Top 10 baseball movies of all time


Here at Chipalatta, we are doing our best to live through the lack of Astros baseball news heading into spring training. The thought process at this time is that nothing will cause the Astros’ Front Office to complete that Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, Mike Trout, fill in the blank, trade faster than a blog post that has nothing to do with the Astros.

One warning here…..this list only includes movies that this writer has actually watched all the way through. So, while Eight Men Out, 61*, Bang the Gong Slowly, Mr. Baseball, 42, maybe on your top 10 list they are not on this one. Which is fine as your turn will come. So without further ado….here is Dan P’s top 10 baseball movies of all time!

10) Moneyball (2011). Our fine readers may notice a trend of movies that are a little different or go at baseball from a different angle in this list. Like the book it was based on, this movie tackles a unique subject for the time….the clash between the pointy head statisticians and traditional scouting in the back rooms of baseball. Brad Pitt does a fine job playing the mercurial Billy Beane, a GM driven by his playing day failures, who is trying to find an edge for a team with budget constraints and Jonah Hill is very good as the nerd he steals from Cleveland to give Beane that edge. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Art Howe as an idiotic Neanderthal does not ring too true and hurts the film.

9) Rookie of the Year (1993). Yes, it is an impossibly absurd story of a young kid who goes from having a broken arm to having Aroldis Chapman‘s three-figure fastballs. But it is still a cute, fun story and any film with John Candy playing the best movie play-by-play man this side of Bob Uecker might make the list just on that fact alone. Daniel Stern (Home Alone, Breaking Away) directs and plays the comedy relief pitching coach. Thomas Ian Nicholas and Amy Morton do a nice job playing the unlikely 10-year-old superstar and his mom and Gary Busey is the unconvincing over the hill pitcher. Funniest point in the movie may be when the owner of the Cubs (Eddie Bracken) leaves his club suite to sit in the stands and is shocked by what hot dogs and Cokes cost down in the real world.

8) The Sandlot (1993). You’ve heard of James Earl Jones, Denis Leary and Karen Allen, but the real stars of the film are the unknown kids (and Jones’ dog) who spend the summer playing pickup ball and learning about life. Like many good movies, it is really about nothing more than life and how things used to be. So enjoy a good tale about Baby Ruthie, the Beast and a lost home run.

7) A League of Their Own (1992). OK, there is an Astro’s connection here as former Astro OF Casey Candaele‘s mother Helen was a 5-year member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League portrayed in this movie. In fact, Casey’s brother made a documentary that inspired the late Penny Marshall to make this movie. It’s a fun film with humor, drama and some pretty good baseball action. Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty and others bring some star power to this story of women’s baseball and sibling rivalry, but you are likely going to long remember the turn of Jon Lovitz as the brash, non-PC scout who discovers Davis and Petty.

6) Major League (1989). The baseball performances are a bit up and down here. Tom Berenger does not make a real convincing catcher, while Charlie Sheen looks like the pitcher he used to be and Dennis Haysbert looks like he can kill fastballs (and whiff on curves), but this movie is about great humor and a funny premise – an owner who wants to lose, drive down the attendance and move the team to warmer climes. Plenty of funny scenes from Wesley Snipes doing pushups at home plate every time he pops up to the guys using an outboard fishing boat motor when their Jacuzzi breaks down. But Bob Uecker steals the show and is pitch perfect as Harry Doyle, the cynical long-suffering hilarious Indians’ announcer.

5) Bad News Bears (1976 Original). Everyone has their own stories of playing Little League or coaching it or watching their kids playing it and this story takes a cynical and accurate look at the over-hyped, over-intense win at all costs world of kids playing baseball. Walter Matthau as the alcoholic washout forced to coach and Vic Morrow as the type of dad/coach who you and his wife and kid would like to kick to the curb are perfectly cast. Tatum O’Neal in a follow up to Paper Moon and Jackie Earle Haley play the “recruited” ringers for Matthau’s team. The ending is a perfect cynical send-up to “games” that are taken too seriously.

