Top Five baseball movies, 2013 version


Marking the start of the season and the release of the new movie about Jackie Robinson, the WSJ offered a slideshow of stills from baseball movies this morning, which was fun to flip through.

It didn’t really make judgments or rank them. It just grouped them into categories: One Last Shot (“The Rookie,” “Mr. 3000”); The Church of Baseball (“The Natural,” “Field of Dreams”); Game Changers (“Moneyball,” “A League of Their Own”), etc.

But what’s a list without a Top Five? So I quickly drew one up. And only after drawing it up, while feeling a bit of déjà vu, did I realized I’d done this before. (When I realized that, I almost trashed this post, but then thought maybe some of y’all would enjoy it anyway.) The new list differs slightly from what I said before, indicating that list-making is affected by mood. Or something. Here’s what I came up with this morning:

  1. The Natural — I don’t care how sappy it is. Baseball is sappy. I don’t care that it’s nothing like the cynical novel on which it’s based — which I hated. I like that it’s a celebration. I like the gauzy sentimentality. Not in all movies, but in this one, because it fits the subject matter. Roy Hobbs is what we want our baseball heroes to be, and we have a right to want that.
  2. Major League — Silly, yes, but it captures the fun of the game. I watched it again recently, and wondered what had happened to Wesley Snipes. Turns out he’s in prison. I had no idea.
  3. Eight Men Out — A baseball tragedy. Or morality play. It’s like the entrance of the Serpent into the Garden of Eden that was baseball. Still, there’s so much innocence among the guilty, and so many gradations of corruption, that you find yourself sympathizing (for some of them), even if they can’t honestly say it ain’t so. Nice ensemble of actors, too.
  4. The Sandlot — Very much like my childhood, since I never played organized ball until senior Little League when I was 15. I spent a lot of time on sandlots. Yes, this is about mythmaking (although on a less heroic level than “The Natural”), but its cliches and stereotypes are so lovingly drawn, and they ring true.
  5. Field of Dreams — You know what? I changed my mind about this. See below.

Initially, I was going to say sorry, ladies… I couldn’t include “A League of their Own” because there was crying in it, and there’s no crying in baseball. That was my first thought this morning. Last time, I included it at number five, on account of the deep flaws in “Field of Dreams.” Such as Ray Liotta being nothing like Shoeless Joe Jackson. (D.B. Sweeney in “Eight Men Out” was a thousand times better.) And the famous writer not being J.D. Salinger, which is who he was in the novel.

And because its gauzy sentimentality seemed more forced and artificial, unlike in “The Natural” and “The Sandlot.” Like the difference between sugar and saccharine.

So, never mind. I think I was right in 2011… In fact, the only reason I’m posting this is to celebrate the season, and give any of y’all who missed the previous post a chance to voice your opinions.

Wild Thing

7 thoughts on “Top Five baseball movies, 2013 version

  1. Doug Ross

    Kevin Costner’s “For The Love of The Game” is better than you’d think. “Bull Durham” is iconic. “Bang The Drum Slowly” was well acted.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    My wife would not allow me to leave off “For Love of the Game” from a baseball movie list. She ranks it in her top 5 movies overall, and since it’s a baseball movie, she said it has to be there. I think it’s good, but certainly not a top five overall movie.

    However, it does feature Vin Scully doing the broadcast part, which I love. If you don’t love listening to Vin Scully call a ballgame, you’re not a baseball fan. He’s the best play-by-play guy ever. Here’s the trailer featuring Scully:

  3. Mark Stewart

    I was invited to view an early edit of Bull Durham in the spring of 1988. I thought it sucked. When it came out, I told people it really wasn’t that good and refused to see it myself – for years. I finally watched it in the late 90’s. I whiffed that one.

    Baseball makes good movies in a way football never will.

  4. Tom Stickler

    Your timing is a bit off on Snipes. Turns out he was sprung Tuesday, and will be under home confinement until 19 July.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Money Ball. Works as a film, even for those stymied by the appeal of baseball.

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