Baseball is officially back today, as spring training games in Florida and Arizona commence. I’m skipping spring training this year, both because of logistical reasons and because I don’t want to deal with the circus that is A-Rod’s return to baseball. Plus I’m guessing that the Yankees aren’t going to be very good this year, so why waste my money to see them lose in Tampa when it is much cheaper to see them lose in the Bronx. Sigh. I think it’s going to be a very long season for me.
However, even if the Yankees terrible, I’m still super excited to have baseball back in my life. I like a lot of sports, but none can compare to my love of baseball. There’s just nothing like it – kicking back with a beer and a hot dog and watching a game is like nirvana for me. It’s really one of my most favorite things and the beginning of spring training also means that our long national nightmare of winter will soon be over (hypothetically, at least). The return of baseball is the harbinger of good things to come.
Not only do I love to watch baseball, but I also love to watch baseball movies. I enjoy sports movies in general, despite their adherence to certain clichés and their generally forced optimism. They are kind of guilty pleasure for me and are proof that even my cold, black heart can occasionally give in to formulaic manipulation inherent in most sports movies. Will the team win the big game? Probably. Will sports bring different people together? Likely. Does everyone learn something about life from participating in sports? Absolutely. Sports movies are generally predictable, but I’m still a sucker for them. Make that a sports movie about baseball and the likelihood that I’m going to enjoy the movie moves from probable to home run. Even a bad sports movie is elevated for me just by throwing some baseball in there. Proof in point – I even liked Trouble With The Curve and that most certainly isn’t the best that the genre has to offer.
So in honor of Spring Training games kicking off today and a return of baseball in general, here are some of my favorite baseball movies of all time. Play ball!
Major League (1989)
Charlie Sheen doesn’t necessarily have a lot of redeeming characteristics, but I count his love of baseball as one of them. Major League is a tremendously funny movie that still holds up today, partially because baseball is pretty timeless. Sheen’s Wild Thing is the star of the show, but this movie is populated with just a tremendous number of fantastic supporting characters as well. I mean, who doesn’t love Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) and his worshipping of Jobu? Major League is endlessly quotable, which is one of the hallmarks of a truly great sports movie. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this film and it still cracks me up every single time. Bob Uecker alone makes this movie great.
Bull Durham (1988)
I don’t think Kevin Costner has ever met a sports movie that he didn’t like (so far, he’s covered golf, football, track & field and baseball), with mixed results, but Bull Durham is my favorite of the bunch. That’s right – I like Bull Durham better than Field of Dreams. Deal with it. Costner is solid in the movie, but my favorite part of Bull Durham is easily Susan Surandon and Tim Robbins. They both create great and memorable characters that are honestly more interesting than Costner’s Crash. Bull Durham is so fun that I don’t even mind that it kind of blurs the lines between sports movies (a genre I love) and romantic comedy (a genre I loathe).
Practically no one has seen this movie, which is too bad because it really is excellent – not just for a sports movie, but for any movie. This film is not at all a comedy, but rather a look at a young prospect that comes to this country to try to make it in the major leagues and the struggles that he has. I like this film for a lot of reasons, but primarily because it avoids almost all the tropes that are typical of this genre and presents what appears to be a realistic and fair depiction of the experience of many foreign minor league players. This is a movie that absolutely deserves a larger audience.
Bad News Bears (1976)
Probably the first baseball-related movie that I ever saw and it definitely made an impression. Walter Matthau is great as the manager of a ragtag little league team and considering this is a kid’s movie, it’s sassier and raunchier than you would anticipate. For me, the big takeaways from this movie were that their star player was a girl, which was awesome, and that bad boys on motorcycles are cool. One of those notions has served me better in life than the other.
Moneyball is a movie more about the behind the scenes aspects of putting a team together rather than the actual baseball players that does a great job of adapting a wonderful book into an interesting and compelling movie. Having Brad Pitt in it certainly didn’t hurt either, but the surprise here was Jonah Hill’s great turn as the man crunching the number to assess the best team that can be assembled with a limited budget. Chris Pratt even got to show off his acting range as one of the players. A little more insider baseball than the other movies on the list, but was a fascinating glimpse at the rise of sabermetric in baseballs.
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Jon Hamm + baseball = I cannot be at all objective about this movie.
Honorable mention: Fever Pitch, a movie about a baseball fanatic that I totally appreciate in theory, but gives me PTSD about the 2004 MLB season. Even Jimmy Fallon can’t overcome that.
Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite movies about baseball? Are there any baseball movies you hate? Let us know in the comments.