Monday, August 14, 2006

My Top 5 Favorite Baseball Films

As you may or not know by reading my blog at this point, you probably have figured out that I am a huge baseball fan. I have a Web site called with my very talented partner Eric Gouldsberry, and I interview retired baseball players for SABR, the Society of Baseball Research. So, I thought it would be cool to rate my top 5 baseball movies. I am doing a top 5 on everything I find important, and baseball movies surely fit into that category, so here goes:

5.) Bull Durham: (1988) A funny, well-written movie produced by Ron Shelton, the king of sports films, this movie deals with things that have never been addressed before or since about life in the minor leagues. The love triangle between Susan Sarandon (Annie) as the baseball groupie with a soul; Tim Robbins (Nuke LaLoosh) as the clueless pitcher with a good arm and no brain; and Kevin Costner as the career minor league catcher named Crash Davis, is priceless.
4.) Eight Men Out: (1988) John Sayles is a great filmmaker and this movie truly captures the era and the story of the Chicago Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Memorable performances by Jon Cusack as Buck Weaver, Charlie Sheen as Oscar “Hap” Felsch, John Mahoney as Kid Gleason, and David Strathain as Eddie Cicotte make this a special period piece that will always have a place in the history of great baseball movies.
3.) The Natural: (1984) Although this movie is more of a fable than a story with any truth to it, it is fun to watch and even though I always know how it will end, I still love it. People complain that it is too mythological and not realistic enough, but I don’t care. Robert Redford, playing Roy Hobbs, is a character based on real-life ballplayer Ed Waitkus, who was shot in 1949 by an obsessed fan named Ruth Ann Steinhagen. When Hobbs names his favorite bat “Wonderboy”, it’s a takeoff on Shoeless Joe Jackson’s renowned bat, “Caroliney”. Redford is perfect in the role of the washed-up underdog who makes an incredible comeback, and Michael Madsen as the cocky Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey is also great, as are Richard Farnsworth as coach Red Blow, and Wilford Brumley as embattled manager Pop Fisher.
2.) A League of Their Own: (1992) Penny Marshall’s creation about the Women’s All-American Baseball League of the 1940’s is a wonderfully balanced and poignant story about a group of women asked to entertain those at home on the baseball fields of small-town America while the boys are at war. Tom Hanks plays the washed-up drunk manager, Geena Davis is excellent as the best player in the league, and awesome performances by Lori Petty, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell make this film a must-see for fans and non-fans alike.
1.) Field of Dreams: (1989) This film has it all – reincarnated ballplayers, a ball field in Iowa that people are mysteriously drawn to; the story of one man’s search for truth and his pursuit of something pure -- is so unique that nothing else can compare to it. Once again, Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella) is there to tell the story, along with great performances by Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Burt Lancaster as Midnight Graham, and James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann -- all of whom make this a one-of-a-kind baseball movie. This film coined the phrase, “If you build it they will come,” which has been used and overused to describe so many things non-baseball that it’s become part of our culture.

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