With time running short on the off-season and Spring Training beginning soon we wanted to make sure we got this up before it’s not a technically legal topic. Your favorites or ranking differences go in the comments–and please don’t mention the Bad News Bears.
Probably our favorite baseball movie. Billy Crystal did a good job on this lesser known classic a few years back on HBO. It’s pretty accurate historically, and the two guys who play Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris are dead ringers. You get to know the personality of these two figures pretty well and they end up each being guys that you root for. Also have to love how they villain-ize Mrs. Claire Ruth. And the commissioner of baseball. (Remember that gleam in his eye when he talks about Ruth?). When the Reds pull off a big win during the heat of the summer, I pull out *61 and pretend we’re back in that summer before we had to worry about gas prices, inflation, and too many pesticides ruining the foods we eat. Times were a lot purer back then. The game was as well.
2. The Natural
Probably the greatest single scene from any baseball movie in my opinion. “Pick me out a winner Bobby” with blood and guts coming out of the uniform should be known by every baseball fan who lives. Roy Hobbs walks up to the plate and hits a one-armed home run that crashes out the old light tower in the movie. The explosion that follows matches the climax of the entire movie. It’s just a ‘moment’. We would all of loved to have had our Natural moment but the bottom line is none of us probably have. But if you played the game or if you watch the game when we re-tell a big home run that’s the moment we would all like that re-told story to be re-incarnated as. It’s perfect in so many ways.
3. Little Big League
I watched this movie about 120 times one summer when I was in 8th grade. Cameos from Carlos Baerga, Randy Johnson and the immortal Ken Griffey Jr. made it a classic to me back then and the thought of me as a kid owning a big league team made it one of my favorites. I love when Billy is in negotiations to acquire Rickey Henderson.
4. The Sandlot
Again, a classic I was lucky enough to have come around during my childhood. This movie was special to me because it was my childhood. Every endless summer day we spent in the front yard playing ball for hours on end. We used ghost runners and gloves as bases until our dad started running over them with the lawnmower and we played until we ran out of baseballs. And tennis balls. And those amazing Incrediballs which played better in backyard baseball than an actual baseball because you couldn’t hit them through windows in the house across the street. We were a lot like those kids in the Sandlot.
5. The Babe
It’s actually amazing how good John Goodman was in this movie as Babe Ruth. He was sloppy, he ate and enjoyed sex in abundance, and he had that big staggering punch-drunk swing of George Herman Ruth. This movie is incredibly underrated. No baseball fan could say that it sucked. For instance, if you went home from work and didn’t have much to do and you were flipping through the channels and it happened to be on USA, you would definitely let it play out. Wouldn’t you? I haven’t seen it in a long time but I definitely enjoyed it and the depiction it gave me (even in a PG-rated sense which is hardly possible) of Babe Ruth.
“Georgia Peach? Georgia Prick is more like it”. And I immediately liked the movie. Tommy Lee Jones delivers a great performance of the hardened soul that was Tyrus Raymond Cobb. A drinker, a womanizer, and a guy who grew up in hard times. Arliss before he was Arliss does a nice job as Al Stump–and as history would have it he did finish the book. Cobb comes in spikes high with this underrated movie.
7. The Fan
Another underrated classic where Robert DeNiro plays the role of obsessed fan Gil Renard. We’ve all been there, sort of. Guy has nothing going for him except the club that he roots for (the SF Giants) are surging. At the heart of it all is his favorite player Bobby Rayburn. And Gil is responsible for all of it. After all he sneaks into the showers mid-season and kills the teammate who wouldn’t cough up Rayburn’s prized #11. Then Rayburn’s slump ends! Along the way Gil fails at selling custom made hunting knives and slanders his ex-wife and her new husband openly! Family fun for everyone.
After you watch this movie you’ll be certain of two things. One, Pete Rose is a schmuck of rare breed. And two, he definitely bet not only on the entire sport of baseball but his own team the Cincinnati Reds and probably everything else including sunrise and sunset. It was a made for ESPN movie but I suggest seeing it somehow. It’s especially interesting to Cincinnati Reds fans and gives a pretty accurate depiction of the events that occurred just before Pete was ousted. There’s no A-list actors but the guy who plays Rose in the movie does a really good job of mastering the mannerisms of Pete Rose.
9. Eight Men Out
I owned this movie forever without actually watching it. Then one day I took it out of the package and finally gave it a shot. It’s not the greatest baseball movie ever made, but it’s a really good historical education of the 1919 Black Sox scandal and if you’re a baseball fan and like the history of the game, you’ll like it. D.B. Sweeney makes you fall for Shoeless Joe Jackson and his all-out grit.