5 PHENOMENAL BASEBALL MOVIES

With the baseball season not even a week old, I decided to celebrate the sport I love by changing plans and doing a Phenomenal 5 on baseball movies. At first I thought this was an easy, easy assignment. But before long I had more movies on my short list than I expected. So needless to say this was tougher than I thought it would be. There are some really good baseball movies that aren’t just for fans of the game. Many of these are just good quality movies that any film lover can enjoy. So here’s my list. As always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no doubt that these five baseball movies are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “MAJOR LEAGUE”

Major League” came out back in 1989 and was a big success. It was followed by two sequels but neither could match the original. “Major League” was a genuinely funny movie that mixed straight comedy with baseball satire. After a self-absorbed heiress inherits the Cleveland Indians from her deceased husband, she decides she wants to move the team to Miami. To do this she would have to show a worthwhile reason to take the city’s team away. So she fields the worst possible team in hopes of losing games and losing interest from the local fans. The team of misfits features pre-nutcase Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Corbin Bernsen, and more.  Add the hilarious Bob Uecker as the voice of the Indians and you’ve got a baseball comedy that truly delivers the laughs.

#4 – “PRIDE OF THE YANKEES”

Gary Cooper’s performance as “The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig in 1942’s “The Pride of the Yankees” is still one of my favorite roles of his. This is a film that was nominated for 11 Oscars including a Best Actor nomination for Cooper. In it you’ll see several real baseball players including Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey as well as a great story about an amazing player and individual. This movie really doesn’t pay close attention to the baseball part of Gehrig’s life. Instead it’s a biography of the highly accomplished yet tragically short life of a man many came to know through the game they loved. “Pride of the Yankees” has a few flaws but it also has a lot of heart and I  just have to include it on any list of phenomenal baseball movies.

#3 – “MONEYBALL”

I know that “Moneyball” just came out last year but it really impressed me. Bennett Miller’s baseball movie about Billy Bean and the 2002 Oakland A’s actually made sabermetrics and salary caps engaging cinema. Brad Pitt does a nice job fleshing out Bean and even the usually annoying Jonah Hill manages to keep his performance under control. It’s the story of a miracle team built around a system that should have never worked. Against the wishes of his scouts, coaches, and owners, Bean created a team that made a miraculous run that eventually put them in the playoffs. Again, this isn’t a traditional baseball picture. It looks at a different side of the game that I haven’t seen much of before. But it’s still very much a baseball movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

#2 – “THE NATURAL

Obviously this movie was going to show up on a list about baseball movies, right? “The Natural” is one of those movies that I can stop and watch anytime I come across it on TV. How can you not like Robert Redord as Roy Hobbs and his bat simply called “Wonderboy”? Roy learns about baseball and life the hard way but finally gets his shot with the New York Knights. Sure, a lot of convenient things fall into place that allow him his opportunity but when he gets it, he makes the most of it. Redford is helped by a nice supporting cast and a story that’s sure to leave you with a smile on your face. And I can still hear that music as Roy clobbers a home run that shatters the lights and send sparks raining down on the field. A classic moment.

#1 – “FIELD OF DREAMS”

This is a baseball movie that lifts the game up as an almost mystical force. “Field of Dreams” celebrates the game of baseball as the true American pastime. I paints baseball as something beyond just a sporting event that we enjoy watching. But even while it has the most reverent perspective on the game of all the films on my list, it’s really about family and baseball is that link that brings a father and son together. There are so many memorable things about “Field of Dreams’. Who can forget the whispers in the cornfields? “If you build it, he will come”. Who can forget “Shoeless” Joe Jackson first stepping onto the baseball field that was built on a leap of faith? Who can forget James Earl Jones’ speech on baseball? I could go on and on. For me, “Field of Dreams” is the quintessential baseball movie. It’s unique but it still brings out my love for the game.

Like my list? Do you have a baseball movie that you think should be on here? Did I include a film that you disagree with? Take time to add your comments and don’t forget to share your top 5 baseball movies.

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13 thoughts on “5 PHENOMENAL BASEBALL MOVIES

  1. Bull Durham might be my favorite baseball movie and it didn’t make the cut. I still chuckle at Tim Robbins butchering the lyrics on the team bus of Try A Little Tenderness (“young girls they do get wooley, because of all the stress”).

