CMXtraneous: On the Personal Side

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Play... uh, I mean, WATCH BALL!

Posted Wednesday, March 09, 2005 8:30:19 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

As some of you may know, I live in the Washington DC area and this year, all of us in this area will be celebrating something we have waited 35 years for: Opening day of the Major League Baseball Season IN Washington DC. Yes, it's true folks! Washington DC finally has a baseball team.

And even though the Washington Nationals already won their first Spring Training game a week or so ago and opening day is still a few weeks away - and since the Academy Awards recently ended - I thought it might be fun to make a "best of" and "worst of" baseball movie list. Before I do that though, I have to admit, even though I am a huge baseball junkie and movie fan, even I haven't seen every baseball movie ever made. Because of that, you'll notice that most of the movies listed below are fairly recent or modern and there's really a very specific reason for that.

For me, a "good" baseball movie can't just make it on drama or acting alone. The baseball skills have to be at least somewhat believable. And, as any serious baseball AND movie buff will tell you... Hollywood used to have a terrible track record when it came to finding a nice medium between the two. You either had an athlete that couldn't act or you had great actors that obviously never played baseball beyond Little League. A prime example of one of the best acted but poorly played baseball movies of all time was the remake of "Bang the drum slowly" with Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty. It's a great movie to watch EXCEPT when the movie revolves around watching those actors try to act like ballplayers - then it's absolutely atrocious.

In any case, here are some of MY favorite baseball movies ranked in order from top to bottom:

1) Bull Durham
You will never be able to convince me Tim Robbins had EVER pitched a baseball in his life but thankfully, whatever baseball skills Tim Robbins lacked, the surrounding cast made up for. In fact, many of the Bull Durham infielders were ex-minor league ball players themselves. The most famous being Danny Gaines - who is one of the most popular Las Vegas performers today (for all the people getting ready to go to TODCon this year).

2) Field of Dreams
Still a movie I think EVERY father and son should see together. That's how powerful this movie is.

3) A league of their own
It should be noted how terrific some of the baseball skills in this movie are - I think this movie could be directly responsible for the women's pro baseball team - The Silver Bullets - coming into existence. It completely honored the Women's Professional Baseball League. And proved once again that there's "no crying in baseball".

4) The Natural
I keep trying to remember to buy the book because, from what I understand, the ending is much sadder (and truer) then the movie. And for all of us who have played baseball will tell you - one of the things that makes this game so addicting is the tragedy, disappointment and frustration that's involved. It's like a really great Shakespeare tragedy - the drama just keeps pulling you back in again and again...

5) Bad News Bears
The ode to Little League.

6) Eight Men Out
Fantastic history lesson. For all of you that don't understand the significance or controversy surrounding Pete Rose's Hall of Fame situation, rent this movie and it will give you a better perspective on what's involved. Again, tragedy and baseball walking down the wedding aisle.

7) For the love of the game
Finally, a movie that gives insight about what goes on during the "slowness" of the game and what a player can sometimes be thinking about even at the most important and most critical points in a game.

8) Major League
Again, the significance of this is that you believed all of these actors COULD play the game. Corben Benson played college ball - just as Kevin Costner did. That makes a difference in a baseball movie. It really does.

9) The Rookie
The "Rocky" of baseball movies.

10) The Sandlot
When my dad was stationed in Germany during the early 1970's, all the military brats had their OWN Sandlot. And we played baseball from the morning to dinner time so this movie holds a special "sentimental" value for me.

11) Mr. Baseball
Even at an early age, I knew some American players went to Japan to play baseball but I never knew about the cultural differences. This movie at least gave you that perspective.

Best HBO Baseball movies
1) Soul of the Game
This is one of the best movies about the Negro Leagues - barring any documentaries, of course. It shines a whole new light on Josh Gibbons, Satchel Paige and even Jackie Robinson.

2) 61*
With all the controversy surrounding steroids in baseball, this is a nice homage to Roger Maris - especially considering the director, Billy Crystal, has always admitted to being a huge Mickey Mantle fan.

3) Cobb
A fascinating look at one of the "bad guys" of baseball. I wonder if someday we might see a movie titled "Rose"?

4) Long Gone
Not many people have seen this movie but is starred William Patterson (CSI fame now). Again, baseball, tears and laughter all mixed together.

5) Talent for the game
The forgotten "grunt" of major league baseball is the talent scout. This movie gives you an idea of the tireless (and thankless) work they go through as well as the politics of baseball as well.

Next:
My all time WORST baseball movies...

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