1. Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch
While some generations grew up on the Star Wars or James Bond series, my generation was raised on Air Bud. The original installment was a cinematic masterpiece, and the next two were quality films as well. Then, came Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, and the result was akin to the disaster that was Star Wars Episode I. This Air Bud movie was not only a disaster in terms of filmmaking, but also represented the worst parts of sports and life. If you haven’t seen the movie, it follows Andrea, one of Buddy’s owners, as she moves on to junior high and decides to try out for the baseball team. In the process of telling this story, the creators failed on just about every level.
For one thing, they glorified the fact that Andrea only made the team because her talented friend Tammy would refuse to play without her, an extremely unfair demand given Andrea’s clear lack of baseball skills. There is also the fact that this town is clearly putting far too much pressure on these kids, even giving them their own radio broadcast and putting each game on the front page of the newspaper. Also, despite them playing in a school league, they allowed A DOG to play for one of these teams. A lot of hard-working junior high students were cut, but a golden retriever who only has the ability to bunt was allowed to join the team midseason. The terrible coach’s low point came when she refused to take her pitcher out of the game despite him grabbing his arm after each pitch. There’s no doubt in my mind he underwent Tommy John surgery after the movie ended. Speaking of the ending, Buddy, the golden retriever, was eventually signed by the Anaheim Angels to play first base for them, and he won World Series MVP! Though, to give credit where it’s due, this movie was released in the summer of 2002, and the Angels really did end up winning the World Series that year.
Overall, this movie was nothing but a disappointment. It harped on all of the worst qualities of youth sports, and glorified a coach who did nothing to change the norms. Even the extras couldn’t do their job, as there was at least one instance of a girl in the background tripping over her own feet. —Matt Collins
2. Rookie of the Year
More proof that everything you liked a kid was actually bad. Its IMDB Goofs page serves as a comprehensive condemnation, but the premise alone indicts it: a 12-year-old who is bad at Little League breaks his arm and it heals in such a way that suddenly he can throw a 100 mph fastball.
At least it’s consistent in its absurdity; if you bought the notion of a kid self-repairing into Aroldis Chapman, then you might as well believe that he also can learn to command the strike zone in a week. And since you’re still with us you can assume that a team so all-around awful that it couldn’t win two games in a row until August just needed a closer to bring it all together and somehow make the playoffs. Moreover, we are going to assume that you’ll also accept the same freak accident again undoes his magic arm, he stays in the game, and strikes out a feared slugger with, I guess, a 15-mph changeup.
But what really dug this film its grave was Little Big League, released shortly after this one, settling on the most sensible way a middle-schooler could improve a bad team – by managing it and installing kiddish wisdom on the hardened millionaires. Oh, and Rookie of the Year had to go the obvious route and make, of all teams, the Cubs win the World Series, which was somehow accomplished during the postscript of the film without their 12-year-old closer and also their top starting pitcher, played by Gary Busey, who blew out his arm in the NLCS.