    Field of Dreams was very good before baseball lost it’s innocence in the 90s (for me anyway). It is still a lot of fun and I have no trouble with it’s # 1 ranking.

    Pride of the Yankees is a tear jerker and I always enjoy seeing it. I never got into the deepness of the Natural much. Some parts became downright corny. Moneyball is certainly worthy telling the story of modern day baseball economics so well.

    Major League was a little over the top for me. The Charlie Sheen factor I guess.

    One very good oldie was It Happens Every Spring starring Ray Milland. He was a nerdy professor who accidently discovered a formula that when put on a baseball made it unhittable. It would have made Gaylord Perry proud! Milland became a star pitcher till the formula ran out!

    There have been some clunkers too. The Babe Ruth Story and the Babe, starring William Bendix and John Goodman respectively, were both terrible. Fear Strikes Out with Tony Perkins playing Jimmy Pearsall was horrible. Perkins swung the bat like a girl (no offense girls).

    • I knew “Bull Durham” would be on your list. I haven’t seen “It Happens Every Spring” and will have to check it out. I also considered movies like “The Rookie”, “A League of Their Own”, “The Bad News Bears”, and “Eight Men Out”.

      What about “Bang the Drum Slowly”? It’s one I have heard about in the past but have never caught up with yet. Would “The Naked Gun” be a baseball movie? Remember Reggie Jackson trying to assassinate the Queen? :)

      I agree, “Major League” is over-the-top. But it really makes me laugh.

  2. I’ve only seen Moneyball on this list but I’m pretty keen to see your top two. come to think about it, I’d quite like to see number 5 too. The closest to a favourite baseball film for me would be I think Naked Gun 1 (or maybe 2) when Frank Drebin is patting down all the players to find out which one is going to assassinate the Queen. I’m sorry that’s not really a baseball movie!

  3. You brought up some good ones. I liked the rookie and even had the opportunity to meet the “rookie” in person it was based on. A League of Their Own was excellent and helped a whole new generation learn about the Black Sox and Shoeless Joe (and if they ever let Bonds and those guys into the HOF they have to put Jackson and Rose in too).

    Bang the Drum Slowly was a baseball version of Brian’s Song. It has received a heap of critical acclaim and featured one of my favorite off-beat actors Michael Moriarity.

    Some other interesting baseball movies would be Bingo Long’s Traveling All-Stars about a black barnstorming team in the 40s just as Jackie Robinson was being groomed by the Dodgers. Richard Pryor was a character trying to get into the majors by claiming he was Cuban. Also, there is the Jackie Robinson Story where Robinson actually played himself. And the Stratton Story with Jimmy Stewart is good. He played the real big league pitcher Monty Stratton who lost a leg after shooting himself in a hunting accident. Stratton actually worked back to pitch again briefly in the bigs. It has Jimmy Stewart, so you know it is worth a viewing.

    Sooo many baseball movies over time. The original Angels in the Outfield beats it’s sequel. Tom Selleck and Kevin Costner both were in movies where each played for the Tigers. I never saw either of them. Costner had a baseball trilogy! Seems like there was also a fairly recent baseball movie about an American playing in Japan. Can’t recall star or movie name.

    • “The Rookie” is one of those that I actually thought of after I had written this piece. It’s one that I could put ahead of “Major League” and have no problems doing it. I just simply forgot about it when putting the list together.

      I think one of the Costner movies was “For the Love of the Game”. And wasn’t the Selleck movie called “Mr. Baseball”?

  4. I love The Natural and Field of Dreams, …Dreams is one of my favourite movies, ever. I have Moneyball (the book). Looking forward to reading it, and then I’ll check out the film!

    • “Field of Dreams” is really good. I like what Ike said above, it was more effective before baseball lost it’s innocence (steroids, etc.) but it’s still great to watch.

  5. I was so glad to see your post on Moneyball. I want to see it, but right now I’m just about to finish the semester and I want to use it as a reward, motivation, to get everything turned in.
    Thanks

  6. Hey, I know this is an old post but I came across it since I am trying to start a blog of my own about baseball:

    http://mteagles.wordpress.com/

    That being said, I think The Sandlot definitely deserves a look for top 5 baseball movies. While the acting from the kids who play the parts is incredible, I think the theme of regular pickup baseball games is something that touched me as a baseball player. Maybe it was just overlooked because all of the others on the list are some of the best of all time as well but I am curious to hear your thoughts on this classic.

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