For over 130 years, the sport of baseball has been referred to as ‘America’s Pastime’. Other than some Asian and Central American countries, the MLB is dominated with U.S.A. athletes. Unfortunately, a series of mistakes including two player strikes, poor leadership at the top, and the biggest steroids scandal in sports history did occur. Still, over the summer going out for a ballgame with your family while eating a giant hot dog never gets old. Now that we are finally getting baseball back despite the pandemic, let us celebrate the sport with my Top 10 Baseball Movies.
10. “42” (2013):
Jackie Robinson is without a doubt the most courageous baseball player as well as one of the pivotal figures during the Civil Rights movement. The first black player to move up from the ‘Negro’ league to the majors, Robinson was ridiculed and berated by fans, opposing teams, coaches, umpires, and even his own teammates. The thickness of his proverbial skin was so deep that it makes even the bravest of men salute the legend. There’s a reason why every year on Jackie Robinson Day every player wears the number 42 to celebrate the hall-of-famer. Mr. Black Panther himself Chadwick Boseman plays a perfect modern rendition of the historical figure. The baseball action is great while also showing the racial tension. While the character himself is the most important, as a movie “42” is solid, not great. Harrison Ford is the absolute wrong choice as the Dodgers manager, as was Lucas Black as the plucky white best friend. Also, it’s pretty P.C. about a story that is anything but. Yet, “42” is thrilling at the right times and a proper tribute to a true American hero.
9. “Angels in the Outfield” (1994):
No matter the sport, kids have got to be inspired when pursuing the dream of being a professional athlete, even if they are a foster child. “Angels in the Outfield” is that inspirational story about a kid who is obsessed with being accepted by his screw-up father. The only way he can get his dad-that-doesn’t-want-him back is if the lowly Anaheim Angels team wins the pennant. So the kid asks god to help lead a group of misfits to that goal. Team manager, played by Danny Glover, is phoning it in with his awful team. Then this kid, armed with actual angels that only he can see, lifts the team towards the cusp of greatness all because the little guy wants his father to come back. His signature arm angel wave becomes both a team and crowd symbol that opposing ball clubs find hard to defeat. A truly inspirational kid’s movie. Side note, just take a look at the list of stars here; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, and Dermot Mulroney. Stacked in hindsight.
8. “Cobb” (1994):
Ty Cobb, aka the ‘Georgia Peach’, was one of the greatest to ever hit the field. During his 22 years with the Detroit Tigers and finishing with the Philadelphia Athletics, Cobb is credited with setting more than 90 different individual records in the MLB, some of which stand to this day. The most notable include highest career batting average and a record 11 regular season batting titles. He was also a total a-hole. Based on the autobiography that sports-writer Al Stump was commissioned for by the slugger, “Cobb” tells the story of a bitter old man who believes to have been misunderstood. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as a historic baseball figure who is absolutely delusional as far as what he is. Cobb is a legend. He was also a complete piece of shit who cared only for himself, which is in some ways why he was such a great player.
7. “Major League” (1989):
We all know Cleveland sports have been an embarrassment for a long time. That is other than LeBron, thank you says Cleveland. Their baseball team, the Indians, have not done much other than lose to the Cubs in the World Series and had a racist logo. The hilarious comedy “Major League” absolutely embraces the mess of a team and satirizes it to the point where you have to root for these misfits. Despite the franchise being run by a bitch of a new owner, this group of cast-offs come together for an unlikely run towards the playoffs. What are these guys doing playing in a huge game against the monster that is the Yankees? Never giving up is what they’re doing. The personalities are unique and hilarious, but the best part of “Major League” is camaraderie and believing in the guys in the locker room, even if they’re nuts. Plus, pre-crazy breakdown, Charlie Sheen is a badass as Wild Thing!
6. “The Bad News Bears” (1976):
While yes “Bad News Bears” is a movie about child ball players, I would not recommend it for the kids until at least middle school. While made in a different era, this movie is anything but P.C. in its depiction of a no-chance group of young ballers. Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is a down on his luck ex-minor league coach who stumbles upon the chance to coach an awful team in a competitive California little league. At first the coach doesn’t care, drinking and smoking in the dugout. But when the other rich kids start insulting his squad then it’s on. The whole mentality of ‘screw these guys’ gets going. You can throw all the money into something you want or cast off those less fortunate. Don’t poke the “Bad News Bears”, and that includes old drunks all the way down to grade school kids.
