Hey guys, Jana here,
Summer time means a million things to different people, but some things we can all agree on. Cook outs, swimming, catching lightning bugs, camping and baseball. It’s just as pure as mom’s apple pie and the star spangled banner and every spring, a new season swings into action and a new hope is born for your team to be a contender and play through October. The national past time has been the basis for a lot of movies and I’m making some sense of them all with my Top 10 favorite baseball movies.
Top 10 Baseball Movies
‘42‘ In 1946, Jackie Robinson is a Negro League baseball player who never takes racism lying down. Branch Rickey is a Major League team executive with a bold idea. To that end, Rickey recruits Robinson to break the unspoken color line as the first modern African American Major League player. As both anticipate, this proves a major challenge for Robinson and his family as they endure unrelenting racist hostility on and off the field, from player and fan alike. As Jackie struggles against his nature to endure such abuse without complaint, he finds allies and hope where he least expects it. Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford lead an all-star cast in this window into the tumultuous and intolerant world of MLB in 1946 and the legend that was Jackie Robinson. It’s an important film that needed made and it was made beautifully.
‘61*‘ Summer, 1961: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle are on pace to break the most hallowed record in U.S. sports, Babe Ruth’s single-season 60 home runs. It’s a big story, and the intense, plain-spoken Maris is the bad guy: sports writers bait him and minimize his talent, fans cheer Mantle, the league’s golden boy, and baseball’s commissioner announces that Ruth’s record stands unless it’s broken within 154 games. Any record set after 154 games of the new 162-game schedule will have an asterisk. The film follows the boys of summer, on and off the field: their friendship, the stresses on Maris, his frustration with the negative attention, and his desire to play well, win, and go home.
Director Billy Crystal took the competition between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to life in his last project as director. Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper bring the two giants to life in the film that was nominated for a Golden Globe and won two Primetime Emmy’s.
I’ve been fortunate enough to live near Mantle’s hometown and have played at the ballpark where Mantle signed with the New York Yankees, he’s always been larger than life and this flick was a great peek at the rivalry that became legendary.
‘The Natural‘ An unknown middle-aged batter named Roy Hobbs with a mysterious past appears out of nowhere to take a losing 1930s baseball team to the top of the league in this magical sports fantasy. With the aid of a bat cut from a lightning struck tree, Hobbs lives the fame he should have had earlier when, as a rising pitcher, he is inexplicably shot by a young woman. The Natural is truly what Robert Redford is in this movie. He’s so at home with a bat in his hand and a swing that was created based on Boston Red Sox great, also #9, Ted Williams. One viewing of this movie and you can understand why teams would be lining up to sign Redford. Wrestler Bret Hart took his catch-phrase from this movie, “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”. If you’re a fan of Redford, it’s a must-watch, if you’re a fan of baseball, it’s a must-see, if you like good movies, you get the point.
‘Rookie Of The Year‘ 12-year-old Henry Rowengartner, whose late father was a minor league baseball player, grew up dreaming of playing baseball, despite his physical shortcomings. Although he’s close to his mother Mary, Henry hates Mary’s latest boyfriend, Jack Bradfield. After Henry’s arm is broken while trying to catch a baseball at school, the tendon in that arm heals too tightly, allowing Henry to throw pitches that are as fast as 103 mph. Henry is spotted at nearby Wrigley Field by Larry “Fish” Fisher, the general manager of the struggling Chicago Cubs, after Henry throws an opponent’s home-run ball all the way from the outfield bleachers back to the catcher, and it seems that Henry may be the pitcher that team owner Bob Carson has been praying for. At first, Cubs manager Sal Martinella doesn’t like Henry being on the team, but despite the rawness of his talent, Henry revives everyone’s team spirit and reignites the enthusiasm of the fans. While money hungry Jack pulls strings behind the scenes.
The film stars Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Dan Hedaya, Eddie Bracken and Daniel Stern in this 1993 fantasy-baseball flick. This movie is one of those I remember watching constantly and the gags and jokes stayed just as hilarious. Watch this one with your kids now and even though the setting is truly mid 1990’s, they will still love it!
‘Fever Pitch‘ When relaxed and charming Ben Wrightman meets workaholic Lindsey Meeks she finds him sweet and charming, they hit it off and when it is winter Ben can spend every waking hour with Lindsey, but when summer comes around the corner Lindsey discovers Ben’s obsession with the Boston Red Sox. She thinks it is perfect until everything goes downhill for them.
Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore have an electric chemistry and any Red Sox fan can follow the roller coaster of emotions we felt as the 04 team took us all the way to the promised land with a World Series win. I can feel the pain Fallon’s Ben goes through with every loss and each win. It’s not pretty, having your emotions tied to each game, but my family can tell you they were rooting for the Sox just because the bad mood that followed a play-off loss was palpable. One thing we all know being a Sox fan is “They’ll break your heart”.
