When the calendar turns to April, and weather turns to spring, many americans across the country anticipate the beginning of baseball season. I count myself among those people, as a huge baseball fan, it is my number one sport. The new baseball season always brings the promise of a fresh start, and chance to go further than the year before, or reach the championship once more. With baseball season beginning this Sunday, I thought it a good opportunity to take a look at some of my favorite baseball movies. This baseball season is unique in that it featured the World Baseball Classic, a tournament featuring a mix of players from MLB as well those from around the world. The United States had a deep run, and ended up coming out as Champs, so I have been in a baseball mood earlier than usual.
There are so many good baseball movies, especially if you love the sport like I do, so I won’t cover them all here, this post is going to be all about my favorites, and I paired it down to two per period of my life, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Now with any posts of this nature, there will be films I will not talk about, and I know I am sure to leave somebody’s favorite off the list, so sorry, Mr. 3000 fans, your favorite didn’t make the cut. I will also say this, I understand how a good a movie The Sandlot is, but it’s just not my favorite. The characters are good and it’s super relatable, but it just doesn’t have the same effect for me than it does for most. That is the best part of a good baseball movie though, that there are so many good ones, and each connects to a different person in a different way. It is one of the reason why I love baseball so much, there is just something about that the other sports to seem to have.
Before I jump into the scripted films below, a special shout out to all of the great baseball documentaries, of which there are many. Most fans tend to gravitate towards documentaries about their own teams, as I do, which is why I really recommend the great HBO documentary Curse Of The Bambino, and its subsequent recut, which features the Red Sox winning a world series, and is entitled Reverse Of The Curse Of The Bambino. The seminal masterclass in great baseball documentaries is Ken Burn’s Baseball, which covers the entire history of the sport, and with the addition of the 10th Inning chapter, runs right up until the late 2000s. I highly recommend checking the series out, though if it’s too long, as least watch the later installments to see more of the things from more recent years.
There are a certain subgenre of baseball movies specifically designed to appeal to kids, they usually have kid protagonists, they almost always focus about the main characters love of the game, and they also involve them having to teach the grizzled old vet to love it again too. Both of my favorite films follow this story structure, Angels In The Outfield, and Rookie Of The Year. Both feature a young baseball diehard, one who just wants his favorite team to win, so he can have the family he has always wanted. While the other gets thrust into the Majors, which is every young fan’s dream. The latter focuses on family too, in fact many baseball movies share the familial element, there is just something about the sport that brings people together. I like both movies a lot because while they are both heartfelt at times, the scene where young Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Roger is told that he can’t have his Dad around unless the Angels win the pennant, is both heartbreaking, and maybe also the biggest jerk move. Rookie of the year also has a few nice moments between Thomas Ian Nicholas’ character, Henry Rosinbagger, I mean Rowengartner, and his mother, which is the emotional crux of the film.
In addition to these elements, both movies are also fairly funny. Having Christopher Lloyd and Danny Glover make for some really entertaining moments in Angels In The Outfield; while Rookie Of The Year has one of comedy legend John Candy’s last roles, as well as Gary Busey, and Daniel Stern, who actually directed the movie. Angels In The Outfield also boasts a few future oscar winners in Adrian Brody, and Matthew McConaughey. Both films are a ton of fun, and great for the whole family, I don’t think I have never met a person who didn’t like either of these two, which speaks to how well the films both resonate all these years later. The same can’t be said for the Angels’ spinoff about football, which was really bad.
As I got older, my love of baseball movies didn’t change, I still love those same movies from my childhood, and they still hold up as enjoyable films. What does change however is the loss of child protagonists, those movies hook the youngsters because of their relatable ages, so it makes sense that there needs to be other movies to take their place, when you can no longer relate to being a kid. The two movies I picked out of this time in my life are The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid, and my all time guilty pleasure baseball movie, Fever Pitch. Now I know many people will groan at the inclusion of Fever Pitch, a baseball remake of a book adaptation about soccer, but it hits so many major bullet points for me; it’s a Boston movie, it’s about my favorite team, the Red Sox, it features Drew Barrymore who I loved back in the day, and it ends with the first Red Sox championship in 86 years, which is not a piece of Hollywood fiction. It will always lose points because it stars Jimmy Fallon, who I am not a big fan of, but there is just so much that I like about it, mostly because I am a sucker for Boston. I remember going to games in 2004 while they were filming B-roll for movie, I’ve looked to see if I made it into any crowd shots, but sadly I must have been on the cutting room floor. It’s also worth noting that the ending to that movie was originally much different, as it was intended to end not on a happy note, because like most Red Sox stories before then, it was meant to be a tragedy.