5. “The Natural” (1984):
Right in the thick of legend Robert Redford’s acting career “The Natural” came along. This movie is absolutely beautiful visually because it captures the nostalgic feeling of the game for baseball fans. It is in no rush and instead wants to soak in the experience of being on the field for every pitch. Redford plays Roy Hobbs, an unknown minor leaguer who gets a shot to play for the Chicago Cubs. A series of unforeseen events complicate things and we catch up with him 15 years later when a bold scout convinces the then New York Knights they have a new 34-year-old ‘rookie’. After spending time sitting on the bench, “The Natural” is called up and rips one deep to center field. Hard work towards achieving your goals is what baseball is all about and this guy does exactly that.
4. “Field of Dreams” (1989):
People my age and younger can read about but do not understand the sheer majestic nature baseball used to bring fans back in the day. It was similar to people seeing ‘talkies’ in the theater. “Field of Dreams” is perhaps the best encapsulation of that feeling of nostalgia that so many of our elders felt about the game. Don’t worry my fellow millennials, we’ll have it too. This otherworldly tale is relatable to believers in the afterlife as well as the skeptics. Kevin Costner plays an Iowa corn farmer who keeps hearing a whisper; “If You Build It, He Will Come”. At first skeptical, the farmer becomes convinced what he is experiencing is the real thing. Costner sets out to build a baseball field on his farm much to the chagrin of his friends and family. Turns out, he built the thing and the 1919 Chicago White Sox emerge out of the crops. If you are unaware, that is the real life team that threw the World Series for betting against themselves. “Field of Dreams” is about redemption not just for shamed ball players but also for a man who never knew his father.
3. “The Sandlot” (1993):
Name me one person that doesn’t agree “The Sandlot” is not the greatest children’s movie centered around baseball. Yeah, didn’t think so. “The Sandlot” was part of that crowded group of the early to mid-90’s kids sports movies craze that covered every aspect of athletics. The difference, this one became iconic for a generation and still holds its own for up and coming baseball fans. Big retail stores from Kohl’s to Target still sell shirts with ‘Scotty Smalls’ face on it saying “YOU PLAY LIKE A GIRL!” on them. What separates “The Sandlot” is it’s nostalgic nature as the entire movie is framed by the main character remembering his days as a nerd growing up in 1962 Americana and the stud ballplayer in grade school being the first to embrace him. An excellent message for athletes to treat all as equals growing up. Oh, I almost forgot that dog. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. That English Mastiff in the outfield seems creepy, but turns out he is awesome. “The Sandlot” is the ultimate summer of memorable moments.
2. “Moneyball” (2011):
“Moneyball” is the greatest movie about sports that is not about actually playing the sport ever made. This story, written by Aaron Sorkin, is more thrilling than half of the World Series in history. Numbers and evaluating players is a boring grind. Might as well have a cubicle job. While obviously a Hollywood-ized interpretation, “Moneyball” shows how intense every decision made can affect everything for a multi-million dollar sports franchise, and how taking risks is part of the game. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the innovator of the concept ‘Analytics’ that teams in multiple sports have adapted to, is met with confrontation as he tries to explain to these old-school guys that they have got to think differently. His journey trying to keep a broke as hell team in the Oakland A’s afloat is enthralling. You do not have to even care about baseball. All of the elements of a great drama are here.
1. “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942):
What a tribute of a movie “The Pride of the Yankees” is about one of the greatest players to ever cross first base. A somber reflection of a great man who got sick and died way too soon. A consummate class act, Lou Gehrig played as long as he could until his battle with the rare nerve disease ALS (now commonly known as Lou Gehrig disease), took his life at 37. He was part of the legendary Yankees ‘Murderers Row’ lineup in 1927 that included Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel. But this is not your standard biopic. “The Pride of the Yankees” is a telescope look into a life when that type of movie wasn’t normal in Hollywood. No, it does not show his transgressions, whatever those may be. It does encapsulate a true legend unlike most cinematic experiences. Just watch Gary Cooper’s recreation of Gehrig’s iconic speech. It is heartbreaking and at the same time an example of why we love baseball.