4) Pride of the Yankees (1942). A classic baseball biography about the greatest first baseman of all time, who only got out of the shadow of the greatest player of all time by dying young of a disease that is still incurable and still linked to the name of Lou Gehrig. Gary Cooper is probably too old for the part, but as an actor he is perfect for playing the stoic Iron Horse. Teresa Wright was terrific as she morphs from happy young bride to tragic, soon-to-be widow and Walter Brennan gives his normal great support as a sportswriter turned friend. Ironic that the man who cast a giant shadow on Gehrig, Babe Ruth,  “stars” in this bio flick.

3) Bull Durham (1988). A great love triangle where there is only love between two of the points of the triangle and lust between two. This is where Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon met to start one of the great, long-lasting love affairs in Hollywood history, which died of course. This is where Kevin Costner calls strikeouts fascist. It is one of the more cerebral of baseball movies thanks to some of the Southern Gothic monologues from Sarandon.

2) The Natural (1984). As boyish looking as he was back then, Robert Redford was (like Cooper) too old for the part. But he plays it well.

Side note and spoiler alert. Lots of folks do not know that the early movie shooting incident echoed a real-life incident from 1949 when Phillie Eddie Waitkus was shot and nearly killed by a crazed fan.

The movie cruises through a tale of failure, corruption, and ultimate redemption with great turns by Robert Duvall, Glen Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Barbara Hershey and Richard Farnsworth. The climax of the film is what was destined to happen and is one of the most memorable in baseball film history.

1) Field of Dreams (1989). Maybe there is no crying in baseball, but a simple line in this movie, “Dad, wanna have a catch?” brings this writer to tears every time. This is a baseball film where the focus is on so much more than baseball. The movie is about perseverance and faith and hope and like the Natural, redemption.  Kevin Costner is the farmer who risks everything to answer the voice in his head that tells him to sacrifice a big chunk of his farm to build a baseball field. Top-flight performances by everyone from Amy Madigan to James Earl Jones to Burt Lancaster and a movie that catches in your throat.

Okay, a couple quick questions:

  1. What are your Top 10 baseball movies?
  2. What do you think of Dan P’s list?
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40 comments on “Top 10 baseball movies of all time

  1. 10. Major League
    9. Bull Durham
    8. Money Ball
    7. Field Of Dreams
    6. A League Of Their Own
    5. Field of Dreams
    4. Angels In The Outfield
    3. Pride Of The Yankees
    2. The Rookie
    1. For Love Of The Game.
    Just because I love a no-hitter and Kevin Costner.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well dang if I didn’t. I made my list and then changed it. If any of them should be on there twice it would have to be “For Love Of The Game. “
        Guess Mrs OP and I have something in common.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe it’s because my wife thinks that every movie should have either Kevin Costner, Tom Selleck or Sam Elliot in it, but the three baseball movies I can’t turn off are Mr. Baseball, The Rookie, and For the Love of the Game. The latter one is my very favorite baseball movie, but it is still too Hollywood for me.
    Field of Dreams was very entertaining and fascinating to me, but I always thought the story was dumb.
    I find it so hard to mix baseball and the cinema because it seams impossible to re-create baseball drama on the silver screen. And I think that is because incredible baseball drama is so readily available to us so often in real life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Some other thoughts:
    – Should have put For the Love of the Game on here somewhere – forgot about it and it is a good baseball movie
    – Yeah Field of Dreams was a bit dumb, but so was crying about a baseball movie
    – My favorite baseball video…. the 2017 Astros WS video of course
    – Bad News Bears in Breaking Training should get a special citation – it was a bad movie, but it did feature the Astrodome and old time Astro heroes like Cedeno, Watson, Cabell, Forsch, JR, etc
    – Does anybody know what happened to an old time movie – Damn Yankees, where the long suffering Senators fan sells his soul to the devil. I don’t think that movie ever gets shown and any movie that has “Edith Bunker” singing is a must see…..
    – I liked the Rookie, just could not fit it in here
    – Worst baseball movie I can remember – The Babe Ruth Story with William Bendix. Bad script and bad baseball – Bendix looked like the bat was a 100 lb sledge hammer – terrible swing