This movie just makes me angrier the more I think about it, and movies shouldn’t make me angry. So let’s focus on the positives: John Candy as the Cubs radio announcer, the Wizard of Oz parody when entering the clubhouse, and the Busey character being nicknamed “Rocket,” which wasn’t so much a positive of this movie but a wistful reminder that Busey should have starred in a Roger Clemens biopic instead of this mess. —Matt Sussman
3. For Love of the Game
If you’ve ever wanted to believe in IMDB’s rating system, the 6.5 the collective gave this sappy, long-winded, and Disney-wannabe pile of saccharine idealism does well to puncture any faith one could have in their rankings. Kevin Costner plays Billy Chapel, a phenomenal pitcher who enjoys an on-again, off-again Jane Aubrey over the course of 5 ½ years. The main storyline is set against the backdrop of a perfect game in progress as Chapel has to fight his emotions and past as he learns that Aubrey is set on leaving him for good. Chapel rides the yellow-tinted train back into his past as he relives both the good and the bad moments that have brought him to this point in his love life. Chapel eventually overcomes the New York Yankees and pitches a perfecto, gets the girl and lives happily ever after as, oh my god, this damn movie drags on and on and on. For The Love Of The Game brings a new level to the term “redundant," as Sam Raimi uses metaphoric storytelling as a tool with the grace of a 3-year-old who has discovered the wonders of plastic toy hammers. This is quite honestly the second-worst earnest attempt at making a baseball movie, as it slots right behind another movie that our own Sam Miller refused to let us mention. —Mauricio Rubio
"A trained chimpanzee plays third base for a minor-league baseball team." That's the storyline taken directly from the Ed IMDB page, to which, I'm partially convinced, I may have been the first-ever visitor. I could just leave it there and it would make a pretty convincing case for not only the worst baseball movie of all time, but perhaps one of the worst things to ever be put on a big screen. I'll expand, however. The only recognizable name in the movie is Matt LeBlanc, who was at the height of his F*R*I*E*N*D*S popularity but whose acting career has essentially consisted of being cast along with five much more talented actors on an incredibly successful and well-written sitcom and playing a fictionalized version of himself twenty years later. Worst of all, it violates my biggest baseball movie pet peeve: actors playing baseball players who can't throw. LeBlanc is supposed to be an up-and-coming "fireballing" pitcher, but he can't throw. A word to aspiring directors—get actors who can throw. But all of that aside, we can always circle back to "a trained chimpanzee plays third base for a minor-league baseball team." —Jeff Moore
5. Mr. 3000
The forgettable and relatively inoffensive Mr. 3000 may look out of place on a list decorated with some truly horrible flicks but it deserves mention for some numbskull baseball all the same. Let’s start with the premise that a Wade Boggs-type with a bad attitude is able to force his way back into baseball after a statistical correction robs him of hits 2,998, 2,999, and 3,000 nine years after his retirement. Forget for a second how implausible something like this is in the Baseball Reference era: everyone Ross has ever met wants to give him the middle finger but we're supposed to believe that he can smooth-talk his way back into the Brewers lineup nearly a decade after quitting on his team in the heat of a pennant race? To sell tickets? Didn't the director know that owners make their money through television?
Beyond the thin plot there are all of the usual ridiculous quirks found in a hastily written production. For one, Ross's manager is still piloting the Brewers even though we know the team hasn't been any good in nearly a decade (though to be fair, he does vaguely resemble Bud Black). Then there's T-Rex Pennebaker, the sullen and generically nicknamed slugger who took Ross's place as the biggest jerk in the league. He's nearly as prickly and selfish as Ross but, somehow, the two manage to turn each other cuddly in one of the overarching feel good developments of the film. One of the movie's other breakthroughs happens when Milwaukee miraculously pulls off a stunning September surge all the way into third place. I'm not going to apologize for any spoilers; you can thank me after you've watched something better.
The movie also whiffed on too many baseball details to count. The film starts with Ross's "3,000th" hit in 1995 yet there was no effort to make the ballpark resemble County Stadium. While we're on fields, Bernie Mac is standing next to home plate at the Ballpark in Arlington for the movie poster, even though that particular stadium is never shown, mostly because Mac's character plays for the Brewers. Additionally, Ross's comeback takes place in September, when the schedule makers seemingly decided to cut down on travel by allowing the Brewers to play nearly all of their games at home against the Astros. Disappointingly, when the writers wanted to demonstrate how few of Ross's ex-teammates cared to show up for Stan Ross day, they invented Bill "Big Horse" Berelli to serve as the token scrub to introduce Ross. This one isn't really that big of a deal, but why couldn't the writers give Bob Skube or Gary Beare a shoutout? Ultimately, Mr. 3,000 isn't the worst baseball movie ever made— hello Trouble With The Curve—but there's a reason you haven't ever found it on cable. —Brendan Gawlowski
6. Pitch Perfect
This 2012 cheese platter actually starts out with plenty of merit. In the way that Pelotero or Sugar perfectly captured the experience of the young Caribbean player making his way to or through the American baseball labyrinth, Pitch Perfect portrays the dilemma that the American teenager faces in choosing between college and the direct route to the pros. The strongest and most realistic performance belongs to a thinly disguised Tony Rasmus fictionalization who nails the part of the meddlesome father unable to let go of these difficult decisions.
