Top Baseball Flicks, and for fun, a few that just don't make the team
By Rob Paul
It's May which means I'm a little slow on the up-take but since this is the internet it means I am early for next Spring, and just a trifle behind the times this year. I'm looking at Baseball and what I consider the most worthy films, a few that fall short of the goal and a couple that simply should not have been made in the first place.
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|Any good baseball list is going to mention the Kevin Costner has the baseball trilogy, a very solid record with two hits and a strikeout. We start with:
Field of Dreams, for me, is the baseball film. It captures the spirit of what was once great about the game, it is well-told, well acted and you can't help but love watching that final crane shot revealing a long line of headlights of people heading out to Iowa for reasons unknown to them, just to look around. (Final rating: Grandslam)
Bull Durham: Comedy, Sex and Baseball seem perfectly entwined with three great performances by Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and once again, Costner. How can you argue against a baseball film that actually has a catcher encouraging the pitcher to bean the mascot? (Final rating: Homerun)
Crash Davis (Costner): "Relax alright don't try to strike everyone out. Strikeouts are boring besides that they're fascist. Throw some ground balls it's more democratic. "
For Love of the Game? The only people I know who like this are not baseball fans but Costner fans, and throw in the fact that Sam Raimi directed it, the man who made Evil Dead and Spiderman and it seems to be a rather mediocre outing at best, ruining what was a perfectly good Costner trilogy. (Final rating: Foul Ball)
Pride of the Yankees: Not only one of the greatest baseball flicks of all time, but a true story and even men get a lump in the throat when Gary Cooper, playing the doomed Lou Gehrig, steps up to the microphone and gives that crushing but stellar speech, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Don't miss this one, great acting, great story, and Babe Ruth making a cameo as himself. (Final rating: Homerun)
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|The Natural: I would be ashamed if there wasn't a single film of the all-american Robert Redford donning a baseball uniform and running the bases. The fact that it takes place with an all-star cast and some stylish period settings with one helluva unforgettable homerun, well…that just puts it right up on the list here.
Steeped in baseball lore with nods to Ted Williams, Shoeless Joe Jackson (see Field of Dreams and 8 Men Out both of which are on this list), and even lifting from a bizarre story about the shooting of former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus by Ruth Ann Steinhagen in Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel. (Final rating: Triple)
A League of Their Own: Not many women sports films out there, not many female directors broaching a topic like this so it was a great surprise that Penny Marshall directed this movie. An even nicer surprise when it proved to be a hit making the point of the film stand firm. I'm not sure which I enjoy more Tom Hanks screaming out 'There's No Crying in Baseball' or beaning little Stilwell Angel in the face with a baseball glove. I'm gonna have to go with the baseball glove in the face. Slays me everytime. (Final rating: Inside The Park Homerun)
Eight Men Out - Independent director (bordering on maverick) John Sayles made, in my eyes, one of the finest films in his resume with this cast that looks like simple casting by today's standards. The cinematography is gorgeous and the film serves as a real nice history lesson about the Chicago Black Sox Scandal. I watched this one as a teenager and it sucked me right in and ever since then if it happens to show up on a TV station I can't help but sit and watch it. (Final rating: Triple)
61*: Billy Crystal, a long time baseball buff himself, directed this true story of the race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to break Babe Ruth's 60 home-run season. The detail and the commentary on the disc is a baseball nut's perfect solace during a rain-delay. (Final rating: Double on a Stolen Base)
The Rookie: There's a real simple way to say this. Do you like those movies where a guy chases his dreams, no matter what the cost and achieves them? If no...skip The Rookie. If yes, then you are about to watch the best romantic sports film since Remember The Titans. Based on the real-life story of Jim Morris who dropped out of minor league baseball because of an injury to his pitching arm. Twelve years later, Morris is convinced to fulfill his own dream and try out for a professional team, his arm seems better than ever and soon he is on his way to the Major Leagues! (Final rating: Standing Double)
Bang The Drum Slowly: Michael Moriarty stars as a pitcher who befriends a not-too-bright catcher (Robert De Niro) who is dying of Hodgkin's disease. Like most great baseball films, the sport is where the drama takes place, but the drama is not about the sport. Depressing sure, but one of the great baseball flicks that hasn't lost an inch of strength in its 30 years of aging. (Final rating: Triple)
The Bad News Bears: Growing up this was probably the first baseball flick I ever saw and it still kinda makes me laugh. Not exactly your typical family film, with all sorts of snappy and harsh dialogue you won't find in a Disney film. Coach Morris Buttermaker (a superb Walter Matthau) was a minor league coach. He pretty much is hitting rock bottom though when he ends up teaching a team of misfits in an ultra-competitive California little league. Think of this as the model for The Mighty Ducks, but with baseball, and much funnier. (Final rating: Double)
The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training, and
The Bad News Bears Go To Japan
Major League: This is one of those innocent surprises. The studios always hopes that one of their little films will go on to become a sleeper hit and Major League was one that did it in 1989. A small little flick with a solid off-beat cast and almost a $50 million gross. Not even close to being the best baseball film but certainly a fun Sunday afternoon viewing. (Final rating: Single)
Major League 2
Major League 3: Back To The Minors
Mr. Baseball: I have to admit I like the premise and the lead more than I like the overall movie. Pretty much a typical sports flick with the end result of winning the last game being a major deal. But Selleck's charm and the clash of cultures from a one-time MLB player winding down his career in Japan in as enjoyable one. You could certainly do worse (our last selection below)proves that. (Final rating: Single)
Damn Yankees: Baseball, a temptress named Lola, the devil and the Yankees...that's a combination to at least be intrigued by. Not being a huge musical fan myself I still can sit down and enjoy everything else this flick has to offer. (Final rating: Double)
Mr. Applegate: "I've got thousands of Washington fans drooling under the illusion that the Senators are going to win the pennant!"
Lola: "Aw Chief, that's awfully good! When they lose there'll be suicides and heart attacks and apoplexy... just like the good old days! "
The Fan - Really...what was Robert De Niro thinking? I mean I can defend Wesley Snipes on this one. Your agent comes to you and says, hey it's a crap script but you get to act and play baseball with Robert De Niro. Where do I sign? I will give it this though, De Niro excels at the creepy stalker from hell. But typical and obvious plot turns make this a surprisingly dull little film. (Final rating: Going Down Swinging)
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Copyright© Staffwriter: Rob Paul