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:
- What are your Top 10 baseball movies?
- What do you think of Dan P’s list?