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January 17, 2012
The Lineup Card
10 Favorite Baseball Movies of All-Time
1) Field of Dreams
You see, Field of Dreams may be a Capra movie without Capra, burdened with Costner’s sub-replacement-level Jimmy Stewart, but you can’t deny the power of its Capital M Moment. After ninety minutes of fully ripe Iowa cornball, it’s hard to believe that the appearance of Ray Kinsella’s father and their game of catch could pack such an emotional wallop. It seems completely unearned, but when I saw it in the theater, I teared up—one of only five times a film has done that to me. This was despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I had a very happy, baseball-filled childhood and didn’t suffer from Paternal Catch Deficiency. What’s more, I’ve had at least a dozen friends or acquaintances tell me they had the same experience of not particularly enjoying the film but welling up during the game of catch. I can’t explain it, and in many ways it’s completely counterintuitive, but it’s true. It happened, and even now I get a little misty just writing about it. Whatever your opinion about Field of Dreams as a whole, it’s hard to deny its ability to get under your skin, and while that doesn’t make it the best baseball movie of all time, it certainly makes it one of the most memorable. —Ken Funck
2) Bad News Bears (Original)
Hmm... maybe there's a small bit of room for romanticism in the "Bad News Bears", after all.—Larry Granillo
3) The Sandlot
The late great Hall of Fame voice of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, put it best: "Baseball is a tongue-tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown." The dream for Ernie was the same as it was for Ruth, Kaline, Griffey Jr., Big Mac, The Jet, The Great Hambino, Smalls, and Squints. The dream was to be in the Major Leagues, and it didn’t matter how you got there. The Sandlot ranks as one of the greatest baseball movies of all times for its portrayal of Americana, for its ability to make every viewer feel safe and secure, and most importantly for its portrayal of baseball in its purest form. Good, bad, or ugly, everyone can play on the sandlots of America. —Adam W. Tower
4) Brewster's Millions
The other thing about this movie is that it fits into the canon of 1980s flicks in which the payoff for doing the right thing or reaching your plot-given goal in life is some kind of material payoff. Think about it. So many big budget films in the '80s—Back to the Future, Trading Places, Coming to America, Arthur, Risky Business, The Secret of My Success—rewarded their protagonists with a fat monetary prizes or some other sort of superficial compensation. In Monty Brewster's case, it was $300 million, and it came at just the right time—when his career as a ham-and-egg starting pitcher had apparently come to an end. Baby's father from Dirty Dancing was the manager and told Monty that his junk just didn't work anymore, or maybe he said something about being overly reliant on a low BABIP. I forget. It was heartbreaking. For some reason, that meant that Candy, his catcher, was done as well, so he basically followed Pryor around wherever he went. It would be touching if all pitcher-catcher relationships were so tight.
There is one scene in the movie that always makes me laugh and not in a "my God that is so horrible it's funny" sort of way. In the exhibition game that Monty sets up between the Hackensack Bulls and the Yankees, the Yanks' leadoff hitter, named Dixon, is up at the plate. Candy starts gabbing with him, acting all star-struck. Then he says, "I saw your wife on TV the other day. She sure is an ugly bitch." The discombobulated Dixon promptly takes strike three; I don't think Brewster was capable of making anyone swing and miss. Maybe it was because Pryor was a 5'10", 45-year-old starting pitcher who threw what I'd judge to be about 39 miles per hour. —Bradford Doolittle
5) Damn Yankees!
Joe Boyd, local schlub and loyal husband, is transformed into Joe Hardy, who possesses Micky Mantle's power and speed, Luis Aparicio's defense, Tab Hunter's rugged good looks, and the sudden moral ambiguity of a real major leaguer after a torrid affair with the literally immortal sexpot, Lola.
Well, Joe tries to back out of the deal but gets caught in an identity scandal when news surfaces his real name is Alvaro Aristy, and only the righteous Ford Frick-esque commissioner and some small sample size defensive luck can save the Senators as we all learn a valuable lesson about accepting our place in life and not tempting the occult.