‘The Bad News Bears‘ First of a trilogy of films takes an unflinching look at the underbelly of little league baseball in Southern California. Former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker is a lazy, beer swilling swimming pool cleaner who takes money to coach the Bears, a bunch of disheveled misfits who have virtually no baseball talent. Realizing his dilemma, Coach Buttermaker brings aboard girl pitching ace Amanda Whurlizer, the daughter of a former girlfriend, and Kelly Leak, a motorcycle punk who happens to be the best player around. Brimming with confidence, the Bears look to sweep into the championship game and avenge an earlier loss to their nemesis, the Yankees.
Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal star in this hilarious story about growing up. This is a must-watch with the kids!
‘A League Of Their Own‘ In a small town in Oregon, farm girls Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) are sisters who compete with each other, even over the little things. Older, prettier, more settled and married Dottie is the catcher for the local softball team sponsored by Lukash Dairy. Kit is her younger sister, and pitcher on the same team, who feels that she can’t measure up to Dottie in her own eyes, or in the eyes of others. With so many young men overseas fighting the Axis, there is a danger that professional baseball will be shut down for the duration of the war. A well-known candy manufacturer, Walter Harvey (Gary Marshall), contrives the idea to create a professional baseball league for women; both the keep the sport alive and to make a buck or two. Dottie is recruited by a scout (John Lovitz) for this new league but refuses to go unless her sister is allowed on the team. On the way to Chicago they also intervene to get an outstanding batter, Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh) a try-out as well. Once in Chicago, they are introduced to the other girls who will be on one of the four teams: May and Doris (Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell) are close friends from New York; Shirley Baker (Anne Cusack) is an illiterate farm-girl. These women, along with their team-mates, begin a journey that opens up a whole new world, far beyond that of the baseball diamond, lead by team manager, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), a washed-up star ruined by alcohol and angered and embarrassed to be the coach of a girl’s team.
The movie has heart, it has laughs, but ultimately it tells a fantastic story of a unique time in America’s history. I introduced this to my 14-year old daughter a few nights ago and it’s still such a remarkable movie. It’s a staple on any Top 10 list for baseball movies for a reason.
‘Major League‘An exotic dancer marries the owner of a baseball club. He does not survive the honeymoon and she is in control of his ball club. she wants to move to warmer climes where some new stadiums have been built, but her lease has only one escape clause, poor attendance. She fields the worst team she can find. The attitude of the owner gives the misfits and losers something to rally around and they fight back.
Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon and Rene Russo are just a few of the actors that bring this comedy to life. “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.” “We better teach this kid some control before he kills somebody.” “You may run like Hayes. but you hit like shit.” Need I say more?
‘Field of Dreams‘ Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice in his corn field tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” He interprets this message as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm, upon which appear the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series. When the voices continue, Ray seeks out a reclusive author to help him understand the meaning of the messages and the purpose for his field. “Is this heaven?” “It’s Iowa.”
Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta star in this quintessential flick for baseball fans. If you’ve never seen this – stop. Stop right now and find the movie. Play it, be in awe and wonder for 107 minutes. You will not regret it.
‘The Sandlot‘ Scotty Smalls moves to a new neighborhood with his mom and stepdad, and wants to learn to play baseball. The neighborhood baseball guru Rodriquez takes Smalls under his wing, and soon he’s part of the local baseball buddies. They fall into adventures involving baseball, treehouse sleep-ins, the desirous lifeguard at the local pool, the snooty rival ball team, and the travelling fair. Beyond the fence at the back of the sandlot menaces a legendary ball-eating dog called The Beast, and the kids inevitably must deal with him.
Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, James Earl Jones, Denis Leary and Karen Allen star in the greatest baseball movie ever made! This has everything a childhood should be made of and it’s glorious. If I could only watch one baseball movie for the rest of my life, it would be ‘The Sandlot‘. The narration by the now-grown main character is very synonymous with Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story‘, and takes us back to a simpler time.
‘Dazed and Confused‘ While this film features the last day of school in 1976 and doesn’t really focus on baseball, there is a scene that is incredibly memorable for new freshman, Mitch Kramer. He pitches a great game then leads the upcoming Seniors to the outfield gate drawing the hazing away from his buds. Mitch Kramer, good guy with a broken ass.
‘The Dream Team‘ This is one of the funniest movies from 1989 about patients in a sanitarium and a Dr’s insistence that a baseball game would be beneficial to their healing process. While it’s not at all to do with baseball, if there wasn’t a game to drag these guys off to, there would be no story.
‘Angels In The Outfield‘ – A young boy makes a wish that he can finally have a real family and the Angels will win the pennant. A crew of real angels show up to make that dream come true and the only problem is getting anyone to believe that angels are there to help The Angels. This flick is baseball through and through, definitely worth a watch.
‘Chicken Little‘ Disney’s animated story about the chicken-who-cried-wolf is not built around a baseball game, but there’s a pivotal moment in Chicken Little’s life that comes when he saves the game. It’s a great moment for him and it’s all about baseball.
‘Battlefield Baseball‘ Battlefield Baseball is a tough game–it doesn’t end until all the members on the opposing team are dead. In this game the Gedo High team is composed of blue-faced zombies, and their opponents on the Seido High team know they don’t have a chance at beating them unless they can bring back a star pitcher who has a lethal pitch called the Super Tornado, but who has hung up his cleats and has no desire to return to the game. How have I missed this movie until now? This raises the stakes of even the World Series!