Springtime is always a busy time for me, because my two favorite sports to watch are basketball and baseball.
Just as NBA teams are hitting their stretch playoff runs, Opening Day comes for Major League Baseball and my sports-centric world becomes flooded with viewing options.
You know that Kevin Costner and Field of Dreams will be on this list. But how high?
I like to kick off each sport’s new season by immersing myself in not only the games but the media available as well. When this baseball season was about to begin, I watched a few of my favorite baseball movies and bought the latest MLB 2K game for my Xbox.
In trying to find a good movie to watch to jump start my interest in this MLB season (not that I needed much encouragement) I got to thinking about my favorite baseball movies. Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, has been the subject of great films.
Since I have written about unrealistic sports movies and great sports movies, I decided to post about baseball movies.
Here is my list of the 10 best baseball movies of all time.
I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you’re a baseball fan and haven’t seen these movies you have no excuse.
Be sure to cast your vote for your favorite below, and if I didn’t mention your favorite, please comment and argue the case of your favorite baseball movie.
Directed by lifelong New York Yankees fan Billy Crystal, 61* displays the darker side of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s chase for the single-season home run record in 1961.
The record at the time, of course, was held by Babe Ruth (60 home runs), and there was considerable controversy surrounding the race to the record by Maris and Mantle.
Barry Pepper does an admirable job playing the increasingly embattled Maris, and Thomas Jane’s portrayal of a supremely gifted and universally adored yet flawed Mantle is top notch.
The story is fascinating, especially considering the normalcy with which we regard the relentless critical spotlight the media places on athletes today.
Maris’ struggle to gain acceptance from the media and fans is somewhat tragic, as he hadn’t done anything wrong outside of being quiet and perhaps a little shy.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes (profanity alert):
9. The Rookie
The Rookie tells the story of Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), a high school teacher and baseball coach who, at age 35, improbably pitched in his first big league game.
This movie is definitely a feel-good, underdog kind of tale, and it is executed very well.
The dynamic between Morris and his disapproving and unsupportive father is compelling, and the rekindling of their relationship after Morris’ success adds a dramatic element that definitely works.
The movie could have turned out really cheesy – as sports movies have a tendency to do – but fortunately this one stayed (mostly) historically accurate and the drama wasn’t overwrought.
Quaid’s throwing motion isn’t exactly great (to put it kindly), but I can overlook that.
Here’s a trailer for the movie:
8. A League of Their Own
Tom Hanks was mostly a comic actor in 1992, and as Jimmy Dugan – the drunken, disinterested manager of the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL really rolls off the tongue, huh?) – he delivered the goods once again.
This movie has plenty of laughs, and there is plenty of drama (what do you expect from a women’s baseball league?). Other than Rosie O’Donnell’s presence, I can’t really list any negatives.
Here’s the most iconic scene from the movie:
7. Bull Durham
I’m probably going to be taken to task because for ranking Bull Durham 7th, but it’s a little too much of a rom-com to get a higher spot.
That’s not to say it’s not great – it is. I enjoy it immensely, and writer/director Ron Shelton’s Blue Chips is my favorite sports movie. The guy simply knows sports and how to package a movie about sports to appeal to the broadest possible audience.
In this case a love triangle between Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), “Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner), and “Nuke” Laloosh (Tim Robbins) provides the romantic drama. As far as love stories go, this one is pretty good.
The relationship between Nuke and Crash is even more interesting, as the two men are of different ages, career trajectories, and attitudes. Crash is envious of the talent and opportunity that Nuke possesses and Nuke is envious of Annie’s pursuit of Crash.
My only real criticism is of Tim Robbins’ throwing motion. I know I already bashed Quaid’s, but Robbins makes him look like Greg Maddux.
Here’s Costner’s memorable “I believe in…” speech (warning – profanity):
In time, Moneyball may climb higher on this list. It’s just hard for me to properly rank a movie I’ve seen twice against movies I’ve seen dozens of times.
Moneyball has been well-covered, but it bears saying that it is a wonderfully made film.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are both awesome, and the story of Billy Bean and the Oakland A’s climb to relevance via advanced baseball statistics and economics is downright fascinating.
The movie also nails the personal aspects of being an executive for a baseball team, such as family relationships, the toll the job can take on someone, and the allure of big money versus loyalty. A great story in all aspects.
Here’s the scene where Pitt and Hill meet:
You’ve seen 10-6, now get ready for the five best baseball movies ever.
Does your favorite make the list? Continue reading to find out.
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