If you are a baseball homer like me, you know this is the day that you are all lathered up in regalia, memorabilia, and a bit of Saturnalia.
It’s Opening Day!
In all the sports enjoying fan participation on the planet, there has never been another sport that has captured Hollywood’s eye like baseball. There is so much to romanticize about a sport steeped in tradition and Americana.
To wit, let’s see how Hollywood did in getting us all ready for Opening Day. Based on box office domination, pop culture references, characterization, storytelling, and overall dynamic movie making, these are the 10 Best Baseball Movies … ever.
10. Major League (1989)
Every baseball player ever has this in their Mount Rushmore because it encapsulates the chicanery of the clubhouse better than any other. It opened doors for Charlie Sheen and Wesley “Willie Mayes Hayes” Snipes. It featured arguably one of the most iconic voices in sports, Bob Uecker. And the script is timeless. Watch it now and you will still laugh out loud. This lifted the Cleveland Indians and the sport in unfathomable ways. That’s what a great script, a good idea, and a few beers will do for a sports movie. Instant classic.
9. Eight Men Out (1988)
And speaking of Charlie Sheen, he stars in a terrific ensemble cast with John Cusack, D. B. Sweeney, David Strathairn, Christopher Lloyd and John Mahoney about the beleaguered Chicago
8. The Pride of the Yankees (1943)
This was Gary Cooper’s signature role as the revered Lou Gehrig. It became an instant most-own in the lives of every baseball lover. People still believe Gary Cooper looked like, acted like, and pretty much became the Iron Horse. And, not for nothing, but the unmistakable acting for the role of Babe Ruth played by…Babe Ruth. How great was that?! The movie struck 11 Oscar nominations, winning six including Best Actor for Cooper. This is not only one of the best about the sport, but one of the quintessential biopics in movie history.
7. Moneyball (2011)
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, transformed one of baseball’s most hallowed aspects — metrics. The way he looks at players and makes every act into numbers. It’s like The Matrix and baseball hooked up in the back of a Toyota Prius. His zeal to spend less and play better has been an inspiration for every team (save the Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, and Angels). Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill appeared to be the odd couple but became a match made in movie heaven. A must-see (and read) for any baseball lover.
6. The Natural (1984)
There are few ballparks in America that do not play the theme to this movie when a ball is tattooed over the right-field wall. Roy Hobbs was a man on a mission and Robert Redford personified this tale of “age is nothing but a number…on the back of a jersey” better than anyone ever could. A Barry Levinson film, this was steeped in Hollywood tradition too with Redford, Robert Duvall, Wilford Brimley, and the great Glenn Close. Truly, an irreplaceable movie to hallmark the great game.
5. The Sandlot (1993)
Talk about a movie that has outlived its development. Pop culture has taken this movie into another stratosphere. Do you realize when people see “You’re killing me, Smalls!” on a shirt or hear it in casual conversation, more than 80% of those folks have no clue it came from this movie? An innocent film about 5th graders playing baseball carries more truths about life and baseball than some documentaries — “L7 weenies” or not. It’s a quest for magic of Ruthian proportions.
4. A League of Their Own (1992)
Few movies personify subject matter like this does for baseball. Few baseball players and historians recall this story, but now that it’s out, who doesn’t know “there’s no crying in baseball”?!Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’ Donnell, and even Madonna were so good in this movie. This is a film about team, fortitude, and a passion for what is known as America’s game (for men). This “thin slice of heaven” is all we need on a baseball sandwich for Opening Day.
Oh, and yes, that is the legendary Vin Scully voicing the trailer. Perfect.
3. 42 (2013)
This was a movie that needed to be made, but it had to be done right–something deserving of Jackie Robinson. It is more than inspirational watching Chadwick “Black Panther” Boseman play the reluctant civil rights icon. It is respectful and admirable the way each actor approached their role. A reverence can been seen from everyone from Christopher Meloni, Nicole Beharie, and the great Harrison Ford as Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. Even if you don’t like the game, you owe it to yourself to see this.
2. Bull Durham (1988)
One of the best character movies in history, Bull Durham takes us on a trail of ‘Crash’ Davis in the minor leagues. He’s on the heels of history in more ways than one. Ron Shelton directs this ‘Mount Rushmore’ sport movie with a stellar cast of Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins (this is how those two met). The script is brilliant and approved by any baseball player in any league. Moreover, it’s authentic. One of the best, but not Costner’s best…
1. Field of Dreams (1989)
…That goes here.
No film about baseball has captured the love of the game (by the way, another fantastic baseball film starring this guy) and wrapped it into a tale of family, passion, and fantasy like Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, and Burt effing Lancaster–seriously?! This movie had to be amazing with that cast.
Who hasn’t uttered “If you build it, [he/she/they] will come” for something in their lives. From construction to marketing, that esoteric mantra has been given and inspiring everyone in its path. Ray Kinsella created a piece of heaven in Iowa and today, we all experience that paradise on Opening Day. “When you believe the impossible, the incredible comes true.” Amen to that. Absolutely, the best ever in this genre.