Friday, April 19, 2013

Covering the Bases, Pt. 6: Top 10 baseball movies

The topic of baseball movies has always been one of the more essential aspects of my life.

Although I've never been an avid moviegoer, I'm proud to say that I have seen my fair share of baseball films. And, save for a few horrid remakes and unneeded sequels, I'm not sure that I've ever witnessed a flat-out bad one.

With the hyped release of 42 this week, the concept of ranking baseball films seems to have gained a life of its own lately. I've read through numerous different lists around the Internet these last few days.

While I haven't seen 42 yet, its release inspired me to create my own personal "Top 10 Baseball Movies" countdown.

For better or worse, mine looks almost nothing like the other lists I've combed through these past few days.

As far as movies go, I've never much been one for the "classics". I'm not sure why. I think this list is a microcosm of that idea.

Once I take it in at some point during the next couple weeks, there's a decent chance that 42 may well make this list in the future.

For now, though, these are my current top ten favorite baseball films.

And, since this is a baseball card blog, I've worked a few pieces from my collection into this post.

#10 -- A League of Their Own

Of the ten movies on this list, A League of Their Own probably has the highest potential to move up the standings in the future.

I'm not proud to admit this, but I actually hadn't seen the film until earlier this year. I'd somehow gone my entire baseball-loving life without seeing one of the most-talked about movies on the subject.

I've been planning to watch it again for a while now. Most of the time, I need two or three viewings to really "absorb" a movie.

As far as cards go, there aren't a whole lot that feature players from the short-lived All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Still, the above Annabell Lee has to be the best one I've seen.

After all, her nephew was one-time Red Sock and personal hero Bill "Spaceman" Lee.

You can look it up.

#9 -- Bull Durham

Some of the basis for this post came from this week's Gypsy Queen write-up.

Much like GQ, I feel like I've "missed the boat" on a few of the more highly-regarded baseball movies. I mean, Field of Dreams and The Natural didn't even crack this list.

Of all the baseball movie lists I've seen this week, I think Bull Durham was ranked #1 more often than any other.

I've just never found it to be that terrific. The term "baseball movie" is fairly loose when it comes to Bull Durham. The sport itself is merely in the background for much of its length.

Now, that said, don't get me wrong.

It's a fine film. Crash Davis is one of the better characters of any baseball movies I've seen.

Personally, though, I think it's overrated.

#8 -- Little Big League

I'm a kid of the '90s.

While they might not be regarded as "major" films, a few of the kid-themed sports movies from the decade have always had a special place with me. 

And, even though I still love movies like Little Giants and The Mighty Ducks, the baseball films have long been my favorites from the '90s.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Little Big League chronicles the tale of a 12 year-old kid's managerial tenure with the worst-to-first Minnesota Twins.

As far as endings go, I'll go out on a limb and say it has arguably the best of any movie on this list.

I won't spoil anything, though.

#7 -- Rookie of the Year

This one and Little Big League could well be #7a and #7b on this list.

The fact that Rookie of the Year is centered around my beloved Cubs is what basically tipped the scales in its favor. 

That, and the still-quotable "funky buttlovin'" line.

Apart from a movie you'll see later in this list, Rookie of the Year was perhaps the film that triggered my current love for baseball-themed cinema. 

The fictitious tale of Henry Rowengarnter still makes for one of my personal favorite movie storylines.

#6a and 6b -- Major League/Major League II

Okay, so I cheated a bit.

Although I'll probably take a bit of slack for this, I've always thought that Major League II was just as good (if not better) than the original.

The fight scene from the second one is still among the better movie clips of all-time in my book.

As far as quotable lines go, the Major League franchise may well reign supreme on this list. (Aside from my #1 choice, anyways.)

It features a ton of good ones, although many aren't suitable for this blog.

And, yes, there is a third Major League movie.

But, if you're a fan of the first two, I wouldn't recommend seeing it.

#5 -- 61*

This is probably the most underrated baseball film ever made.

