Monday, August 02, 2010

Top Five Baseball Movies

My wife and I are fond of baseball movies.  In fact, I think we've seen nearly every major baseball movie ever made.  From the mind numbingly stupid (and yet very funny) Benchwarmers to the sad and depressing Bang The Drum Slowly we've seen the best and the worst of what Hollywood has to offer when it comes to America's Pastime.

With that in mind, I hope you will accept this, my top five best baseball movies of all time.  While you read, please feel free to enjoy this excellent clip of Dave Brubeck playing the timeless jazz classic Take Five.

Number Five: The Natural - While this movie is a bit over the top, if the top is Mount Everest, it is beautiful.  It looks like the fairy tale that baseball is for America. From the slow motion footage of the lights exploding to the great exteriors, this is a wonderful movie to see.  And as my wife points out, the best baseball movies are about hope and redemption and this film is the all that wrapped in some spectacular cinematography. And if you ever needed something to remind you that here in America, we'll root for the underdog, just watch this movie.

Number Four: A League of Their Own - "There's no crying in baseball."  If only for that classic quote, it makes my list.  I can't tell you the number of times I've used that line with my nine-year-old's softball team. 

But it's not just that one line, Tom Hanks is awesome in this film about the professional women's baseball leagues that existed during WWII. He is funny, smart, and he gives a wonderful performance. Now, despite the fact that it also has both Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell in it, it is well acted all around. It captures the struggles America had with the changing roles of women as men went off to war.  It is Rosie the Riveter in cleats and well worth two hours of your time.

Number Three: Bull Durham - One of two Kevin Costner films on the list, Bull Durham is a great portrait of how minor league baseball truly is a religion for small town America.  As a guy who grew up on minor league ball, the last career gasps of Crash Davis as he tries teach Ebby Calvin "Nuke" La Loosh what it means to be a big league ball player is a great tutorial for anyone who wants to know what baseball is all about. To this day, I use the line "million dollar arm, ten cent head" in day-to-day conversation. And it might be the last time that Susan Sarandon was truly hot on film.

Number Two: Field of Dreams - Depending on who you ask, this is either a pretentious, self-indulgent movie filled with ham handed imagery or it is the best baseball movie ever made. My wife would fall in the later camp.  She would even put this movie in the top five movies of all time. As she puts it, "[Field of Dreams is a]combination of baseball, relationships, magic, hope and love. Those things we all want to believe in. Most importantly, it's a movie about second chances." She's right and mostly I agree with her, but today, for my money, this movie falls just short of my number one baseball movie of all-time.

Number One: The Sandlot - There are many people who will call me crazy, but this is a wonderful baseball movie.  In fact, it is likely a better baseball movie than it is a movie.  A brainy, mildly geeky kid moves to a new town with his mom and step-father and struggles to make friends until a local sandlot baseball player champions his inclusion with the rest of the kids.  A fat catcher with great one liners, a geeky kid with a taste for the ladies, a monstrous beast who eats baseballs and an autograph of Babe Ruth all come together in a great story that reflects not just a love for the game, but the innocent time when people like me fell in love with it.

Other than the language of 12 year-old boys, it is a movie that is safe for the whole family and it gives you a sense of longing for the simplicity of childhood when a baseball, some gloves, a bat and a sandlot were all it took to make not only a lifetime of special memories, but also a hero.

For Honorable Mention, throw in Major League, Eight Men Out and The Rookie.  All good baseball movies that are worth a rental.  In fact, the Rookie makes Carolyn's Top Five list.  I liked it, but there is only room for five and tough choices had to be made. 

Since I mentioned it, here is Carolyn's top five list.  I can't argue with any of her choices, heck, they are the same as mine except The Rookie and A League of Their Own.  The only other difference is the order.
Carolyn's Top Five Baseball Movies:

5) The Rookie
4) The Sandlot
3) The Natural
2) Bull Durham
1) Field of Dreams

In any order, watch'em all, you won't be disappointed in any of these films featuring the boys of summer. And as a Cubs fan, I think I'll watch them on an endless loop through October.  I think that's the only way to keep my love for the game from being tainted by the massive craps they've been taking on the field at Wrigley and around the rest of the NL.


Candice said...

The Sandlot is awesome!

The T-Dude said...

Squints would so fake a drowning for you! Wait...isn't that how you met the hubby?

Martini said...

You know... I've never really been into sports. Kinda forced into them as a kid, but do not like them, do not watch them. However, I LOVE sports movies. Go figure.

The T-Dude said...
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