey Jr.), are fighting for the affection of the beautiful young Miss Dandridge. Oh, and then there’s Victor McLaglen as Quincannon, the comic, hard-drinking Irish sergeant, who is also retiring. Sgt. Quincannon is Brittle’s best friend, and Brittles wants to make sure that his final weeks in the Army are safe and enjoyable.

So there’s a lot going on in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and none of it, other than the potential Indian War, is important. And even that is handled with as little violence as possible. The most famous quote from the film is Wayne going “Picnicking? Picnicking Miss Dandridge?” (Admittedly, a lot of that is because of Wayne’s delivery.) Critic Dave Kehr famously called it “perhaps the only avant-garde film ever made about the importance of tradition.” I wouldn’t go that far to call She Wore a Yellow Ribbon avant-garde, but it is certainly a departure from the plot-heavy Westerns of the era.

I do have to give the movie some demerits for the way it portrays the young Natives as violent and savage, but the one person that they really brutally kill on-screen is a slimy Indian trader who clearly deserved it. And the film has Chief Big John Tree as an elder Cheyenne who considers Brittles a friend and wants to talk peace as well.

There is one Cubs connection in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Joanne Dru’s real name was Joan LaCock, and she was the older sister of longtime Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall (né Pierre LaCock). That means Dru was the aunt of seventies-era Cubs first baseman Pete LaCock

If you can’t find Stagecoach available to stream, you aren’t trying hard enough. It’s on Amazon Prime and Max, as well as many of those “free with ads” streaming services. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is only on the somewhat obscure IndieFlix. However, IndieFlex is free through participating libraries, so that’s something you may want to check out to see if your local library offers the service. But there’s also a copy of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon here.

So now it’s time to vote. I’ll include a poll this time.


Stagecoach or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    (119 votes)
  • 29%
    She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
    (50 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now

You have until Monday to vote. If you’re looking ahead, our final matchup of the second round has our #8 seed Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), directed by Sergio Leone and starring Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson. It takes on the #9 seed Winchester ‘73 (1950), directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea and Stephen McNally. Winchester ‘73 is on Starz and the Encore Westerns channel this weekend. There’s also a copy here. Once Upon a Time in the West is available for free with ads on YouTube or Pluto TV.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

Jed, you’re driving me crazy. Do something.

I hate to give attention to this because its whole purpose is to get attention. But the MLB Network has been releasing their “Top 10 Right Now” lists recently and today they came out with the left fielders.

So you can guess what Cubs fans are upset about. Ian Happ is not on the list.

Happ has won the last two Gold Gloves in left field and while his defensive stats there in 2023 don’t match up to his 2022 stats, I also know that defensive stats for outfielders are really buggy and you should look at a two or three year period when assessing defense. Roberto Clemente, probably the greatest defensive right fielder of all time, had a couple seasons in his prime when he ranked as negative WAR on defense.

Yes, Happ only hit .248 last year, but he’s a walk-drawing machine, which gave him an OBP of .360. He had 35 doubles, four triples and 21 home runs. Happ stole 14 bases. Maybe he doesn’t do anything great, but he’s good in a lot of different areas.

On top of that, there are just some really weird selections there. If you are just going by WAR, Happ outranks Kyle Schwarber, Bryan Reynolds and Matt Wallner, according to Baseball Reference at least. Wallner has a promising future, but he has 94 major league games under his belt and only 40 of them were in left field.

There are other issues as well. You may notice that there are two Astros included among the “Top 10” left fielders. Álvarez is a tremendous hitter, but he’s primarily a DH who played just 40 games in left last year. McCormick played more left field than any other position, but he played just 59 games there last year. On the same point, Nootbaar has played 44 games in his entire career in left and just 24 games last season. He’s primarily a right fielder or center fielder. A lot of center fielders would be a “Top 10” left fielder if you counted them as one.

Then there is Schwarber, who has 93 home runs combined over the past two seasons. He also managed just 19 doubles last year and 21 the year before. He’s become a complete three-true outcomes player. Schwarber’s batting average and fielding are so bad that he had a bWAR of 0.6 last year. I’ve got a Kyle Schwarber bobblehead in my bedroom, but I’m not delusional enough to say that at this point in their careers, Schwarber is a better left fielder than Happ. Heck, he may not even be a better offensive player than Happ when you look at getting on base and baserunning.

So I’m going to ask you “Where on this list should Ian Happ rank?” I can see him ranking above Álvarez just because Álvarez isn’t a left fielder and he shouldn’t be on the list at all, but I’m not enough of a Happ partisan to say he’s the number one left fielder in the game.

So among the left fielders in the major leagues, where do you think Ian Happ ranks?


Where should Ian Happ rank among left fielders "right now"?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    1 through 3
    (48 votes)
  • 49%
    4 through 6
    (257 votes)
  • 31%
    7 through 10
    (165 votes)
  • 9%
    He’s not a top ten left fielder
    (48 votes)
518 votes total Vote Now

Thank you so very much for stopping in this evening. I hope you’re having a good week. I know we have. Please get home safely. Stay warm. Recycle any cans and bottles. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.