However, the film quickly loses its way and meanders right into tired baseball trope. There is entirely too much emphasis on team chemistry, which is lazily blamed for failures and credited for successes—a turn of fortunes following a team meeting being by far the biggest divergence between plot and reality. And following in the path of Rookie of the Year, Major League and the rest, our heroes triumph in the end—a direct result of the studio’s lack of faith in the viewer to process a more difficult outcome. We’re already dreading the sequel. —Zachary Levine
7. The Benchwarmers
Headlined by the mid-2000s comedic Dream Team of David Spade, Jon Heder, and Rob Schneider, this movie delves into that fantasy we always dreamed of as children: to one day, as an adult, play against and soundly defeat Little League teams (no, seriously, that’s the premise of the movie). Created by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company, the movie bears his indelible stamp but not his actual presence. What separates this movie from the host of other merely bad movies is not its lack of comedy, but that it is aggressively unfunny. For a film released so recently, it aims its jagged humor at a surprising number of outmoded topics, resulting in a plethora of quips in extreme poor taste. The most (inadvertently) hilarious jokes in this movie concern the internet, which is recurrently portrayed as the sole domain of nerds and children. I’ll pause now to remind you that this movie was released IN 2006, well after it was clear that the internet was and would continue to be an artifact of some significant importance in human life. It is lousy with homophobic jokes (again, 2006!). At one cringe-inducing moment, in a Sandlerian twist on the standard home-plate-collision scenario, David Spade drop-kicks a child in the face on the way to home plate, knocking the ball loose and leaving the kid squirming on the ground.
It’s an Adam Sandler movie without Adam Sandler. It’s a comedy without wit. It’s a baseball movie in which the writers seem not to have understood some of the basic rules of baseball. It’s a terrible, horrible, bad, film which fails even to be entertaining as such because it is so appalling uncomfortable. Don’t watch it. —Rob Arthur
8. Eddie's Million-Dollar Cook-off
Eddie's Million Dollar Cook-off is the story of a 14-year-old baseball stud who finds his other talent is cooking. Somehow this causes conflict. Eddie's dad pushes him towards baseball so Eddie can earn a college scholarship and dad doesn't want anything interfering… but guess what's the prize of Eddie's cook off? A college scholarship.
I'm just gonna rattle off some moments of this movie that baffle me.
- Bobby Flay shows up in a weirdly long cameo.
- The uniforms with maroon v-necks and black pants.
- Eddie is apparently so distracted by cooking he pulls his foot off first base in the last inning.
- Eddie bats left-handed but in the promo posters he is right-handed.
- A foul ball gets hit into the concession stand and pinballs around for 20 seconds destroying everything in its path. You see baseball and food just don't go together!
- The kids bring a TV into the dugout and nobody raises an eyebrow
- After piling on the jokes about his son's newfound hobby Eddie's dad drops this gem
Like a bad soufflé, this movie fell flat. —Ryan Parker
9. MLB Presents the Official 1994 World Series Highlight Video (no on VHS!)
This is probably my second-favorite genre of film and I had such high hopes for it when I sat down to watch it. 1994 was the year that I started high school and that Jacobs Field opened in my native Cleveland. So, when I sat down to watch this movie a while ago, I was looking forward to remembering those halcyon days of my youth. This movie was extremely disappointing, especially how they handled the baseball sequences. The action was not at all convincing and even the usual #narrative sequence of big moments and people "rising to the occasion" were horribly handled. It's like they didn't even bother writing a decent plot. Maybe it's just my own personal taste, but I wasn't expecting to be left with a feeling of existential emptiness at the end of the film. I was hoping for big hits and key strikeouts and massive swings of #momentum back and forth over the course of the series. I wasn't expecting the stadium lights to explode like in The Natural. Just some nice baseball sequences played by reasonable actors that led to some team jumping on top of each other at the end.
Looking back, I might just as well stared at a blank screen. —Russell A. Carleton