With Oscar buzz surrounding the movie Moneyball, it’s hard to ignore the fact that baseball is the sport that most easily captures the hearts of both fans and film critics alike. Over the years, baseball movies have caused men to cry, children to love and women to appreciate. The right baseball movie can cause a roller coaster of emotions accompanied by memories that cannot be replaced. It is impossible to watch Field of Dreams and not think of the days you spent having a catch with your father. Or to watch The Sandlot and not think of the summers spent as a child growing up with your friends and the only worry that you have is finding a lost baseball. Baseball movies have something in them for everyone.
Trying to put these great movies into a top-10 list is harder than scoring a date with Blake Lively, but I tried. Here is my list of the “Top 10 Baseball Movies of All Time.” (Keep in mind I’m in my 20s, so I am biased on some of them.)
1.) Major League: Anybody who grew up in my age group feels a connection to this collection of cast-offs and goofballs. Major League does a great job of mixing hilarity with the realness of how difficult it is to succeed for a major-league team. To this day, every time “Wild Thing” is played at a baseball game, I think of Rick Vaughn.
2.) The Natural: The usual number-one movie on many lists is based on the book by Bernard Malamud. In it, Roy Hobbs seeks to regain baseball glory. The story is somewhat over the top, but to me, Robert Redford’s performance is the best performance by an actor in any baseball movie. The scene where he breaks all of the stadium lights with a batted ball is unrealistic, sure, but still awesome to watch.
3.) BASEBALL: The superb documentary by Ken Burns details the game of baseball from its beginning. It won an Emmy award for best informational series. The 10-part documentary focuses on every facet of the game from the inception to modern baseball, including the Negro Leagues. The series is now available in a 10-dvd set.
4.) Pride of the Yankees: An oldie but a goody. The scene where Lou Gehrig gives his final speech always makes my face look like I just ate five lemon heads because I always try to hide my tears … but I never can.
5.) Bull Durham: I did not appreciate this movie for what it is the first few times I saw it. Director Ron Shelton predictably has great insight on life as minor leaguer because he was one. Kevin Costner is great as Crash Davis, a longtime minor-league catcher who tries to teach the game to a new hotshot. Also, it’s a movie you can watch with your significant other since it is a borderline love story in its own screwed up way.
6.) Field of Dreams: On the surface, it looks like a movie about a man on the verge of losing his Iowa farm who decides to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. However, when you dig in, the movie is a story of man who longs to connect with his father. Some of the unrealistic occurrences can be annoying. Look past them; it is worth it.
7.) The Sandlot: This is a personal favorite of mine and probably every other kid born in the 1980s. Watching this makes me think back to the days I spent with my childhood friends playing ball all day and making big deals out of the littlest problems. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez brings a new kid into his group of friends, and they lose a baseball (stolen from the new guy’s stepfather) signed by Babe Ruth. Award-winning, I know.
8.) Moneyball: The story of the rise of the Oakland A’s. The book written by Michael Lewis about a new statistical formula to evaluate players made for a surprisingly good baseball movie. Dreamboat Brad Pitt stars as groundbreaking general manager Billy Beane in the movie that became the first baseball movie to be a box-office hit in a decade.
9.) A League of Their Own: Tom Hanks is sensational in this movie, based on the true story of an all-women professional baseball league started during WWII. The baseball scenes are high quality, and Geena Davis is convincing as all-star Dottie Henson. Most importantly, the movie introduced the phrase “there is no crying in baseball” into the mainstream.
10.) 61*: The 2001 movie directed by Billy Crystal gives a detailed look into Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s chase to overtake Babe Ruth as the home-run king in 1961. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane make a convincing Maris and Mantle. The baseball scenes are okay, but the real genius is in the off-field story of the struggle Maris dealt with while chasing the Babe. For an HBO movie, this is way above average.
Eight Men Out
The Bad News Bears
Bang the Drum Slowly