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My Top-10 Baseball Movies

August 17, 2014

Of all the sports out there, baseball is, by far, my favorite sport. I’m, also, a huge fan of movies. Put the two together and there’s probably not a baseball movie I haven’t watched at least a dozen times (unless it’s a low-budget independent flick that I never heard of).

I love rankings and lists so, here are my top-10 favorite baseball movies:

 

1. Long Gone (1987)

An HBO production that is, truly, hard-to-find. Starring William L. Petersen, Virginia Madsen, Dermot Mulroney and the late Larry Riley, “Long Gone” tells the tale of a magical season for a low-level minor league team and its former-phenom-turned-player/manager in Tampico, Florida during the racially-segregated 1950’s. How will the team known as perennial losers become winners despite nefarious forces working against them?

 

2. For Love of the Game (1999)

Combine an aging pitcher facing the end of his career, a love gained and lost and doubts of a return after a career-threatening injury, Kevin Costner is at his finest portraying Detroit Tigers pitcher “Billy Chapel”. While the scene is set in what is to be his final game on the mound, Chapel’s reflections between innings gives us insight to what brought him to this point in his life. Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, J.K. Simmons and American treasure, Vin Scully, round out the starring cast in a movie some would call a “chick-flick”. I’m not one of them.

 

3. The Natural (1984)

A baseball player, unknown to, nearly, everyone becomes an overnight Major League Baseball sensation in the 1930’s. No one seems to know where Roy Hobbs came from or why someone who should be at the end of his career is just beginning one. A nosey sportswriter investigates while Hobbs sets the league on fire and romances a femme fatale, who just happens to be the second one to affect his baseball career. Robert Redford leads this all-star cast, which includes Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close.

 

4. Field of Dreams (1989)

An Iowa corn farmer hears voices that tell him to build a baseball field, which he builds, and is visited by the ghosts of the eight Chicago White Sox players banned for throwing the 1919 World Series. Despite an impending foreclosure on his home and farm, Ray Kinsella seeks out a reclusive writer who he believes can interpret the strange occurrences. It turns out that the long-since passed players aren’t the only ones with issues to resolve. Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield and Burt Lancaster all deliver superb performances in a film that many consider the best baseball movie ever.

 

5. Pride of the Yankees (1942)

This classic from the World War II era tells the story of one of the greatest baseball players who ever set foot on the diamond – Lou Gehrig. Gary Cooper delivers his finest performance as Gehrig, baseball’s original “Iron Horse” while the movie features numerous former Yankees teammates, including Babe Ruth. Any baseball fan, even my fellow Red Sox fans, should watch this movie.

 

6. Bull Durham (1988)

Kevin Costner’s third entry in the top-six is similar to “For Love of the Game”, but with far more quotable lines. There’s no “fade to the past” for this aging minor-league catcher, who has a last shot at glory while trying to harness and educate a young pitching phenom whose wildness on the mound is exceeded by his antics off the field. Toss in a groupie who garners affection from both players and you have another baseball classic. Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl and Jenny Robertson perfectly compliment Costner in a movie that’s much more about the players (and two groupies) than the team.

 

7.  The Bad News Bears (1976)

A former minor league catcher agrees to manage a group of Little League misfits who, barely, have an ounce of baseball talent among them. He coaxes the daughter of an ex-girlfriend to join the club as their star pitcher and, through her, gets a local juvenile delinquent to play for the team, as he’s the best player in the city. It’s not a baseball version of David vs. Goliath, but it comes close.

 

8. Major League (1989)

The owner of the Cleveland Indians does not survive his honeymoon with his new wife, an exotic dancer. She takes control of the team and purposely tries to sabotage it in an effort to reduce the attendance to the point where she can move the team to Florida. She hires a former auto repair shop manager as the team’s skipper and, among the players, a former All-Star who was toiling in the Mexican League, a prissy infielder whose contract was to expire, a former auto-thief just out of jail, a Cuban defector and several no-names. An speedy, uninvited player even gets a chance to make the team. This often-quoted movie stars Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, the late James Gammon, Margaret Whitton, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Dennis Haysbert, Chelcie Ross and Bob Uecker. Former major-leaguers Steve Yeager and Pete Vukovich have important parts in this movie as members of the New York Yankees.

 

9. A League of Their Own (1992)

A washed-up, hard drinking ballplayer is hired to manage a team in the World War II-era. This isn’t an ordinary team in an ordinary league. They are the Rockford Peaches in the brand-new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The team features a pair of sisters with the younger sibling having an inferiority complex regarding her older sister, a former taxi-dancer, a southern beauty queen and other young ladies from around the country and Canada. Can this league survive its infancy with low attendance and scorn from baseball purists? Tom Hanks leads a stellar cast that includes Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, Bitty Schram, David Strathairn, David L. Lander, Jon Lovitz and Garry Marshall.

 

10. Eight Men Out (1988)

The 1919 Chicago White Sox are, by far, the best team in baseball with stars such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver and manager Kid Gleason. When the players feel they are being cheated by miserly owner Charles Comiskey, they are approached by gamblers with a plot to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. When the gamblers don’t live up to their end of the bargain, some of the players turn on the gamblers. Who was in on the fix? Who protested their innocence until their dying day? And whatever became of Joe Jackson? John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, D.B. Sweeney, John Mahoney, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd and Kevin Tighe brilliantly portray the roles of those involved in one of the greatest sports scandals of all-time.

 

Note: there are dozens of great baseball movies available so, it’s mathematically impossible to list all in a top-10 list.

 

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