Now that the Football season has ended after one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever, in which the Pittsburg Steelers out-dueled the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, baseball takes center stage once again.
Baseball is always on center stage, though, 365/24/7, for all of us who have a passion for our great American Pastime. But, now that the winter months are starting to fade away, and pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Flordia’s Grapefruit League or Arizona’s Cactus League in a couple of weeks, all baseball fans can not wait to see the sights of players throwing, hitting, and catching baseballs in Spring Training, marking the beginning of another new baseball season.
Leading up to the start of Spring Training, this is the perfect time of the year to watch some of the many great Baseball Movies that have been produced over the years. We all have our favorite baseball movies that we watch over and over again, but it seems, to me anyway, watching these movies at this time of the year takes on an even more special meaning.
So, with that said, the following is a list of: “My Favorite All-Time Baseball Movies” …
1. “Pride of the Yankees” (1942) – My favorite baseball movie of all-time, which is the classic story about the life of the New York Yankees great, Hall of Fame, first baseman, the Yankees first “captain”, Lou Gehrig. The movie is about more than [just] Gehrig’s passion for baseball, as it also shows the great love Lou Gehrig had for his parents; and, is also a love story between Lou and his wife. Gary Cooper is great in this role as Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse”. In the movie, a “special bonus” is seeing Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel, and Mark Koeing, all Yankee greats, playing themselves in this classic flim. The movie also features Lou Gehrig’s famous “I’m The Luckiest Man On The Face Of The Earth” farewell speech, that always brings tears to my eyes. The movie was directed by Sam Wood, and also stars, Teresa Wright, as Lou’s wife, and Walter Brennan, who plays a baseball writer, and close friend of Gehrig in the movie. This is a movie that I always looked forward to watching when I was a kid, when it was shown on T.V., back in the day, when we only had seven channels on our black and white television sets. Of course, the movie was filmed in black and white, but now it can be viewed on DVD on wide screen televisions. Either way, “The Pride of the Yankees” is an all-time classic, which always made me proud to be a New York Yankees fan, from the days I was a young child, just starting to follow baseball and the Yankees, to this present day.
2. “Field of Dreams” (1989) – So many great things to love about this movie, especially, the inspiring speech by the James Earl Jones character, Terence Mann, towards the end of the movie, which sums up the game of baseball so perfectly. This movie inspired me to write my “Fields of Dreams” post, in January 2008, which is my favorite post of all the posts that I have written on my mlblog, “Baseball, The Yankees, and Life”. The movie, “Field of Dreams” is truly a magical viewing experience, directed by Phil Alden Robinson, from the W.P. Kinsella book. This classic baseball film feartures an all-star cast of: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta as “Shoeless Joe Jackson”, and Burt Lancaster as Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. This movie will inspire everyone who watches it to search for their own “Field of Dreams”; and, also, inspire us to keep our passion for our great game of baseball always close to our hearts.
3. “Bull Durham” (1988) – Fun movie that makes you feel like you are part of the fictional minor league team portrayed in the movie, the “Durham Bulls”. All the action, in this baseball comedy, surrounds Kevin Costner’s character, catcher, Crash Davis, trying to get hot-shot rookie pitcher, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, played by Tim Robbins, ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, while both are romanced by baseball groupie, Annie Savoy, played by Susan Sarandon. Many funny sceens in this classic baseball movie written and directed by Ron Shelton, that also includes in the excellent cast, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl, and Max Patkin, “The Clown Prince of Baseball”, playing himself in the movie.
4. “The Natural” (1984) – Very mystical story about a fictional baseball player, Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, who as a promising young pitcher becomes involves in a scandal that derails his career for 16 years. Then, he returns out of nowhere to fulfill his dream of playing baseball by signing with a 1930’s team that is in last place. Hitting with a bat that Hobbs himself made from a tree that was struck down to the ground by lighting, he leads his team to a final showdown that is different and more positive then the ending of the book, that will surely inspire and amaze the viewer every time the movie is seen. Also, it is fun to follow the love triangle of sorts between Hobbs, and the characters: Iris Gaines, Memo Paris, and Harriet Bird, played by: Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and Barbara Hershey, that provides many interesting twists and turns throughout the movie. “The Natural” was directed by Barry Levinson, and also includes in the all-star cast, Robert Duvall, as sports writer, Max Mercy, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworh, Robert Prosky, John Finnegan, Darren McGavin, as “gambler” Gus Sands, and Joe Don Baker playing “The Whammer”, a fictional “Babe Ruth” type player, who is part of one of the best sceens of the movie with Redford, Duvall, and Finnegan. The sceens and music in the movie will transform the viewer back to a romantic look at an earlier time of baseball and our country which is very special indeed.