    Liked by 2 people

    • Damn Yankees was (is) a good movie. To add on about “It happens Every Spring”, I remember watching it as a kid on NBC’s “Saturday Night at the Movies”. I think the guy was a high school chemistry teacher working on an experiment. Some kids playing baseball on the field hit one threw the window and broke all the test tubes. The resulting concoction was the stuff that made the ball miss the wood (bats). The best part was him rubbing his catchers hair in the dugout during the championship game after the catcher has put the chemical on his hair thinking the stuff in the bottle is hair tonic.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Damn Yankees was my #11 and only that because I have not seen it in 50+ years and was unsure how really good it was anymore.
        It Happens Every Spring sounds like fun – kind of like Son of Flubber and those types of movies

        Like

  4. Also a big fan of For Love of the Game. Damn Yankees is a musical with some great songs: “Shoeless Joe form Hannibal MO”, “You Gotta Have Heart”, and a steamy “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”. There are some clips on You Tube. Story an of an aging Senators fan who loathes the Yankees and sells his soul to the devil to be young again so he can help his beloved team beat the loathed Yankees.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. #12 and #13 Has to be two Dan Dailey movies – Kid from Left Field and The Pride of St Louis (Dizzy Dean). And Gary Cooper learned how to hit by going out and chopping wood with the lumberjack crew. His swing looked like it. William Bendix should have done the same. And the WORST baseball player in a movie was Anthony Perkins in Fear Strikes Out (Jimmy Piersall)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Controversial opinion time…

    Field of dreams is slightly overrated. It’s great but I would swap that and Bull Durham. I’d also replace Rookie of the year with Little Big League. Similar premise but the kid is a manager and the writers seem to have a good understanding of the inner workings of baseball

    Liked by 1 person

    • More to add

      Little Big League was interesting in a sense that the kid was successful because he was more willing to try new things and although saber metrics weren’t mentioned it did foresee the different approach to management that would come later, just in the guise of a family movie

      Like

    • When it comes to taste in most anything – movies, music, restaurants, cars – I don’t think there is much that is controversial. Folks just have different tastes. But when it comes to favorite baseball teams……

      Like

  7. Off topic but a curiosity item. Thinking of the Bryce Harper situation. Harper turns down 300MM and now it looks as if he’ll eventually sign with someone else and Washington will only get a compensation pick. Imagine what would have happened if they had traded Harper to the Astros or someone else. They could have picked up some highly touted prospects.
    That being said, does anybody seeing that happening to our Astros anytime in the near future?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s odd that you picked the Harper situation because he is a player that didn’t get traded, but you make you are the one making up the Harper imaginary trade.
      But, to answer your question, I don’t see the Astros trading a PREMIER player during a season in which they are contending. I could see them trading a player similar to Harper if they weren’t competitive and didn’t see themselves as competitive.
      The Astros are going to compete. They are going to continue to develop their prospects and keep the ones they feel are untouchable and add to that from outside to remain competitive.
      The Astro know that by July, some teams are going to be out of it and will start offering players that Houston might want, or who the Astros might want right now, but aren’t willing to pay a full year of inflated salary for.
      In short, as long as the Astros are in it at the deadline, they would probably be more apt to buy than to sell. That’s what contenders do.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s definitely tough to do rankings on movies. The first problem is deciding which criteria should be given the most weight. The second is comparing them across different genres. The third is whether you can give Kevin Costner a pass multiple times for lack of acting. Ultimately, I’d say Rookie of the Year should get yanked from the list. I’d replace it with Mr. Baseball. The aforementioned For the Love of the Game is a great cable movie, but I wouldn’t actually spend money to watch it. The selfishness/lack of awareness when he has the accident during the off season kills a lot of it for me. Field of Dreams was a great movie. I look forward to sharing it with my kids one day…but that’s not the kind they are into right now. The Natural is definitely worthy of a top spot on the list. It should be noted that the script does not mirror the book. Certain details are changed…such as the ending. It’s short and still worth a read if any of you are inclined to do that sort of thing anymore. Also, not important, but the baseball scenes were mostly filmed at a AAA stadium very close to my home at the time. As a grade schooler I was unaware of this fact until many years later…but wish I could go back in time to coerce my father to take me to see some of the filming.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Devin – terribly tough to do rankings on movies – at least ones upon which everyone can agree. But it is fun too see who likes what and why.
      – Don’t know why this type of trivia sticks in my brain, but wasn’t the Natural filmed at an old AAA stadium in Buffalo?
      – Understand your regret at not getting to see the filming. My brother went down to Gilley’s when they were filming Urban Cowboy and was an extra in some bar scenes that never made it into the movie. My brother was a Travolta nut before that – he would wear a white suit with a red shirt to go dancing after Saturday Night Fever. Would even wear a bandage on his face where Travolta wore his. Wish I had gone down for some filming myself for Urban Cowboy but I was more a rocker than redneck at the time.
      – So after the end of The Natural does the batboy go on to be bat whittler to the stars?
      – I did read The Natural about a year ago. Good book, but different from the movie. Movie did a good job I thought even with the differences.
      – I know Rookie of the Year is a piece of fluff. But I guess it is my piece of fluff – haha
      – I guess I’ll have to watch Mr. Baseball – Tom Selleck?
      – I think you are right about Field of Dreams – kids up to a certain age probably won’t get it.

