Great American Pastime Poll: Best Baseball Movie

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

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

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

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

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 LeaguePride of the Yankees was out as Roomie is a Red Sox fan.

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26 thoughts on “Great American Pastime Poll: Best Baseball Movie

  1. What about Angels in the Outfield, or the Rookie?

    Frankly, no movie captures the intricacies of baseball quite like Field of Dreams.

  2. Bull Durham. Every time I hear the part where Crash answers Annies question “Well what DO you believe in?” I get weak in the knees. And although it will be years before my son is allowed to see it (let’s face it – there is no way to cut/dub this one to be appropriate for kids) he can quote all the fabulous baseball quotes, some modified for little ears!

  3. I limited myself to voting for one of the movies you had listed.

    Another Costner baseball movie that I liked a lot was “For The Love Of The Game.”

    “The Rookie” was also a pretty decent film.

    • I liked For the Love of the Game, too! It was the perfect date movie. I’d get a little bored during the off-field relationship part, and Darlene would start to fade during the baseball parts. I’d forgotten about this one.

      Steve, I picked Field of Dreams, because it comes down to the kid wanting to play catch with his dad, and I spent many many evenings throwing the ball around with my dad. Also, FoD is the only movie that always makes me tear up. And Burt Lancaster’s speech! And James Earl Jones’ “people will come, Ray” soliloquy! OH! And I love Amy Madigan’s character.

      I also adore Pride of the Yankees and the Natural. And The Sandlot, too. Great POV from little kids.

      Awesome poll, even if you had to spend it with BoSox fans. ;)

      • * even if you had to spend the weekend with BoSox fans. Not the poll. (And I jest, because I don’t hate the Red Sox. I grew up with a huge Ted Williams fan for a dad)

  4. Ha! Thanks for showing mercy to the Red Sox fans. Boyfriend is way more into baseball than I am, but the culture cannot be escaped in most of Massachusetts and if someone disses them, you never hear the end of it. I’ll ask if any of these movies sound familiar. We did have fun watching the Cubs / Sox game with the traditional uniform, although the Cubs logo made it look like their team was called the “ubs”. And I thought of you when I heard this – Stephen King said that the aforementioned game was a sign of the apocalypse.

  5. I went with Bull Durham just because it’s my old hometown’s movie. I loved going to Durham Bulls games. There is a booth in one of the bars at NC State where they filmed a scene. I did love A League of Their Own though.

    • Having gone to grad school at UNC, we loved the Bulls games because they were a really inexpensive fun night out. And when they talk about the “Northgate Mall” — I always think, Hey, I went there!

  6. Sorry, despite the dated fashion, I still love Bull Durham, although some of the baseball inaccuracies make me crazy if I think about them too much (like minor league baseball season ends way before the major league season does).

    For a Red Sox fan (like myself), I highly recommend Fever Pitch (a controversial pick, but I loved it), Game Six (this is much more bearable these days) and, as a Pride of the Yankees tonic Fear Strikes Out

    • J — oh, I still love Bull Durham too! Roomie and I use quotes from that movie in place of “normal” conversation. I just hadn’t seen it in a while and was surprised how “80s” it seemed.

  7. INT. BLOGDRAMEDY’S LIVING ROOM – MORNING

    BLOGDRAMEDY (talking to her laptop screen)
    This ump calls a foul. I like them all and felt major league pressure to pick just one hit. You also left “For the Love of the Game” out of the lineup.

    (Blogdramedy leaves the room. We hear the sound of a fridge door banging shut and a rattle as something metal hits a hard surface.)

    BLOGDRAMEDY (talking to her laptop again)
    Sorry, I had a sudden urge for a beer and a brat. Good post, by the way.

    (Blogdramedy hits “Post Comment” to the sound of a gentle burp)

    • I’ve never seen “For The Love of the Game” — I think I was Costner’d out by then. Clearly because of the heavy advocacy it’s gotten here, I will have to.

  8. My best friend teaches “The Natural” in her American History class as part of the Journey of the Hero unit.

    “We have two lives—the life we learn with and the life we live after that.” Truth.

  9. I grew up with a baseball fanatic as a father, so I love baseball movies! I know I’m odd, but “Eight Men Out” is my favorite. The story is heartbreaking, the acting is great, and the baseball is almost play for play authentic. (my fanatic father has a fanatic stats friend and watched the movie with the score card in front of him to see if it was real).
    All that said, LOVE “the Sandlot”, also stolen by James Earl jones, and “Fever Pitch”. That could have made your red sox fan friend happy. :)

    • Hannah — I don’t think favorite-ing “Eight Men Out” is odd at all. Of course, it’s the only non-fiction (or fictionalized, or historical fiction — or whatever you call it) one of my list. I thought Strathairn did a fantastic job.

      Thanks for popping in!

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