In 1982, I remember hoisting little Mike Sopocy on my shoulders after we’d won the Little League Championship Tournament in Schaumburg, IL. In those days, baseball wasn’t just something I participated in during the summer when we were off school, it was a life – complete with its own culture, vernacular and a dedication that continues to fuel my competitive juices.
This week, professional baseball teams from 4 metropolitan cities gather in a variety of arenas to determine who will go head-to-head in the final test of baseball greatness – The World Series – an event that always unveils itself in the crisp days of October.
There’s something about baseball that drives everyone. Whether it’s using baseball-riddled colloquialisms to describe your success or failure level on a workplace task; to describe how fast time is going during an event; or even how far you are along in a whimsical teenage physical relationship, baseball permeates everything around us. It offers a true emotional roller coaster ride for all and that point’s never been showcased more than by the feature films that showcase the game.
Join the Screen Rant Team as we give you the real-life box score for some of the great “Baseball Hit” feature films from years gone by and remember to chime in below with YOUR favorites!
Major League (1989)
Ahh, for those that wonder, I was one of the tens of thousands of extras you’ll see in the audience scenes in Major League. This comedy/cliche’d yuckety-yuck movie features former Milwaukee Brewer Catcher-turned announcer extraordinaire Bob Uecker, and was actually filmed at the now-turned-to-dust Milwaukee County Stadium. I spent many a late school-the-next-morning event with friends there and the evenings when the film was being captured were no exception. Bob Uecker, Tom Berenger, and a cast of very now-famous people shine in this film that is full of over the top, cliche’d funnies that give you the lighter, dumber side of baseball – true – but at the same time it IS truely fun. That aren’t a lot of sports movies that can say that they get the comedy part right, but this one did and does every time I watch it.
The Sandlot (1993)
It’s clearly one of the more obscure movies on the list, but it’s still one of the most cherished. For those of you that ever actually “played” on a sandlot, you’ll have an experience with this film. It’s full of characters that you’ll surely remember (most of whom were and still are nobodies) from YOUR days of sandlot shenanigans, but also features remembrance and clarity on some of the biggest, scare-inducing “myths” that were out there when you were a child. I love this film because like so many of my favorites, it transports me to a time and to memories that were a lot more simple and straightforward.
A League of Their Own (1992)
There are many reasons to like Tom Hanks in the realm of moviedom, and few to hate him for. This is one. But when you get through the rough veneer of how gruff an ass he is here, there’s a COACH – someone that knows about tough love, how to help with experience and pain and hey, here he is. This film also conveys a lot of the struggle that women have been through – not just for “rights to do” something, but to be recognized as a gender. That point is hammered home by a cast that includes Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Gina Davis, who have all since rallied to drive feminine causes of all kinds. The only thing you’ll need intestinal fortitude for is to somehow get by Lori Petty’s baseball skill set which – like Madonna’s integrity – doesn’t exist. Y’know when people say “boy, you throw like a girl…” well.
The Natural (1984)
This movie, based on a Bernard Malamud novel, provides you with one of the great acting showcases by Robert Redford as a gifted baseball player that seemingly came out of nowhere to become a true champion. Directed by Barry Levinson, this movie wins me over because of the mystique that oozes from his total capturing of baseball in the 1930′s. The people around him, the crowd, the almost “smellable” atmosphere that he creates inside this movie is something to behold. It’s also punctuated by an outstanding soundtrack, composed by he who writes soundtracks in his sleep (though this one really IS a solid classic), Randy Newman.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
I often wish that there was something more to remember other than this movie teaching me to swear. Whilst walking to the pool one afternoon, I was talking to my mom and inadvertently used the S-word and suddenly the air was sucked completely out of the baseball field-sized area surrounding us. Thanks, Bad News Bears! This movie is sheer fun. Walter Matthau offers up one of the best cinema-based “bad coach” icons ever and for those of you that have ever participated in little league – this isn’t too far off the mark of that experience. The chemistry of the team of kids in this film is unlike any other and will help you hearken to days long gone by and new-found smiles and belly laughs.
Field of Dreams (1989)
This was the first movie I rented after (involuntarily) “moving out” of my parents house. Again, my days of competitive baseball were behind me by then, and while this movie offers up legend, mystique and “what ifs,” there’s a deeper notion this film holds that is different for each person who watches it. A farmer and baseball aficionado (Costner) is working in a large corn field in Iowa one day and hears a voice say “If you build it, he will come…” What ensues in this movie is a little bit of magic, a ton of heart, and a final scene that makes me well up to this day. Why? Well, because – jeez, guys – who wouldn’t want to have another last chance to play catch with his pop? It’s a piece of complex simplicity that allows all viewers to take away their own message. If you watch it, the thoughts will come.
In the Bullpen: (Honorable Mentions)
The storied past and “culture” of being a Red Sox fan is something all-together unique. While it’s easy to “hate the friggin’ Red Sox,” it takes a lot more to try and understand the position, perspective and shall we say CURSE that apparently held back a storied baseball team from winning it all. This HBO-based one-shot (hosted by Ben Affleck and visited by a HUGE variety of Boston-based celebrities) offers what I think is the best sample and viewpoint for everyone – regardless of whether or not you’re a Red Sox fan – of how the “Curse of the Bambino (Babe Ruth)” has contributed to many a dinner table legacy. If you have to grin and bear to watch ONE Red Sox-based story reel, this is it. The humor, pace, and wrangling tentacles of irony that push this tale are outstanding.
Baseball by Ken Burns (1994)
Are you someone that “hates baseball?” It may be time for a Ken Burns-style trip for you. Encapsulated in this 8-part, Emmy Award-nominated story are the building blocks and details that help you better understand the make up not only of the owners, the players and the teams, but the FANS and the people covering the game. Becoming a baseball fan isn’t something you’re born into, truly – it’s something you’re sworn into as you experience the game and come to love it – that is, if you take the time to give it a look. The visuals in this piece (like ALL Ken Burns projects) are really something to behold.
Now that you’ve got the bases cleared, a red hot in your hand, the storied crackerjack waft in the air and a sea of screaming fans, are you going to tell us what YOUR favorite baseball feature film is? Discuss below!