Most of the broadway cast revives their parts in the film, including the afore-alluded to Ray "Mr. Hand" Walston as Lucifer (Mr. Applegate). It's a wild romp.
Furthermore, amateur sabermetricians can use it as one more example that adding a strong OPS presence in the lineup means a great deal more than "heart". Plus, it's more realistic than Neil Simon's "The Slugger's Wife." —Mike Ferrin
6) A League of Their Own
It's a line quoted often, usually used in a humorous context, but think about it a bit and it's a little more unsettling: would a manager have felt the need to say this to his player if that player was male? (The answer, one assumes, is "of course not", because "boys don't cry"). The movie, based on the true story of the woman's professional baseball league that was created to help fill the gap left by the absence of available major leaguers is both a fun and uplifting feminist flick (yeah, girls can play just as rough-and-tumble as the boys) and a stark reminder that while baseball may have crossed racial barriers a long time ago, gender-based ones are still staunchly in place. —Rebecca Glass
7) Bull Durham
Moneyball tells the story of the ultimate underdog, of a man with a vision to beat the big boys with what amounted to smoke and mirrors, to take on the Yankees and Red Sox dollars with what amounted to baseball gold prospecting. To that end, what better place to tell the story (by the way, read the book if you haven’t) than on the big screen. The fact that Moneyball was overlooked at the Golden Globes is poetic in the sense that much like the players Beane (Pitt) drafted and signed, it was undervalued by outsiders and appreciated to its fullest by those on the inside. The film itself was well done, a true buffet for the entire family, kind of like a ballpark hotdog. It was a touching family story of bonding between Beane and his daughter while paying tribute to our national pastime with more than enough believable baseball action and jargon. —Adam W. Tower
9) Rookie of the Year
To make a long story short, everything comes down to one game versus the Mets to make the playoffs. Henry has to come in for a three-inning save because, apparently, in 1993 it wasn’t frowned upon to send out a 12-year-old to get a three-inning save. He gets through the first two innings, but before the 9th inning, he trips and lands on his arm, which causes him to revert back to being awful. It comes down to him vs. the Mets’ best hitter, and Henry is able to strike him out with an underhand eephus pitch that is swung on and missed, sending the Cubs to the playoffs and creating the most typical Mets ending to a season that could be scripted. The movie ends with us seeing Henry wearing a Cubs World Series championship ring, which brings up a few points:
1. As this movie came out before the wild card era, we as viewers are led to believe that the Cubs make it through two playoff series either without Henry or with him in his diminished capacity.
2. If Henry stayed on the team and was able to remain the closer despite him relying on eephus pitches, hidden ball tricks, and other methods of preying on the stupidity of MLB players, why couldn’t they have shown it as the climax instead of focusing so much on the regular season? This was a real missed opportunity by the directors and producers to detail the Cubs finally winning the World Series on the back of a 12-year-old.
3. If Henry was replaced on the Cubs’ playoff roster after his arm gave out, what does it say about the possible sabermetric tendencies of those behind Rookie of the Year? Clearly the point of the movie in this scenario is that having a “closer” in the traditional sense is not that important, if Henry can be replaced and have the team not skip a beat. Perhaps Rookie of the Year should be the darling of those who want to prove once and for all that relievers are fungible.
4. There is a distinct chance I’m looking into the ending of this movie way too much. —Sam Tydings
Sugar, a subtle 2008 movie directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, is having none of it. The film tracks the travels of a young pitcher, Miguel “Sugar” Santos, from a baseball academy in his native Dominican Republic to a minor-league town in Iowa to the rush of the South Bronx. In keeping the focus on Santos’s journey—and not necessarily his results— “Sugar” serves as a reflection on universal themes that transcend the game. Expectations, pressure, and family. Culture, race, and money. Love, temptation, and success. Work, luck, and the American Dream.
Ultimately, Santos’ baseball career flounders, but he matures, survives, and comes out the other side. Sometimes, that’s heroic enough. —Jeff Euston