During our trip to Cooperstown in July, we had a conversation about everyone’s favorite baseball movies and why we enjoyed them so much. This prompted Daryll and Giuseppe to go on a major baseball movie watching binge and compile their top ten favorite baseball movies. These lists have now been decided so without further delay, here are the writers of Doubleday Double Talk’s favorite baseball movies.
42 is a fantastic depiction of the struggles that Jackie Robinson faced in his first season playing in the big leagues (1947) after becoming the first black player to play in the Major Leagues since Fleetwood Walker in 1884. The movie does a great job of displaying the trials and tribulations that Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford) had to face in order to integrate baseball. Pre-Black Panther Chadwick Boseman plays the part of Jackie Robinson very well.
This movie is a great blend of math and data and baseball. One of the most successful baseball movies of all time from a marketing standpoint was based on the book by Michael Lewis which is a must read for any baseball fan. Moneyball looks at the story of the inept Oakland A’s and their rise to success (regular season success that is) after adopting the theory called Moneyball. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill make a great duo in this movie and both received Oscar nominations for their roles and Moneyball itself was nominated for Best Picture.
8. A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is a fictional story based on the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which aimed to fill the void left when the large majority of Major League Baseball players overseas, fighting for the United States World War II. Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, Lorri Petty, and Geena Davis all give memorable performances. Hanks, playing Jimmy Dugan, also popularized the phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
7. The Sandlot
The Sandlot is the story of the new kid in town (Scotty Smalls) and him going from an outcast with a stepfather who makes him question his self-worth. He becomes “one of the guys” through baseball and his friendship with local baseball star Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and after losing a Babe Ruth signed baseball he and the group of sandlot players must band together and bail Scotty out of the biggest jam of his life before his stepfather comes back from a business trip.
6. The Natural
The Natural is brilliantly played by Robert Redford based on the book by Bernard Malamud and while the book has a more tragic ending, who could watch Roy Hobbs crush a walk-off home run into the lights causing a dramatic explosion while he victoriously jogs around the bases and not at least crack a small smile.
5. The Pride of the Yankees
This timeless classic follows the life of Lou Gehrig who is wonderfully portrayed by Gary Cooper and how about the incredible portrayal of Babe Ruth by none other than…Babe Ruth himself. The Pride of the Yankees is a remarkable tribute to one of the greatest to ever play the game who’s career was cut far too short.
4. Bull Durham
While I personally feel that the romantic interest in Bull Durham is excessive and unnecessary, which knocks it down a spot or two on my list, the baseball scenes in the movie are legendary. From conversations on the mound, to why you should wear shower shoes (until you win 20 games in the show, of course), what hand to hit with in a fight, how to answer interview questions, and tips on how to get out of a slump. Crash Davis and Nuke Laloosh’s crazy season playing for the Durham Bulls is an all-time classic.
3. For Love of the Game
While this is a generally unpopular pick, I personally love the movie For Love of the Game and truly enjoy watching as Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) battles age, time, a bum shoulder, his impending retirement, phycological issues, and relationship problems, all while pitching the game of his life. It is also impossible to leave out the fact that Vin Scully’s unscripted play-by-play calls in the movie made it that much better and gave us memorable lines like, “And the cathedral that is Yankees Stadium belongs to a Chapel,” that are sure to send chills down your spine. The dramatic ending to the game leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat while you root for Chapel to beat the odds and pitch a perfect game.
2. Field of Dreams
“If you build it, they will come.” These are the words that prompt Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella to plow down a large part of his farm to build a baseball field. This results in disgraced great “Shoeless” Joe Jackson coming back to life and playing on the field. Kinsella then hears a series of commands that causes him to kidnap the estranged author Terrance Mann and take him to a baseball game, meet the beloved Doc Graham who gave up baseball for medicine, and at the end allows him to play catch with his dad who was made young again by the magical field. This movie is indeed sentimental, but in the best possible way and there is no better dialogue in a baseball movie history than James Earl Jones’ (Terrance Mann) speech at the end of the movie that a quote couldn’t do justice (go to Daryll’s Field of Dreams analysis for the video).
