With all the hullaballoo around Moneyball, we at C+F took a moment to ponder our favorite baseball movies. As the longtime agency for the Seattle Mariners, we know a little something about baseball entertainment. (We gave birth to Larry Bernandez, after all.) So we implemented a detailed survey of popular baseball movies—with several criteria, all with a different numerical weight that was then put into Google-esque algorithm to determine our favorites. Okay, it was basically a straw poll. Regardless, here are our top five favorite baseball movies in order of staff (read: expert) preference:
- Major League: A hugely entertaining depiction of an under, then overachieving group of cobbled together Cleveland Indians misfits. The characters of this movie are memorable, from overpaid giant ego Roger Dorn, to tire salesman-turned-skipper Lou Brown, to washed-up and lovesick catcher Jake Taylor. Throw in great performers Wesley Snipes (Willie Mays Hayes), Charlie Sheen (Rick Vaughn) and buffed-up Cuban slugger Dennis Haysbert (Pedro Cerrano) and it’s a movie that you can watch over and over again while reciting all of the great one liners (i.e. “You put snot on the ball?” or “It’s too high.”). We almost dropped this movie down in the rankings on account of the inept sequels Major League II and Major League: Back to the Minors, but the original shines and gets top billing from C+F.
- Bull Durham: Kevin Costner is as believable as it gets with his portrayal of Crash Davis—a lifetime minor league catcher who has seen it all and is enduring long bus rides in the Southern League for one last longshot at the “show”. Written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, no baseball movie better tells the story of what bush league baseball is all about. Tim Robbins—despite his dubious athleticism—shines as a big ego prospect with an invincibility and sense of entitlement complex. The entire movie is great, but top scenes are Costner’s epic “What I believe in” speech, the interview cliché lesson and Crash Davis waxing longingly about his time in the bags. This would get argument in some circles as the best all-time baseball movie and it was a close call in the C+F survey.
- Field of Dreams: 22 years later, this movie can still make any grown man get downright misty. (There is crying in baseball after all. See below.) Playing on the romanticism of baseball, Kevin Costner is present again as an idealistic, unsuccessful Iowa farmer who builds a baseball field in the middle of a prized cornfield because some eerie, yet prophetic voice told him to do so. James Earl Jones is awesome as a J.D. Salinger-like scribe who gets pulled into Costner’s quest and delivers the greatest single speech in any baseball movie ever. Bar none. The movie culminates in Costner having an opportunity to play catch with his estranged ghost of a father, which is about the time we claim dust in the eye or oncoming cold sniffles to cover up the fact that even though we’ve seen this movie 49 times, the poignancy and nostalgia of this baseball story still makes us weepy. The other thing this movie makes you think is: what the hell happened to Ray Liotta?
- Sandlot: Baseball nostalgia pulls at us again in this movie about a group of kids growing up in Southern California one summer playing baseball on the neighborhood sandlot. (A casualty of suburbia.) A cast of great child characters makes this movie endearing and James Earl Jones shows up again to provide some real baseball movie cred to the picture. Looking past the ill-casting of Dennis Leary as the intimidating stepfather, this movie is a nice story of how baseball ties diverse people together and how special shoes can help you prevail in any athletic feat. Thanks Benny.
- A League of Their Own: What do you get when throw Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna and Tom Hanks into an historical baseball timepiece? Cinematic gold. The story captures the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Baseball League which became popular during WW2 when the country’s men were away at war. Regardless of gender, this movie has genuine baseball chops and the baseball sequences are spot on. Hanks delivers a perfect performance as a washed-up and perpetually inebriated ex-major leaguer who has been tapped to bring validity to the league as a team manager. The girls’ talent and grit turns him from grumpy skeptic to a heartened believer who cagily steers the Peaches into the championship game. If for nothing else this movie cracks our top five for the immortal statement “There’s no crying in baseball”. Or advertising for that matter.
Once the recency hype dies down, it will be interesting to see where history (or C+F) ends up ranking Moneyball in the pantheon of great baseball movies. Our guess is that it will have staying power and be discussed in the same conversation of the above. Let us know what you think—it’s a great debate.
Here’s to a hopefully riveting post-season because among other things, We Are Baseball Fans.