The Tampico Stogies are a last-place baseball team based in Tampico, Florida. The team competes in the lowest-level (Class D) professional Gulf Coast league during the summer of 1957. It is unclear if the team is affiliated with a major league franchise. The Stogies are owned by a pair of corrupt and scheming local Tampico businessmen, Hale Buchman (Henry Gibson) and his son, Hale Buchman Jr. (Teller). They refer to themselves as sports moguls, despite the team being heavily mortgaged.
Their star player and manager is an aging Cecil "Stud" Cantrell (William Petersen), a hard-drinking, hard-playing, and hard-loving man's man. Signed out of high school by the St. Louis Cardinals, Cantrell was a onetime rookie standout in the organization, but he never made it to the big leagues because of a war injury he sustained in World War II during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
At a game against the Crestview Cats in Alabama, Cantrell meets a beautiful young woman just voted Miss Strawberry Blossom of 1957, Dixie Lee Boxx (Virginia Madsen). What Cantrell initially intends to be a one-night stand soon develops into a semi-serious relationship.
Cantrell signs a slick-fielding but light-hitting second baseman named Jamie Weeks (Dermot Mulroney). Weeks soon falls for a virginal and church-going local girl, Esther Wrenn (Katy Boyer), who is looking to escape Tampico. Cantrell also signs a power-hitting, strong-armed catcher, Joe Louis Brown (Larry Riley), who is African American. Because this is the Deep South during the 1950s, to keep the local bigots and Ku Klux Klan off his back, Cantrell lies that Brown is a Venezuelan named José Brown who can't speak any English.
With the addition of these new players, the Stogies go on a red-hot winning streak. On the verge of a pennant, however, Cantrell is told that throwing the big game would give a substantial boost to his sagging career. He is offered a managerial position in the minor leagues with the Cardinals organization, on the condition he does not show up for the final game. If he plays, his future managerial career is over. Brown is also bribed not to play and the team's owners, the Buchmans, are involved in the match-fixing as well.
While the pennant game is being played at Tampico, Cantrell and Brown accidentally meet at a local bar where they discuss their moral and ethical dilemmas. They elect to hurry to the park and play, much to the anger and regret of the owners.
Released in 1987 by HBO, Long Gone is a little-known and difficult-to-obtain film that has consequently made it somewhat of a sports cult movie. It has been described as "three parts Bull Durham, two parts Slap Shot, add a dose of Bingo Long and a pinch of The Longest Yard". It has also been described as the best baseball movie most of you never saw.
A book, The Baseball Filmography, 1915 Through 2001, described Long Gone as one of the most thoroughly enjoyable baseball comedies made in the last two decades. Robert Creamer, a writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote that it was probably the best made-for-television movie he had ever seen.
John O'Connor, a writer for The New York Times, wrote that Long Gone makes classics such as The Pride of the Yankees look like promotional fantasies. The Bleacher Report wrote that this film deserves to be included in anyone's collection of baseball features. Newsday called it one of the best sports movies ever made. Long Gone was ranked 50th in The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Sports Films. It also rated a mention in another book, The Great Baseball Films, which stated Long Gone was an above-average comedy-drama that is full of bite, grit, and good feelings.
Despite the positive reviews, Long Gone has been largely overlooked by mainstream media and remains extremely difficult to buy on DVD.Director Martin Davidson won an ACE Award for the film under the category, Writing award for Biography.