Play Ball! #1-5

Hello, darling b-rollers! I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s #6-10 edition of b-roll’s Best Baseball Movies. Onward to my Top 5!

#5: The Natural
This is a great movie, but it primarily makes the list because of THE SCENE. Come on, you know it. Robert Redford hits the ball deep into the night and starts jogging in slow-motion, his side bleeding and sparks raining down upon him. The crowd goes insane. Randy Newman’s epic score – “da na…DA NA NA NA…” – blares as he circles the bases. Cue shivers down the spine of every baseball fan.
“You know, my Mama wanted me to be a farmer.”
“My Dad wanted me to be a baseball player.”
“Well, you’re better than any player I ever had. And you’re the best goddamn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.”
-Pop Fisher and Roy Hobbs

#4: Major League
Bad late-’80s style notwithstanding, don’t you just love everything about this movie? Tom Berenger’s deadpan catcher, Jake Taylor. Charlie Sheen rocking the tortoiseshells. Dennis Haysbert (alternately President Palmer or The Guy From the All-State Commercials, depending on whether you watch 24 or not) praying to Jobu with a snake around his neck. Wesley Snipes, pre-tax evasion. And, most delightfully of all, Bob Uecker’s droll, semi-drunk radio announcer, Harry Doyle. If you don’t watch baseball games and say “Just a bit outside!” at wild pitches, then you need to hand in your Baseball Fan Membership Card immediately. It is no longer valid.
“Hell of a situation we got here. Two on, two out, your team down by one in the ninth. You got a chance to be a hero on national television… if you don’t blow it. By the way, saw your wife last night, hell of a dancer, you must be very, very proud. I mean that guy she was with, I’m sure he’s a close personal friend and all. But tell me, what was he doing wearing her panties on his head? [Ball is popped up]. Uh oh, Rexy, I don’t think this one’s got the distance.”
-Jake Taylor to Rexman

#3: The Curse of the Bambino/Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino
I’m going to go ahead and plead my hardcore Red Sox fandom as the reason these documentaries are so high; Yankee fans, go ahead and skip to #2. The Curse of the Bambino was released in 2003 and explored the tortured history of the Red Sox from the perspective of fans (some famous, most not). After the Sox won the World Series in 2004 (gloriously humiliating the Yankees en route to doing so), the filmmakers collected the same fans for a sequel, and each person gleefully recounted what it was like to finally, FINALLY celebrate a championship. Of course, I empathized (and delighted) with each featured fan. But the scene that always gets me is when a rabbi shrewdly remarks that in the moment the team won it all, every Red Sox fan thought of someone who hadn’t lived to see it. Cut to family members placing Red Sox gear on gravestones; and cut to me, thinking of my grandfather and bawling. A must-see for any longtime Sox fan.
I live in New York. The day after [the 2004 ALCS in which the Red Sox beat the Yankees], I walked down the street like I was Spartacus.
Featured Fan (sorry, I forget his name; but he was hilarious).

#2: A League of Their Own
I got sucked into this movie again the other night. There I was, trying to come up with clever sentences about The Bad News Bears and Bull Durham at 11:30pm, and all I could do was crack up all over at Jon Lovitz’s profane scout and hold back tears when the War Department telegram was delivered (my God, that telegram scene). Many of the stars were never better than in this film – Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty – and lest we forget, this was Tom Hanks’ “comeback” movie after a long, unfortunate dry spell. It’s part history lesson, part girl power, completely wonderful. And I still know the league’s theme song by heart (including the fabulously bizarre line, “She is not the one to use or need an alibi…”) Following quote is obvious, but cannot possibly be helped.
“Well I was just wonderin’ why you would throw home when we got a two-run lead! You let the tying run get on second base and we lost the lead because of you! Start using your head – that’s the lump that’s three feet above your ass!!! [Evelyn starts sobbing.] Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!”
-Jimmy Dugan to Evelyn

#1: Field of Dreams
You remember last week, when I posted an item about how movies frequently make me cry? In a related story, I will always cry when I watch Field of Dreams – and so will most anyone. The themes of this film are inspiring (and profoundly corny): following your passion when those around you think that you’re crazy; making dreams come true for yourself and others; and reconnecting with those you love. That this happens through baseball makes Field of Dreams pure magic for any fan of the sport. And because I can’t say any of this as well as the film’s writers and James Earl Jones, here’s the longest, most relevant quote from my list.
“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
-Terence Mann

So, there you have it! Did your favorites make the list? What deserves to be higher or lower? Holler back!

6 comments

  1. it was one of the wonderful post i’ve seen…
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  2. Although I disagree with some of your choices (or my list would look like yours) I really like your list. I’ve always thought The Natural was overrated, but then I read the book and liked it better.
    My own list was deficient in that I underestimated A League of Their Own. Know I wouldn’t put it second, but to have left it off was a mistake. I wonder why Lori Petty and Tracy Reiner (Betty Spaghetti) haven’t had better careers (same for Margaret Whitton of Major League).
    We do agree on number one (“Peace, Love, Dope”). It’s a great blend of fantasy, memory, and hurt all thrown into a baseball setting.
    As far as I’m concerned there’s only one real problem with your list. You left out “Pride of the Yankees”. Know you’re not a Yankee fan. Neither am I(Go Dodgers), but it’s a heck of a movie. Gary Cooper (2 academy awards) is wonderful, Theresa Wright (one academy award) is stunning as Mrs. Gehrig, Walter Brennan (3 academy awards) does the same job he did in 100 other movies, and Elsa Janssen and Ludwig Stossel as Lou Gehrig’s parents do a wonderful job in the kind of roles they excelled in for 30 years. Worth watching just for the acting, but put a good story with it (Lou and Eleanor Gehrig’s love), throw in the greatest speech in sports history, and watch for Babe Ruth and you gotta love it. BTW Cooper’s version of the speech differs significantly from Gehrig’s actual speech, especially the “luckiest man” comment.
    Great job. Now go rent Pride of the Yankees an sit back with a handful of kleenex and enjoy.
    v

    1. I certainly will! I haven’t seen “Pride of the Yankees” otherwise I’m sure it would be on my list. I really appreciate your comments – you’re the most knowledgeable baseball fan I know 🙂

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