daniel cohen looks at his favorite baseball movies …
Back in the days when baseball truly was our national pastime, Hollywood offered us plenty of movies revolving around the good old baseball diamond. I like baseball as much as the next guy, but Hollywood went a little overboard in glorifying the sport, giving the game an almost mystical quality. But I certainly like their past efforts better than some of the recent crap like Mr. 3000, or the aggressively mediocre Moneyball. Yeah, that’s what I want to see – movies about people putting numbers into a computer and crapping out a baseball team. But I digress … with 42 out this weekend, it’s a good time to reflect on what were actually the best baseball movies. So let’s grab the cracker jacks, stretch in the seventh inning, and put asterisks on all the record books, it’s the Pop 5 Best Baseball Movies … Play ball!
5. Rookie of the Year (1993):
-Yea, probably not a popular choice, but I just can’t get over the concept of this movie. So he slips on a baseball, breaks his arm, and now he has a super fast ball? That’s pretty damn funny. I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is great cinema, but there are certain characters here that crack me up because they are so over the top. You got Daniel Stern acting like a moron, Gary Busey playing this grumpy sad sack of a man, and then you have the random pairing of John Candy and Chuck Coleman from The Wonder Years (Andrew Mark Berman) announcing the games. In looking back, what’s really funny about Rookie of the Year is that it’s more unbelievable than a Michael Bay film. First of all, Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) goes right to the big leagues at 12 years old. In real life, do baseball players stay in the minors till their about 45? Also, the Cubs win the World Series at the end…come on, really? And not only that, but Henry Rowengartner strikes out Barry Bonds who looks like a tooth pick. That can’t be Barry Bonds? If you can look past these far-fetched inconsistencies, then Rookie of the Year is a nice little baseball film.
4. Bad News Bears (1976):
If anything, you have to pay respects to this movie, because without it we wouldn’t get Major League, Dodgeball, or The Mighty Ducks. Think about it — without Bad News Bears, there would be no Anaheim Ducks … whoa. But this really was the first of the ‘lovable losers can’t play their designated sport, so the bitter old coach has to teach them’ type movies. I think Bad News Bears did it a bit more profoundly than those other ones though. And it’s carried by a truly great performance from Walter Matthau. Bad News Bears is a classic, and they actually did a 2005 re-make that is surprisingly a worthy homage, with a hysterical performance from Billy Bob Thornton replacing Matthau as Morris Buttermaker.
3. The Sandlot (1993):
I like this movie quite a bit, but I know there’s a lot of people who lose their shit over it. The Sandlot is basically somebody saying ‘let’s take The Goonies, but make it about baseball.’ I don’t have a lot to say about this movie other than it charms the crap out of you. The whole thing with the dog is pretty clever, James Earl Jones was a nice little addition, and it’s appealing to both kids and adults. The only thing that pissed me off about The Sandlot was listening to the constant quoting of ‘for-ev-er.’ Take it easy … it wasn’t that funny, geez.
2. Field of Dreams (1989):
If you don’t like Field of Dreams, then your just a negative nelly. I think the sole purpose of this movie was to make every guy cry their eyes out. Spoiler alert … he plays catch with his dad. But if anything, you have to credit this movie for giving us one of the most iconic moments in film history. This is when Kevin Costner was really hitting his stride. Field of Dreams is great top to bottom, but there’s one thing I have to get off my chest, and I’m sorry if it makes me come across as a bitter son of a bitch. This movie has lost a lot of luster for me over the years as I’ve watched baseball plummet into the doldrums of steroids, building teams around an excel spread sheet, and sickening contracts that are just absurd (A-Rod/Carl Crawford anyone?). So a movie that glorifies baseball as this magical and pure game is just hard to stomach these days. Sorry to bring the mood down. I’m still waiting on the sequel called ‘Turf of Dreams,’ in which Kevin Costner’s character builds a football field where Peyton Manning walks out of the cornfields doing really funny master card commercials.
1. Major League (1989):
Maybe Major League doesn’t have the highpoints that Field of Dreams does, but it’s just one of those iconic comedies that when on TV, you’re watching it. Let me take you back to a time when Charlie Sheen was funny, and not a sideshow. Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn is one of those classic fictional sports characters up there with the Hanson Brothers and Happy Gilmore. Thrown into the mix is also Wesley Snipes as the sizzling Willie Mays Hayes, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, the over paid prima donna, and Tom Berenger as Jake Taylor, the leader of the pack. And who could forget Pedro Cerrano (Denis Haysbert), the man who prays to Jobu and wants to sacrifice live chickens before the game. But aside from all the colorful characters, the film incorporates so many great little bits, like everyone talking about how shitty the Indians are going to be at the beginning. But what propels Major League to the top of baseball film hierarchy is Bob Uecker as announcer Harry Doyle, along with his sidekick Monte (Skip Griparis). Uecker is basically like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack, but in a booth. And the barely talkative Monte is the perfect foil. Their constant drinking and smart ass comments truly give Major League it’s soul. ‘Juuuuust a bit outside.’ Classic.