This weekend we hosted our friend “Roomie” and enjoyed a great few days of (mostly) nice weather, a couple of good outings, several good cocktails and some serious eating. It is a testament to how much we ate that I did not want a donut this morning. And I always want a donut in the morning.
As Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer and baseball is America’s summertime game, one of the activities that Roomie and I thought of was a marathon of baseball movies. We watched four, oddly enough all from the 1980s:
Eight Men Out: This 1988 John Sayles movie depicts the infamous throwing of the 1919 World Series by members of the Chicago White Sox, perhaps the lowest moment in American sports. Rewatching it, I felt my stomach turning at the idea of the games being “fixed” – an idea so anathema to what we believe must be a level playing field. The big cast – anchored by David Strathairn as conflicted pitcher Eddie Cicotte – is a little diffuse, so sometimes the emotional connection is weak. Of course, it’s hard not to get worked up when a little kid says, “Say it ain’t so, Joe…” Also, it’s strange to see a young Charlie Sheen be an actor and not a freak.
Bull Durham: Since we like baseball so much, Roomie and I agree that this might be the most quotable movie that we know. Also released in 1988, Bull Durham covers the efforts (on the field and for a lady’s affection) of rookie Nuke LaLoosh and veteran catcher Crash Davis in the minor leagues. Susan Sarandon plays the baseball obsessed groupie. I will say right out that I love this film, but it is looking a little dated with Kevin Costner’s pleated khakis and popped polo shirt collars.
Field of Dreams: Costner was back a year later in this baseball fantasy about a farmer that builds a baseball park in his cornfield because of a voice in his head that whispers the classic line “If you build it, he will come.” Unabashedly sentimental, the film delights in recalling both the players and feelings of an earlier age when things were simpler as the characters learn about “what’s important in life”. Here, Costner plays the straight man with the spotlight really stolen by James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster.
The Natural: Robert Redford’s 1984 fable about the sidetracked life and redemption of a young baseball phenom (Redford as Roy Hobbs) is the film that I think has aged the best. The cinematography is gorgeous and more than any of the others captures the timelessness of the game and the pre-WWII era. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and poor decisions have consequences. The entire cast (Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Darrin McGavin) make this film a joy to watch.
So, here’s the poll – which of the above is the best baseball movie? Of the four, I think The Natural is the best and may be better now – or more readily appreciated – than it was in its day.
Also another thought: what other movies might you have added if you had an extra day or two? We thought of A League of Their Own and Major League. Pride of the Yankees was out as Roomie is a Red Sox fan.