5. “Eight Men Out” (1988) – A trip back in time to the early days of baseball; and, also, a very sad time in baseball, as this movie re-creates the story of the infamous 1919 “Black Sox Scandal” in which the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. An excellent cast directed by John Sayles, that includes: D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, David Strathairn as Eddie Cicotte, Michael Lerner as Arnold Rothstein, and John Anderson as Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. “Eight Men Out” is a very entertaining and informative movie with fun music from that era, detailing a very sad time in baseball history.
6. “A League Of Their Own” (1992) – Another fun movie that brings us back to an earlier time in baseball that takes place during World War II, re-creating the story of the “Women’s Baseball League” that was formed during that time. The movie focuses on two sisters, Dottie Hinson played by Geena Davis, and Kit Keller played by Lori Petty, who are both scouted by Ernie Capadino, the Jon Lovitz character, to play in the AAPGL (All American Pro Girls League). A very nice movie directed by Penny Marshall, about a League that provided many baseball fans with entertainment during the war years, but was disbanded a short time after World War II ended. The music of that era is also fun to listen to in the movie. And, the excellent cast also includes: Tom Hanks as manager Jimmy Dugan; Garry Marshall as Walter Harvey, Owner of the League; David Strathairn as Ira Lowenstein, Head of the League; Madonna; and Rosie O’Donnell.
7. “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948) – William Bendix plays “The Babe” in this movie, directed by Roy Del Ruth, about Babe Ruth’s life. This is really not a great movie; but, it is about Babe Ruth, and was always a movie I looked forward to watching on T.V. when I was a kid. There are some entertaining sceens in this black and white film, though, that includes an inspiring sceen towards the end of the movie of Babe Ruth hitting three homeruns in one of his final games, playing for the old Boston Braves, after leaving the New York Yankees.
8. “Bang The Drum Slowly” (1973) – Robert DeNiro in one of his first starring roles, plays a ballplayer dying of a terminal illness, but inspires his team throughout the season in this fictional tale. Good, but sad movie, directed by John D. Hancock, with Vincent Gardenia as the manager of the team. DeNiro gives a great performance in this movie.
9. “Bad News Bears” (1976) – The “original” and “best” of all the “Bad News Bears” movies directed by Michael Ritchie. A very funny movie starring Walter Matthau as the manager of the Little League team; and, also, starring, a very young Tatum O’Neal as the star pitcher and player on the team. Both give excellent performances, as do the other players on the team, in a movie that will make you want to be a kid again.
10. “The Sandlot” (1993) – Written and Directed by David M. Evans. A nice baseball story that will bring you back to your youth, again, to those great lazy days of summer, playing and talking about baseball with your family and friends, all day and all night long, throughout the whole summer. James Earl Jones and Karen Allen play special roles in this movie. And, there is a starring role by a surprise guest on the other side of the fence of the neighbors yard.
* Special Mention Goes Out To The Following Baseball Documentaries …
* “Baseball” (1994) – Ken Burns’ classic 18-hour PBS documentary on the history of our “American Pastime”, the great game of Baseball. Much praise can be given about the greatness of this series. So, the best way to describe this outstanding work of art is to say, very simply, Ken Burns’ “Baseball” is one of the greatest productions in television broadcasting history, along with Burns’ other great works, “The Civil War” and “Jazz”.
* “The Bronx Is Burning” (2007) – “Excellent” eight-hour ESPN mini-series about the 1977 New York Yankees Championship season; but, also, much more, as the series details non-baseball events that took place in the Bronx and New York City during that very interesting year of 1977 … Including: the “Son of Sam” serial killings; the “blackout” in NYC that summer; the “violence” in the streets of the Bronx and NYC that year; the mayor’s race in 1977; and, of course, the Yankees 1977 World Series victory, highlighted by Reggie Jackson hitting three homeruns in Game Six of that series. Great performances by all who had roles in this mini-series.
* “The Ghosts Of Flatbush” (2007) – “Great” two-hour HBO documentary about the (1947-1957) Brooklyn Dodgers. Many excellent details about the team and players during that great era in New York Baseball history, including: the famous 1951 playoff game against the New York Giants; the many World Series’ that the Brooklyn Dodgers played against the New York Yankees; and reasons and events that led to the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles. The old film clips and pictures in this documentary bring back many great memories for all baseball fans to enjoy from probably the greatest era in baseball history.
And, of course, we do not have to limit ourselves to watching only baseball movies during this period of time before spring training starts. There are two new baseball books that were released today, Tuesday, February 3, 2009, that I really look forward to reading …
* “Confessions of a She-Fan” by fellow mlblogger, Jane Heller
* “The Yankee Years” by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
So, those are my favorite “Baseball Movies” and “Baseball Documentaries”; and, new “Baseball Books” I look forward reading …
What are Your Favorites ???
Everybody, Have A Great Day !!!
Jimmy Curran, “Baseball, The Yankees, and Life”