Andrew: Hello readers! So I meant to post this on Monday in celebration of Major League Baseball's Opening Day, but I got a little distracted because it was also my birthday and I was trying to spend time with Sarah before she had to go into work that afternoon, and then my Detroit Tigers played their first game of the year at 4pm and it lasted quite a while. So sorry for the delay!
But as I said, in celebration of the start of the Major League Baseball season, as well as a bit of a look ahead to next week's new Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, starring Harrison Ford, I wanted to share my 6 personal favorite baseball movies of all-time.
KEEP IN MIND, this is a personal list of my favorite baseball movies. This is not a list of what I consider to be the best baseball movies. That's a whole different bunch of criteria. Instead these are the ones that I grew up on and loved as a child and today, ones that anytime I catch them on TV I have to stop whatever it is I'm doing and finish it, or quite plainly the ones that I enjoy more than any others. I've listed them in alphabetical order because I tried to rank them but just couldn't do it.
So without further ado, here is A Six Pack Of... Andrew's Favorite Baseball Movies:
1.) A League of Their Own
I think this is a selection that a fair amount of people would agree with me on. It has a fantastic cast led by Geena Davis and Tom Hanks. It's funny (for some reason I always get a kick out of Mae timing how long Jimmy Dugan takes to relieve himself in their locker room), it's touching and it has some great baseball action. I'm also a fan of the fact that it's based on the true All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The tryout scenes set at Wrigley Field give the film a nice touch of authenticity, too.
2.) Angels in the Outfield (1994 version)
This will be one of the entries that shows exactly which generation I come from. I've seen the original 1951 version starring a very young Janet Leigh, and while I think they successfully pulled off the idea that heavenly helpers were aiding the Pittsburgh Pirates without ever showing you the angels, as a child I couldn't help but love the Disney version starring a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt because the angels WERE shown - crazy antics and all. It doesn't hurt that the 1994 version actually has a pretty good cast in Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Brenda Fricker, Dermot Mulroney and very small roles by future stars Matthew McConaughey and Adrien Brody. But when all is said and done, there aren't many scenes that top the entire stadium flapping their "wings" to motivate Danza's exhausted pitcher to finish the game and clinch the division title.
3.) For Love of the Game
This is probably a bit of a surprise for some people, but here's why I include it in my favorite baseball movies: I think it's one of the better movies made that show the effect a romantic relationship might actually have on a professional athlete, with a believable performance by Kevin Costner (except for those times he mutters to himself on the mound); it's about the star pitcher of the Detroit Tigers, my home state's team that I love very much, so I get a kick out of seeing the uniforms and Olde English D all over the movie; it was actually filmed in the old Yankee Stadium, which gives the movie an authentic feeling; I'm a sucker for romantic movies and this one gets to me. I also like how there's now a nice parallel between the story of Billy Chapel playing his entire career for the Detroit Tigers after a prolific career and now, in real life, Justin Verlander recently signed a contract that could very well keep him a Tiger for his entire career.
4.) Major League
Duh. Do I really need to explain this one? Eternally quotable; great starring turns by Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernsen; the tryout scenes; Jo-Bu; the bullpen car; Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle; I could go on and on. I try not to watch and of the sequels, too, because they kind of water down the memory of the first one. But I don't think anyone can argue with my criteria here that any time Major League is on TV, if you stumble across it, you MUST watch it.
One of the newest baseball films churned out by Hollywood, as the Academy Awards approached a couple of years ago I actually started to feel that Moneyball may have been the film that most deserved to win the Best Picture award. Upon rewatching it I came to the same conclusion. It's just a wonderfully acted film, led by Academy Award nominated turns by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill; it's based on Michael Lewis' book "Moneyball" and does a pretty fair representation of the book (though both versions gloss over the importance of Miguel Tejada, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson to those early 2000's A's); and I thoroughly enjoy the scenes of Pitt's Billy Beane trying build a contender. It's just a great baseball movie, based on a great baseball book (which, if you haven't read, I highly recommend because it goes deeper into the story of why Billy Beane is the way he is).
6.) Rookie of the Year
The sixth and final spot goes to the baseball film that juuuuuust might take the title of being my favorite. I wrote a term paper on Rookie of the Year back in college in which I detailed why exactly this film connected with me. A lot of it has to deal with how Henry Rowengartner comes from a single-parent home, raised by his mother (just like myself), and how Henry's not really athletically gifted but is given the chance to live out a dream thanks to a freak (possibly magical) occurrence. It's another movie that uses actual MLB teams, was filmed in real MLB stadiums, and it's just plain funny ("Funky butt-lovin'!" "Did he just say 'funky butt-lovin'??"). I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that it's one of the few final performances by Gary Busey before he went all crazy and he does a fine job portraying the cliched veteran pitcher (like Danza and Costner also do on this list).
Honorary Mentions: Fields of Dreams, Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, The Natural, Pride of the Yankees
These are all great, classic baseball films. I thoroughly enjoy them. But I don't love them. Plus I could only pick six.
Notable Omissions: The Sandlot, Little Big League, The Bad News Bears (1976 version)
I've always gotten grief out of how I dislike The Sandlot, but for some reason it never connected with me. I don't know what it is. I haven't seen Little Big League in a long time but I remember not caring for it too much as a kid, but I could probably use a rewatch to refresh my memory. And then the original Bad News Bears just never caught on with me either. I respect it and can see why it's a classic, but it's just not my cup of tea for some reason.
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