Spring Training is under way which also means warmer weather is around the corner! As the snow begins to melt and the days begin to get longer, we can look forward to our favorite summer activities. If you are a baseball fan like myself, you may enjoy getting out to a few games each summer. To get ready for the upcoming season each year, I make sure to watch as many baseball movies as I can fit into my busy schedule. Here is a list of my personal favorites:
1. Field of Dreams
Starring: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster.
Based on the novel Shoeless Joe, the film tells the story of an Iowa farmer (Costner) who builds a baseball field on his farm after hearing voices telling him to do so. One night Ray notices a man on his newly built field and recognizes him as deceased ball player Shoeless Joe Jackson. Being the only one who can see the players and hear their voices causes issues among his family considering they are in financial trouble as Ray continues to focus on the field rather than his crops. Field of Dreams is a great fantasy story even if you do not care much for sports. The film dives into the issue of family relationships, scandals, and following your passions. It also has one of the most iconic movie quotes of all time. "If you build it, he will come."
2. Bull Durham
Starring: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl
Kevin Costner must be a huge baseball fan as he stars in this sports movie that can be categorized as part comedy but part love story. Costner plays "Crash" Davis, a veteran catcher who has been signed by the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team to act as a mentor for a rookie up-and-coming pitcher named Ebby "Nuke" LaLoosh. Crash tries to school Nuke in the hopes to make him ready for the Majors if they ever come calling but they don't get off to a great start. Throw in a baseball groupie (Sarandon) who sets her eyes on a new player each season and you get a complicated love triangle. The movie has something for everyone and there is no surprise that it has become a cult classic.
3. The Natural
Starring: Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and Robert Duvall
The movie based on the 1952 novel of the same name tells the interesting tale of Roy Hobbs (Redford), a skilled baseball player with a bright future. After the loss of his father, Hobbs continues to work hard and eventually gets invited to a try-out for the Chicago Cubs. Like many young athletes, he shows a lot of potential but as we see too often, unforeseen events can turn your hopes and dreams upside down in an instant. After Hobbs's baseball career is threatened, we get taken along the journey of his determination to make it back to the big leagues. The movie is an excellent story of the struggles that athletes face and how far we would go to follow our passions.
4. The Sandlot
Starring: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, and James Earl Jones
Probably one of my favorite movies growing up in the 90s and still to this day based on the nostalgia factor. The movie shares the adventures of a group of baseball loving kids during the summer of 1962. New kid Scotty "Smalls" tries to fit in with the neighborhood kids as they always play baseball at the local sandlot. Not knowing much about the sport, he eventually wins the other boys over and becomes a regular on the team after learning the ins and outs of the game thanks to skilled player, Benny. Being young and broke, they didn't have any baseballs left to use, so Smalls takes his stepfather's prized possession thinking it was just an ordinary ball. He hits a homerun that day but the celebrations are instantly squashed upon learning the baseball was signed by the legend, Babe Ruth. The ball was hit over the fence into the backyard that houses "The Beast", the neighborhood legend of a giant man-eating dog. The movie delivers some of the best dialogue and takes you right back to the 1960s with the crazy adventures these kids get themselves into.
5. The Bad News Bears
Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Chris Barnes, Vic Morrow, Jackie Earle Haley, Joyce Van Patten
A true classic from the 70s, the baseball comedy tells the hilarious story of a team of misfits coached by an ex-minor leaguer and alcoholic, Morris Buttermaker (Matthau). After a Southern California Little League excluded the least athletic kids for their teams, a lawsuit made them add an extra team for the extra kids. The Bears were doomed and seemed helpless against the competitive intensity among the league. Buttermaker decides to go out and recruit some actual talent for the team where he scrounges up a foul mouthed young pitcher (O'Neal) and troublemaker (Haley). The movie is the definition of an underdog story and has led to multiple sequels and a remake.
6. A League of Their Own
Starring: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Lori Petty
Yes, this is all about baseball but let us not forget about the ladies! A fictional tale about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a league created by owners after WWII threatens to shut down Major League Baseball. New teams are created and two sisters from rural Oregon, Dottie (Davis) and Kit (Petty), find themselves on the Rockford Peaches. The Peaches are coached by an ex-baseball player Jimmy Dugan (Hanks) who sees the new league as a joke. The team is full of eccentric characters but they eventually clique which creates an explosion in terms of fan following. Besides the pressures from the game, the women face the fear as many of their husbands are in the war. The movie is definitely another one of my favorites and I especially love Tom Hanks's character. "There's no crying in baseball!"
7. Major League
Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, Bob Uecker and Corbin Bernsen
Another cult classic comedy of a woman who inherits the Cleveland Indians from her deceased husband and wants to move the team to Miami. In order to do so, the team must fall below minimum in attendance to reach the escape clause in the team's contract. Therefore she gets rid of all the players and replaces them with aging veterans and inexperienced rookies. Another tale of misfits and underdogs brings viewers a set of unique but hilarious characters. The movie led to two sequels but they never matched the success of the original.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Chris Pratt
Based on the novel by the same name, the more recent film shares the true story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and general manager, Billy Beane's efforts in creating a winning team. Beane takes the non traditional approach and hires an economics grad (Hill) as they create a unique way of valuing player's talents for the means of scouting. Beane's theory and approach gets questioned by fellow colleagues considering there is more risk involved but the movie gives great insight into the world of baseball that the fans rarely see, the general manager's role.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman,Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, and Ryan Merriman
Anyone who knows baseball should know the story of the late, great, Jackie Robinson. The biographical film shares the life of Robinson (Boseman) and the racial struggle it took for him to make it into the all-white-league at the time. Not only a great baseball story, the event is crucial in American history. There is no question why every year the MLB honors Jackie Robinson having every player wear his retired number, 42.
10. Rookie of the Year
Starring: Thomas Ian Nichols and Gary Busey
Another fun comedy I remember fondly from my childhood about a little leaguer (Nichols) who breaks his arm and realizes after it has healed, the tendons in his arm healed too tight, giving him extraordinary strength in his throwing arm. The Chicago Cubs discover his ability and sign him to the majors even though he is only 12 years old. Maybe not as plausible and meaningful as some of the other movies on this list, Rookie of the Year is a great family comedy and what kid hasn't dreamed of playing a professional sport?
It is important to add that this list is in no particular order because I would never be able to decide on a ranking. If you have yet to see some of these movies than I highly suggest adding them to your list, even if you are not a huge sports fan!