This post concludes a post I posted yesterday. Once again, I am not saying these are the best baseball movies, only that they are baseball movies I enjoy. And, again, there will be spoilers.
For the Love of the Game (1999): starring Kevin Costner (yes, again), and Kelly Preston. To be honest, I am not fond of Kevin Costner’s other work, but he excels in all three baseball movies. Here he portrays a pitcher at the end of the season and nearing the end of his career who manages to (SPOILER ALERT) accomplish one of the rarest of baseball feats, pitching a perfect game—twenty-seven batters, twenty-seven outs; no hits, no walks, and no errors. In between innings the movie portrays his personal life and career. This movie is probably too slow for someone who is not a baseball fan, but true fans will appreciate the way life and the game blend as one story.
A League of their Own (1992): starring Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, and quite a few more good actors and actresses. At the beginning of World War II, major league owners are afraid that baseball will suffer with the men going off to war. Therefore they organize a professional league of women to play baseball. All of this really happened, although the main characters in the movie were invented for the movie. This movie also seems to drag in places, alternating between the ball games, the business worries, and the personal lives of some of the players. It is worth watching to the final credits, though, because actual veterans of the actual league are shown playing a game in Cooperstown, New York.
Major League (1989): starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, and with Bob Uecker as the radio announcer. This movie is a comedy about baseball, showing a group of has-beens and never-weres gathered into a team which the owner hopes will lose badly. Instead, they come together and begin winning. The team this time is the Cleveland Indians, and like most 1980s movies it pays tribute to the home city in the opening scenes. After that, the action becomes pretty predictable, but the movie is still likeable for the interaction of the characters.
The Natural (1984): starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Robert Duvall, Wilform Brumley, and Richard Farnsworth. Many people list this as their favorite baseball movie. Robert Redford plays a baseball star who gets sidetracked from his original hopes of major league baseball, but returns at an age when most players are thinking about retiring. Once again, the owner of the club is playing to lose. Like too many other baseball movies, The Natural assumes that one good player can change a team of losers into winners. It is based on a novel by Bernard Malamud; but while the novel is gloomy and ends badly for the characters, this movie is a product of the 1980s, which means that it contains cheerfulness and a happy ending.
The Pride of the Yankees (1942): starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, and several real baseball players including Babe Ruth. This movie tells the true story of Lou Gehrig—his entrance into professional baseball, his rise to fame, and his deteriorating condition due to a disease that now bears his name. This movie, more than most, is honest about baseball. It even shows the star player beginning in the minor leagues, unlike at least four movies on my list that send the star straight to the major leagues. Once again, by trying to tell his whole story, this movie might be too slow for watchers who are not fans of the game of baseball.
Rookie of the Year (1993): starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, and Daniel Stern, with John Candy as the radio announcer. A twelve-year-old boy breaks his arm, and when the cast is removed he can throw a fastball more than one hundred miles an hour with pinpoint accuracy. He is immediately signed up to pitch for the Chicago Cubs. This movie has several problems, including a failure to understand that winning the division, winning the pennant, and winning the championship are not the same thing. Worse, it assumes that a single player—a relief pitcher, at that—can change losers into winners. On top of that, it shows spring, summer, and autumn in Chicago without any change in seasons. Moreover, director Daniel Stern portrays an annoying and unneeded character. All that said, I love to watch this movie every year. In several scenes, it portrays the splendor of Wrigley Field and the beauty of entering a baseball stadium. This movie also captures some of the childlike joy of the game of baseball, even hinting that the adults playing baseball wish they could be children again. Finally, like John Candy’s character, I revel in hearing “Chicago Cubs” and “World Series” said in the same breath.
The Scout (1994): starring Albert Brooks, Brendan Fraser, and Dianne Wiest. This attempted comedy portrays a baseball scout, punished for past failures by being sent to Mexico, who discovers a star pitcher ready to play for the New York Yankees. Only after he gets the player to New York does he discover that this player has emotional problems which require professional counseling. The counseling sessions actually are some of the better scenes in the movie, but the story as a whole is even less believable than Rookie of the Year. My favorite part of the movie is when the scout entertains the player by showing him Damn Yankees, and the player loves the movie so much that he sings its best song in the shower.