So, here we are! After my beloved Red Sox dropped two straight to the Dementors, I’m ready for a pick me up. Thank goodness we have the memories of these baseball movies to cheer me up, yes? Because THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL. (More on that tomorrow. Patience, people). So here are my #6-10 movies, complete with selected quotes from each. Warning: occasional spoilers and the odd salty language. Sorry. You’ve been warned.
#10: Bull Durham
I’ve seen this movie only once, and I feel like if I watched it again (and again, and again) it’d be higher on my list. Yes, I know that it’s a classic baseball film. I agree that it’s funny and sexy. I think it suffered from overhype; I expected it to be AMAZING (caps lock) and it was good (caps lock deactivated), and I never felt the urge to watch it repeatedly (like every movie above it on this list). But if you worship at the Church of Baseball, it’s worth seeing. At least once.
“God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was going to throw a fastball!”
“I told him.”
-Nuke LaLoosh and Crash Davis
#9: The Bad News Bears (1976)
God, I miss Walter Matthau. No one could personify “crusty old coot” as hilariously and effortlessly as he did (even when he was youngish). This movie is hilarious and completely politically incorrect – there are several quotes I couldn’t dream of using – and it’s undoubtedly an all-time sports flick. And the sight of young Tatum O’Neal blazing the ball past the disbelieving boys? Icing for every baseball-loving girl.
“There was nothing easy about those fly balls, Ahmad. They were tough chances! The sun was in your eyes!”
“Don’t give me none of your honky bullshit, Buttermaker. I know they were easy.”
“Let’s not bring race into this, Ahmad. We’ve got enough problems as it is.”
-Buttermaker and Ahmad
#8: The Rookie
Admittedly, this movie is rather cheesy. They lay it on a bit thick with the “Will the hero reconnect with his distant father through baseball?” storyline (which was already explored to superb effect in a movie that’s higher on my list – three guesses which). But how do you not love the guy changing his baby’s diaper minutes before pitching a 98 mph fastball? And how do you not tear up as he jogs into the big league stadium with his whole family, and students, AND THE ENTIRE TOWN watching and yes, I’m verklempt right now. Whatever.
“What pitches did you throw to get that strikeout?”
“Fastball, fastball, and…fastball.”
-TV Reporter and Jim Morris
#7: The Sandlot
Having worked in an after-school daycare during my high school years, I saw this movie about 74 times. But it’s not just a kid’s movie; it’s hilariously clever and eminently quotable. It’s also bittersweet and nostalgic; doesn’t it make you flash back to your own childhood baseball (or in my case, rec softball) games, and the friends you used to play them with? The only bad thing about this movie is that Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez grew up and apparently decided to spend his major league career sporting a porn star moustache. How could Smalls not step in to stop that from happening? I mean, seriously.
“Remember, kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
#6: Soul of the Game
An (unfortunately) obscure HBO film from 1996, Soul of the Game is the story of several Negro League stars in the years leading up to the integration of Major League Baseball. It’s a riveting film, and an essential history lesson for every baseball fan. I had no idea who Josh Gibson was, nor the full, complex reasons that Jackie Robinson was chosen as the first black player (it wasn’t just because of his baseball skills). If you can find it – and good luck, it’s not yet on Netflix – take a look. It’ll certainly make you wonder “What if?” (Warning: I couldn’t verify the quote online, as info is sparse; this quote is from my admittedly leaky memory, so it might not be entirely word-for-word accurate. But it’s pretty close).
“They know they can’t let me in because I’ll break all of their records – Ruth, Gehrig, every goddamn one!”
Three comments here:
1. Thank you for not going nutty over Bull Durham. I like it, but get a little tired of all the idiots who say it’s the greatest baseball movie ever.
2. Soul of the Game is an inspired choice. I loved it the first time I saw it. There are historical problems with it (for instance Clyde Sukeforth is the guy who scouted Robinson), but it’s still wonderful. Thanks for reminding me about it.
3. The only omission I note here might be Eight Men Out. It’s got decent acting and Sayles directing is spot on. It’s a wonderful tonic to the sentamentality of Field of Dreams about the Black Sox.
Good job, Bets,
Not bad choices but how could you leave off Eight Men Out???? For that matter, Pride of the Yankees has got to be a better movie than The Rookie or The Bad News Bears, even if it is about a Yankee.
Very fair comments about Eight Men Out. Here’s the thing – I saw that movie years ago, and have only vague memories of it (though I remember liking it, if not passionately). I couldn’t say that I haven’t seen it – that would be inaccurate, if true in spirit – but I don’t know it well enough to put it with all of these films (which I’ve seen often and liked). So I’ll Netflix it again (now that I’d be a better judge of it) and get back to you both. In fact, that might make a pretty good follow-up blog post…