The Rookie also feature elements of truth the way Fever Pitch does, as it is based on a true story. Quaid plays Jimmy Morris, a high school science teacher, who is convinced by the team he coaches, to try out for a spot in the Majors. The film follows Morris’ progression through the minors, and chronicles the struggles players have to make, all of which is escalated, because Morris is older, and has a large family back home to support. The film does a great job of setting the stakes for Morris, and Quaid does a great job conveying the many emotions that would run through a person in his position. The film also captures the similarities between Morris, and the students he is trying to teach, as both are on similar paths to bring the best out of one another. What is unique about this film, is that Morris is both the person with a deep love for the game of baseball, as well as the grizzled older character who needs to learn to love it again. Morris clearly exhibits a love for baseball, but after seeing his high school program get worse and worse, he starts to become jaded, before turning it around to once again pursue his dream. I think this film is an underrated one, as it doesn’t have the following that many other baseball movies do, but it is another solid sports output from Disney, which made Angels In The Outfield, and who know how to make a compelling based on a true story sports film.
The final two films I want to talk about are ones I didn’t see until I was older, one because I never got the chance to see it earlier, and the other because it just came out recently. The classic, and sure to be on most people’s list is Major League, the comedy about a group of misfits who band together to put on an improbable season, all to screw over the owner of the team, which in itself is kind of a losing effort, because even though her plan fails, she now has a winning team so it is kind of a wash. The cast here is great, and the characters all bring something to the table that makes the film enjoyable. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes each have their own unique personalities, that clash at several different points in the film. James Gammon is great as manager of the team, Lou Brown and his deadpan personality is great, as he plays more the straight man to the wacky antics of his players. Of course everybody also loves Dennis Haysbert overly superstitious Pedro Cerrano, which gives out the best character in the history of baseball, the rum loving, Jobu. The film holds up incredibly well, and is a much watch for even the casual baseball fan, though I assume most have seen the movie, though the sequels leave a lot to be desired.
The final movie is the newest of the group, but one that garnered critical and audience acclaim, Moneyball. The film, based on a true story, chronicles the 2003 Oakland Athletics, who with the help of their general manager Billy Beane, rewrote how to build a winning baseball team, and surprised the league with their ability to manufacture runs, and execute the fundamentals. The film is enjoyable from start to finish, and features an all-star cast, lead by Brad Pitt, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film also has a breakout dramatic performance from Jonah Hill, who up until that point was mostly a supporting character in stoner comedies. The story is compelling, and the peek behind the curtain regarding some of the inner workings of baseball operations is a treat for any fan, even though most of it is probably highly dramatized. The film was so impressive that it received 6 academy award nomination, including best picture, and both actor and supporting actor. Whenever I bring up Moneyball, it always seems to be one that people always heard was good, but never checked it out, which is a shame, because it really is one of my favorite baseball movies, though I suspect the A’s being the centerpiece of it might have turned some people away.
So there you have it, a handful of my favorite films, about my favorite sport. There are many others out there, and like I said, I am sure somebody’s favorite isn’t mentioned, which is more infuriating because I at least name checked Mr. 3000. So for all of the people who love Field Of Dreams, or Bull Durham, or The Natural, I am sorry, those are all great, but they just don’t make this very paired down list. Feel free to hit me up on twitter, or leave a comment below and let me know your favorite Baseball movie, or why it’s a travesty that the Tom Selleck masterpiece, Mr. Baseball isn’t on the list. Either way, it’s almost the beginning of April, which means it’s almost time to get out your peanuts and crackers jacks, get out to a ballgame, and enjoy America’s pastime.