The magnificent Billy Crystal-directed 61* didn't pop up too often on most of the lists I read. If it did, it was usually near the bottom reaches.

From what I've read, it's one of the more factually-accurate baseball movies of all-time. 

The only reason I collect cards of Bob Cerv is because he was roommates with both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during the '61 season, a tidbit I learned from this film.

At its base, it does a great job of chronicling Mantle's and Maris's famous "Chase for 61" during 1961. Even so, though, it manages to delve a whole lot deeper than simply baseball.

Even if you loathe the Yankees, which I'm sure a lot of you do, this is a must-see movie. 

#4 -- The Bad News Bears

Before I get into this one, let me take a minute to tell you about my choice for the worst baseball movie ever made.

I wish I could go back in time and prevent myself from seeing the Bad News Bears remake with Billy Bob Thornton. Holy cow, that was an awful piece of cinema.

But enough about that.

I think most of us can agree that the original Bad News Bears is one of the better baseball movies in the history of film. (While not even close to as great as the original, the sequel is worth seeing.)

Best I can tell, it was probably the first sports movie that centered around a worst-to-first team. Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, and Major League all have the Bad News Bears to thank for their storylines.

I take back what I said about Little Big League. Aside from my #1 choice, this probably has the absolute best ending of any baseball movie in existence.

#3 -- The Rookie

I'm running out of Jim Morris cards to show on this blog.

I've mentioned The Rookie quite often in my past writings. If things continue on like this, I'll have shown each of the six Morris cards I own before long.

While it certainly seems like a fictional tale, the story of Jim Morris is one-hundred percent true.

After a failed minor-league career in the '80s, he went from grading high school chemistry tests to the major leagues within a four-month span.

At the age of 35.

If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and see this movie.

#2 -- Eight Men Out

Of all my ventures into baseball history, I've always found the tale of the "Black Sox" to be the most fascinating.

As most fans know, eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball after conspiring with gamblers to throw the World Series that year.

I've been able to rattle off the names of the eight blackballed players since about fifth grade.

For the record, the "Eight Men Out" were Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch, Lefty Williams, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, and Chick Gandil.

Had this movie not been made, though, I'm not sure the tale of the "Black Sox" would be as widely known today. I doubt I would've looked further into it had Eight Men Out not been featured on the silver screen.

As for the #1 film on this list, well...

#1 -- The Sandlot

...most of you probably saw this coming.

I have mentioned my devout love for The Sandlot on many occasions in the past. It's not just my all-time favorite baseball film.

It's my favorite movie, period. It has been since I was about six years old.

I'm not sure what more I can say about it.

It is, without a doubt, the best movie ever made in my book.

And it always will be. 


Metallattorney said...

No Field of Dreams? I suppose baseball is not the only thing it is about, it is more a means to an end. Even my wife cried watching that one.

Mike said...

You do realize you accidentally (I hope!) posted a pic of nikki minja up there,right?....

I'll be interested in seeing what you think of 42....betcha Harrison Ford gets an Oscar nod for it.....

Jason Culley said...

Good list! I was actually putting together my own Top 10 of sorts when I saw yours.


Spiegel83 said...

Not only do I share your love of some of these baseball films, but some of these flicks are my favorite of all time. Bad News Bears and Major League may be the two movies that I have watched the most in my life.

Ana Lu said...

I haven't seen many baseball films. Those are not the most imported films to Europe from the USA.
But at least I saw 2 films you listed. Little Big League and A League of Their Own. And since I'm a girl my small list would feature for sure A League of Their Own as #1 ;-)

William said...

GO back and watch a League of Their Own and really think about some of Tom Hanks' lines. I laugh out loud just thinking of some of them. You did kind of lose me at "Bull Durham is a bit overrated", but I'll give you a pass. It was shot in Winston-Salem, NC, where I grew up and I remember driving by and seeing the production trailers, etc. Pretty cool, but it is a great movie... Also, definitely see Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game.