It’s A Celebration….of Baseball Movies
Pitchers and catchers reported to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Camp yesterday. The season is drawing near. Yet I find myself on a holiday weekend wanting my fix. I turned to my tried and true DVD collection to grab a couple of my favorite movies to tide me over until there are at least Spring Training games to follow or watch. Movies in general are a very subjective medium. I think people have strong feelings about what they like and why. When it comes to my group of friend’s sports movies often spark the fiercest debates. Sports fans in particular are passionate about their sport and how it is portrayed. I am sure that the list I am about to present will spark some discussion and debate.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had watched Moneyball and highly recommended it. After a discussion with a couple of buddies I came up with my top 10 baseball movies. Some of my choices were dismissed and replaced by their own favorites. There were at least sixmovies that appeared on all of our lists. Not necessarily in the same place I had them ranked, but on everyone’s list nonetheless. I am assuming that most of you have seen most if not all of these movies. I will link all of them to IMDB so you can do your research on them if you haven’t had the opportunity to watch them. All of these movies come with the Chris Ferguson seal of approval. Take that for what you will and enjoy.
Note that this is not the recent remake, but the original starring Walther Mathieu as Coach Morris Buttermaker, a drunk former minor league coach of a wild bunch of misfits in a highly competitive Southern California little league. His use of the daughter of a former girlfriend (Tatum O’Neal) and motorcycle punk leads the unlikely group to the championship. A movie that is full of laughs and highly enjoyable.
"Hey, Ahmad – even Hank Aaron Peels the ol’ eyelids before he takes a swing! ~Coach Morris Buttermaker"
9) Cobb (1994)
This is a relatively underrated movie that stars Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb in his later years. The story follows writer Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) that was commissioned to write Cobb’s biography. It does an excellent job of portraying the real Ty Cobb and his desire to put a positive slant on all of his faults. The more he tries to downplay or hide his issues of anger, racism, and abuse the more the real picture of the man comes into focus. If you can justify Pete Rose not being in the Hall of Fame when this guy is after watching this, I’m not sure how.
"Baseball is a red blooded sport for red blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and molly-coddles had better stay out… It’s a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest. ~Ty Cobb"
8) A League of Their Own (1992)
Based on a true story, this film recounts the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which came into existence during World War II, when it appeared Major League Baseball might shut down. While the story is about the ladies and their contribution to the war effort by playing baseball the movie is stolen by Manager Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) and cantankerous baseball scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz). The movie features a line up chock full of stars. This is even one your lady may enjoy with you.
"Uh, Lord, hallowed be Thy name. May our feet be swift; may our bats be mighty; may our balls… be plentiful. Lord, I’d just like to thank You for that waitress in South Bend. You know who she is – she kept calling Your name. And God, these are good girls, and they work hard. Just help them see it all the way through. Okay, that’s it. ~Jimmy Dugan"
7) 61* (2001)
This movie directed by Billy Crystal traces the season Roger Maris’ career season in 1961, when he eclipsed Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs, and dueled with teammate Mickey Mantle for the record for most of the season. The story shows how the All American Maris was the bad guy next to fan favorite Mantle. The amount of adversity he dealt with en route to breaking this hallowed record was staggering. The asterisk in the title denotes that since this record was set in a 154 game season any record set in the 162 game season will have an asterisk associated with it.
"Mick, did you ever stop and think, if you took better care of yourself, you wouldn’t be getting hurt all the time. Did you see what you did out there today with only one arm, and tonight you’re out screwing around! How can you do that? You’re Mickey Mantle for Christ’s Sake! ~Roger Maris"
I may be as shocked as anyone that a movie about math cracked its’ way into my top 10 list. The movie starring Brad Pitt as GM Billy Beane and Jonah Hill as the brainy Peter Brand provides and inside look at they forever changed the game. It takes an in depth look at how the Oakland A’s took baseball’s conventional wisdom about player evaluation and turned it on its statistical head, using advanced statistical analysis to get an edge on the other 29 teams. It sounds a little complicated, but it is a great movie.
"Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. In order buy wins, you need to buys runs. ~Peter Brand"
Kevin Costner plays Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella who hears a voice in his cornfield tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” The movie documents his journey of self-discovery and creation of a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. Once built the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other members of the Chicago Black Sox show up to play. While I am not typically one to buy into the supernatural in a realistic setting this movie is one of my all time favorites and one I watch at least a couple of times a year.
"Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I’ve heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet… The thrill of the grass. ~ =Shoeless Joe Jackson"
This film is a dramatization of Major league Baseball’s Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. The history of this movie is the aspect that drew me in. It is a great depiction of the era and the game at the time. In my opinion Shoeless Joe gets the short end of the stick. My favorite scene of the movie is the last scene where we see Joe playing in the minors under and assumed name.
"Regardless of the verdict of juries… no player who throws a ball game… no player who undertakes, or promises to throw a game… no player who sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a ball game are discussed, and does not promptly tell his club about it… will ever play professional baseball again. ~Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis"
Based on a book by Bernard Malamud (which ends differently than the movie), the movie follows an over-the-hill Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford) on a quest to reclaim the baseball glory that evaded him as a young player. Most of the story concerns itself with his attempts to return to baseball later in life, when he plays for the fictional New York Knights with his legendary bat “Wonderboy”.
"You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail. ~Ed Hobbs"
Even the premise seemed comical back in the 1980s: How could the Cleveland Indians win their division? But in this often-quoted, underrated (and fictional) classic, the laughs come as fast as Willie Mays Hayes (played by a young Wesley Snipes) and the Indians actually beat the odds. Charlie Sheen (Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn) and Tom Berenger (Jake Taylor) lead this band of misfits, castoffs, and screw-ups to a playoff berth much to the dismay of the new owner who wants to move the team due to a lack of attendance clause in the stadium lease. She does everything possible to cause the team to lose to accomplish her goal, but the loveable group of losers fights back.
"Just a reminder, fans, comin’ up is our “Die-hard Night” here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant. ~Harry Doyle"
Director Ron Shelton played in the minor leagues, so his hilarious take on life with the minor-league Durham Bulls is realistic, on and off the field. Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner), a journeyman catcher, tutors phenom pitcher Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) about more than just pitching. Bulls groupie Annie Savoy (played by Robbins’ future partner, Susan Sarandon) also takes turns with the lessons. It’s a romantic comedy wrapped around baseball. It’s a great movie with lots of appeal.
"I wouldn’t dig in if I was you. Next one might be at your head. I don’t know where it’s gonna go. Swear to God. ~Crash Davis"
I struggled with the placement of my top 3 for multiple reasons. My manly man side chided me for choosing a romantic comedy for my number one. It is such a great movie all around it won out almost for the number of classic quotes alone. I almost flipped Major league and The Natural for several reasons. Major League is just a great comedy. It could have been set around any sport and I still would have loved it. The cast and the constant quotable moments make it one of my main go to movies. It’s one of a few movies I make sure I have with me when I travel. I had a lot of fun sharing my favorite movies with you and the discussion with friends about their favorites. Feel free to add your own lists in the comments section. As we get ready to finally start the season it will give us something to talk about until the first pitch is thrown. If you haven’t watched these flicks I highly recommend that you do.
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