1. Major League
How could you call yourself a baseball fan and not love the movie Major League? The story of the showgirl wife of the former owner of the Cleveland Indians taking over and attempting to put together the worst team in baseball to move the team to Miami brings together a hilarious team of misfits and oddballs who must band together and “win the whole F******* thing” before she replaces them with a new group of guys that will accomplish her goal, “finish dead last.”
Personalities like Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a pitcher with a million dollar arm and a ten-cent pair of eyes who started the year in the California Penal League, Pedro Cerrano, who accompanied by his voodoo idol, Jobu, crushes fastballs with ease (with curveballs being a different story), Jake Taylor, a former All-Star catcher previously playing in Mexico and hoping for one more year in the sun, and Willie Mays Hays, the speedster that “hits like Mays and I run like Hays” (well not so much the hitting part). The movie is full of memorable lines that will have you saying, “Hats for bats, keep bats warm,” every time you see a golf club toppers and “Juuuuuust a bit outside,” every time a pitcher throws an errant pitch. Bob Uecker playing Harry Doyle makes the movie that much better with his hilarious play by play calling. Put it all together and get my go to baseball movie.
10. Rookie of the Year – This movie came out in 1993. I was in Little League and this movie gave me the dream that it could happen a lot earlier. I never broke my arm on purpose, but the thought crossed my mind. Just think, a real Cubs Championship came a short 23 years later. Who knew that one of the burglars from Home Alone (Daniel Sterns) directed this movie. Not to mention this movie gave baserunners everywhere the idea to let the pitcher know the size of his backside.
9. Eight Men Out – This movie does a great job showing all sides of the Black Sox Scandal, which many baseball fans were first introduced to hearing about Shoeless Joe Jackson in a movie that will be covered later.
8. 42 – Before he was King T’Challa of Wakanda – Chadwick Boseman played the role of Jackie Robinson in 42, a terrific movie showing the humanity of Jackie Robinson who can often get caricatured into a soft-spoken historical figure instead of, you know, a real actual person. Boseman does a great job showing the human side of what was happening with Robinson.
7. Bull Durham – Solid all-around baseball movie with Kevin Costner, even if I question whether my young teenage co-founder should understand all of the jokes in this movie. Susan Sarandon has a pretty good grasp for players who make that switch from loving the game to playing it to survive in this world: “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones…Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.”
6. The Natural – Great movie, every person who has watched this has gone out and named their bat – but please also read the book.
5. Moneyball – This one gets high marks more for the book it represented and the dramatic change it has helped usher into baseball. Not to mention a former baseball teammate/adversary Bryan Carnes plays the pitcher in the movie who allows the big Scott Hatteberg home run. So there is that. Good performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill help carry the movie and keep it just as relevant to non-baseball fans as baseball fans.
4. The Sandlot – Youth. Freedom. Baseball. Yet watch out for The Beast. Also, if you haven’t asked “S’more what?” while camping I don’t trust you. It is always funny. So is the Brewer’s take on it last year:
3. Major League – Yes, baseball figures prominently in this movie. It is more than that and is one of the funniest movies generally of all time. Bob Uecker telling audiences it was “just a bit outside” is a joke repeated over and over again. Probably also the best performances of Charlie Sheen’s career as well this side of Platoon.
2. League of Their Own: Who would think that Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, and Madonna would ever make such a great movie together? Not to mention of course Geena Davis, who gives an amazing performance.
1. Field of Dreams: Perhaps the cliche pick. Perhaps a reason why. I included the original – which James Earl Jones reading about anything sounds amazing – not to mention gives actual context to the words. For extra goosebumps and possibly a tear or two I included Vin Scully reading it to the backdrop of famous baseball moments.