      AC
      I watched the Stratton story as a kid. Good movie as I remember, Jimmy Stewart may be my favorite actor period.

      Like

  9. For those who have some doubts about how the current Astros team could possibly win the World Series with the pitchers they have, here are the number of starts pitchers made for the Champion Astros in 2017:
    Fiers- 28
    Morton- 25
    Keuchel- 23
    LMJ- 22
    Peacock-21
    Musgrove- 15
    McHugh- 12
    Paulino- 6
    Verlander- 5
    Martes- 4
    Dayan Diaz- 1
    I just don’t have any problem seeing Verlander, Cole, McHugh, James, Peacock, Valdez and Perez starting for the Astros this season. To me, its a better group than in 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not surprised about Dodgers, they have been very agressive under current ownership. I believe I had read they were being investigated a while ago but hadn’t seen any updates.

      So will Jordan Alvarez be a Free Agent?

      Like

      • Mike, who knows? I will say this: The Dodgers signed the #1 international free agent this past summer for less money than four other less regarded free agents who were signed by other clubs. The Dodgers also signed 8 other free agents from the same country on the same day. Could this situation be a lot newer than is thought?
        Hey, this whole thing could be just a rumor. If it isn’t, then the reason we aren’t hearing anything would be because MLB wants to get this free agent stuff and trade stuff done before they announce it, for reasons they know about and would rather not talk about right now.

        Like

  10. So, Sonny Gray finally gets traded and this trade is so weird. Gray gets a 3 year extension to pitch in a ballpark that the ball flies out of worse than Yankee stadium.
    The Yankees had to give up a prospect to go with Gray, in order to get a prospect that they trade to Seattle for another prospect. The Yankees get a good draft pick, also.
    In case you forgot, the Yankees gave up 3 top 10 prospects for Gray.
    Finally, an NL team gets the Yankees out of payroll cap hell, probably so NY can now go spend some money.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “The Astros are thin on pitching, though since Houston plans to contend next season, it might have been a taller order to assign a starting spot to a pitcher who struggled as (Martin) Perez did in 2018. ”

    Now this MLB Trade Rumors story says the Astros are thin on pitching, but the Mariners have a full rotation.

    All I can say is WHAT?

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Astros have not yet signed a free agent NRI to a minor league deal this offseason. Every one of the 22 NRIs so far are from our minor league system.
      Almost half of our NRIs were All-Stars in the minors for us last season.

      Like

    • dan if there is a way to have a resources or link page that we can access months from now without having to try to find this post, that link would be one to save. lots of information in one place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yikes – not sure rj – had never thought about it
        Are you talking about the MLB.com site or the particular post about the players invited to spring training

        Like

  12. i’m thinking a chipalatta resource page that has links such as the one you listed just above. rather than trying to go back and find the post that had that link in it months from now, you could just access the ‘resource page’ and there it would be. you could just add links when one as informative as that one came along. im referring to the spring training link. so much info on the players in one spot.

    Like

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