The Cubs won the World Series this week. Did that really happen? It seems impossible. Movies in the ’80s used to joke about this day, and now it’s actually here. As America comes down from that giddy high, let’s look at some of our favorite movies about baseball.
Unlike most other sports, Hollywood has a pretty good batting average when it comes to baseball movies. ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Major League’, ‘Bull Durham’ and ‘A League of Their Own’ all hit home runs in the genre. My favorite has always been 1984’s ‘The Natural‘, starring Robert Redford as up-and-coming superstar Roy Hobbs, whose road to stardom is sidetracked when he gets shot by an obsessed (and mentally imbalanced) female fan. Hobbs returns years later to lead the struggling New York Knights as an almost Christ-like figure. (He even has a wound in his side to add to the metaphor.)
A lot of people find ‘The Natural’ a little too poetic and Barry Levinson’s direction a little too obvious with its allegories, but I’ve loved the movie since my childhood and it’s probably my favorite Redford film.
M. Enois Duarte
I think it’s important that we take a moment to remember our fallen sports heroes along with the rising stars, while simultaneously celebrating the crucial relationship between pitcher and catcher. ‘Bull Durham‘ is my personal favorite sports movie because it touches on more than just the game. It’s the story about a once-promising career (Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis) diminished by the shadow of up-and-coming but dim-witted pitcher (Tim Robbins as “Nuke” LaLoosh). Ron Shelton’s film should also be praised for making the baseball movie a commercially viable project, opening the doors for other baseball box-office hits.
I didn’t grow up playing baseball, but my dad did and he made sure that my brothers and I knew it. We watched lots of baseball movies as a family, probably more than we watched actual baseball games. I always enjoyed them, but it’s wasn’t until I saw ‘The Sandlot‘ that I found one that made me want to play baseball.
The movie’s format is great. Mixed with episodes of shenanigans, the first half sets up the characters and the game. The second half becomes a ‘Little Rascals’-type adventure, a battle against a larger-than-life dog that’s holding a precious ball hostage.
My brothers and I loved this movie. We watched it with frequency. I felt like a kid again when it had its 20th anniversary and a bunch of the now-grown cast members came to Utah (the place where it was filmed) for a special event. Being a member of the press, I got to hang out with them for a whole day, including watching a Minor League game from the press box.
With apologies to ‘The Naked Gun’, a half dozen Kevin Costner movies, Tom Selleck and Geena Davis, ‘Major League‘ is my favorite baseball movie. The cast is stellar and the characters are awesome. Training camp, Tire World, the groundskeepers, David Palmer, the Cleveland Indians… they’re all part of one of the best iterations of the “American underdog sports misfits make good” genre. Heck, it’s even fun to watch on network TV when the swear words have been very meekly pulled out. I watched nearly all of this past World Series and thought of ‘Major League’ endlessly. Bob Uecker is perfect, especially when the team is in the cellar.
Baseball and movies about baseball have never really been of much interest to me. However, as a Boston resident, it was impossible not to get caught up in the 2004 playoff race and eventual World Series win for the Red Sox. That was, until perhaps this week, the greatest underdog comeback story ever. This entire city went absolutely crazy when it happened. Watching ‘Fever Pitch‘ is like reliving that experience. The film perfectly captures the feelings of hope, futility, suspense, excitement, desperation, and finally euphoria of following the team that year.
The fact that the movie (which was originally supposed to be about a zealous fan watching his team lose yet again for the umpteenth time) was filmed while the real events actually unfolded, thus requiring the filmmakers to rewrite the ending, just makes it seem even more perfect. On top of that, it’s also a really sweet rom-com with a lot of heart. It’s easily the best thing the Farrelly brothers have ever made, by some considerable measure.
(And yes, I’m aware that our Mike Attebery loathes this movie because he prefers the novel it’s based on. That seems like a bit of an overreaction to me.)
Tell us about your favorite baseball movies in the Comments below.