10 Greatest Movies about Major League Baseball
All of these movies are classics about America’s Favorite Pastime
Many movies about sports have been made in America, and most of them are not about football, basketball, hockey or soccer. They're made about baseball, because baseball is still the greatest sport in America. For its storied past, tradition, drama, suspense and excitement, baseball can’t be topped by any other sport.
By the way, this list only includes films about Major League Baseball (MLB), because it’s the highest level of baseball in the world – that’s why the winners of the World Series are called the world champions.
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10. It Happens Every Spring (1949)
This cute movie was made during the time when Jackie Robinson had just broken the so-called color barrier in MLB. Ray Milland plays Vernon K. Simpson, a college professor who works on a scientific experiment involving vials of chemicals. One day a baseball crashes through a window and breaks the vials, covering the baseball with this accidental concoction. Simpson soon discovers that anything this concoction comes in contact with, such as a baseball, repels wood. So Simpson takes a leave of absence and becomes a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Browns, becoming King Kelley, who helps the team win the World Series.
9. 61 (2001)
This flick is about one of MLB’s most hallowed achievements – the record for homeruns in a season. The film begins as the family of the late Roger Maris leaves to watch a ballgame in which Mark McGwire is about to break the homerun record in 1998. Then the story flashes back to the 1961 season, when two New York Yankee sluggers were vying to break the homerun record of 60 set by Babe Ruth in 1927. Both outfielders, Mickey Mantle is a long–time Yankee, while Roger Maris is seen as the outsider Yankee fans seem to hate. When Maris breaks the record, MLB commissioner Ford Frick threatens to make Maris’ record separate from the Babe’s, because the season is now 162 games rather than 154, but this never happens.
8. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one movie about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player allowed in MLB since Reconstruction in the South. Made in 1950, three years after Jackie began his MLB career, Jackie himself acts in it, and his acting ain’t bad! In 1947, Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, gives Jackie the chance to play but warns him that no matter how hateful people are to him, he can’t fight back. Jackie follows this rule until Rickey finally tells him he can retaliate however he wants, which Jackie finally does, on the way to a career that gets him into MLB’s Hall of Fame.
Another movie about Jackie Robinson, 42, is a good flick, but it can’t top the aforementioned story, which stars Jackie Robinson, in the flesh, up close and personal.
7. Cobb (1994)
Originally shown by HBO, Cobb is a biopic about the career of Ty Cobb, often considered one of the greatest MLB players of all time. Robert Wuhl plays a ghostwriter who is hired by Cobb, now 72 and in bad health, to write his “authorized” biography. Tommy Lee Jones plays Cobb, who, in his playing days, was an obnoxious, temperamental bigot. For example, during a game many years ago, Cobb beat up a man in a wheelchair because he had called Cobb part-black. And Stump soon discovers Cobb hasn’t changed much over the years - Cobb is even abusive toward him. At the finale, after Cobb’s death, Stump, who had also written a tell-all book showing Cobb’s terrible nature, changes his mind out of respect for the memory of Ty Cobb and allows the publication of the sanitized version he had penned about Cobb's career.
6. Fever Pitch (2005)
Fever Pitch is about a fan’s passionate devotion to his favorite baseball team. Starring Jimmy Fallon, Ben Wrightman is a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox - which, at this point, hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. Wrightman has season tickets to all Red Sox games and must see every one. This devotion to the Red Sox generates tension between Wrightman and his girlfriend Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore). Eventually though, Wrightman agrees to sell his season tickets, so he can gain favor with Meeks. But, arriving late for a game, Meeks runs on the field at Fenway Park to get Wrightman’s attention, and then after being caught by security, tells Wrightman that if he loves her enough to sell his season tickets, then she loves him enough to persuade him not to sell them. At the end of the movie, the Red Sox finally win another World Series in 2004.
5. Moneyball (2011)
Based on a book of same name by Michael Lewis, Moneyball is about the quest of the management of the Oakland Athletics to assemble a competitive team without spending tens of millions of dollars. Brad Pitt plays the A’s general manager Billy Beane who, disappointed after the A’s lost to the New York Yankees during the 2001 playoffs, uses something called sabermetrics to evaluate players before the start of the 2002 season. (Sabermetrics, among many other factors, emphasizes a player’s on-base-percentage OBP). Beane’s critics are legion; nevertheless, the A’s make it to the playoffs in 2002, though they get knocked off in the first round. But at one point in the season the A’s won a record 20 straight games!
4. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Perhaps the biggest tearjerker on the list, The Pride of the Yankees is about the life of baseball great Lou Gehrig, particularly his illustrious MLB career and tragic demise by what would eventually be called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gary Cooper plays Gehrig, a slugger for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and ‘30s who, among other records achieved, plays in 2,130 straight games, a record few people thought would ever be broken, though Cal Ripken Jr. eventually did so in 1995. Near the end of the movie, as in real life, Gehrig comes to Yankee Stadium and makes his farewell speech, which concludes with the line: “Today I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” This is perhaps MLB’s most memorable moment.
3. Field of Dreams (1989)
This movie is a fantasy-drama about a man who, while walking in his corn field, hears a voice whisper, “if you build it, he will come,” then he envisions a pretty baseball field, complete with light standards. Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, who plows under his corn field and builds a MLB quality playing field. But nobody special shows up to play on the field, upsetting his wife. Eventually, though, Shoeless Joe Jackson makes an appearance. Jackson is a member of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, some players of which were banned from MLB because of intentionally losing games in the World Series. Soon Shoeless Joe brings the whole “Black Sox” team. Unfortunately, some people can’t see these players, including Ray’s brother. At the conclusion, Kinsella learns that “he will come” really pertains to his father, who returns as a young man to play on this “field of dreams.”
2. Major League (1989)
MLB is ripe for comedy, and Major League is definitely a comedy fest. Starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger, the film is a fictionalization of the Cleveland Indians, a team that, at the time the movie was made, appeared to be the worst in MLB. Anyhow, after Rachel Phelps, a former Las Vegas showgirl, inherits the team when her husband dies, she wants to move it to Miami; but in order to do so she must sell less than 800,000 tickets, triggering an escape clause in the team’s lease with Cleveland. So Phelps collects some of the worst players possible. Of course, despite the eccentricities of these additional players, the team wins many games and forces a one-game divisional playoff with the New York Yankees, which the Indians win in the bottom of the ninth inning. This movie is filled with hilarious, memorable scenes.
1. The Natural (1984)
Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a fictitious baseball player, who, at the age of 19 seems a phenomenal pitcher, as he strikes out “The Whammer,” reputedly the best hitter in the majors during a tryout with the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately, Hobbs, while riding a train, is then seduced by a woman who shoots him in the stomach and flees. (It appears this woman likes to kill promising young athletes.) The story jumps forward to 1939 when Hobbs is 35 and now plays the outfield. Although middle-aged, Hobbs can hit the ball like the greatest slugger ever, so he joins the fictional New York Knights. At the climax, and in perhaps the most iconic scene in the history of baseball movies, Roy Hobbs hits the ball so hard it strikes the light standard above the stadium wall, causing sparks to spray upon the field as Hobbs trots around the bases.
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© 2013 Kelley
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