Renaissance Column

APRIL 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 4



LAST | Selling the Drama

ARCHIVES | Entertainment


From the Diamond to the Silver Screen


Baseball season starts up again this week, and what better time to get into the mood by watching some classic movies from the diamond. Of all sports, baseball seems to translate best to the screen. There is no shortage of quality baseball movies, and these movies cover almost all genres. Whether you are in the mood for a comedy or something more serious, here are my favorites.

The Bad News Bears (1976) - Combining great humor with a little drama this great baseball movie shows little rust after twenty-three years. A misfit little league team goes from worst to almost first with the help of a cranky coach, Walter Matthau and a girl with a great arm, Tatum O'Neal. Matthau and O'Neal both give great performances, but this movie would not be so good if not for the supporting performances of the child actors who play the rest of the Bears. Ignore the two sequels, which were abysmal, but pick this one up.

The Pride of the Yankees (1942) - This great movie about the life and career of Lou Gehrig should be high on any baseball fan's list, and is a must for all Yankee fans. The movie follows Gehrig's career from start to finish from his start with the Yankees in 1923 to his moving farewell speech. Gary Cooper plays the man who considered himself to be "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Even if you have seen it before, watch it again or find someone who has not seen it.

Major League (1989) - Those of you looking for a little more humor will not be disappointed by this comedy. The movie is a fictional depiction of the Cleveland Indians and the efforts of their new owner to rack up as many losses as he can so that he can relocate the team to Miami. A lot of slapstick and the performances of Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen and Bob Uecker will make you laugh. Again, ignore the two sequels and focus on the first, and best, of the three Major Leagues.

Field of Dreams (1989) - Despite its title, maybe the movie that is least about baseball. Based on the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella and nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, this movie is more about the bond between fathers and sons. Kevin Costner, is convinced that if he builds a baseball diamond on his Iowa farm "he will come." "He" turns out to be Costner's father who brings the rest of the 1919 "Black Sox" with him. James Earl Jones, as a reclusive author and Amy Madigan, as Costner's wife give some of the best performances of their careers. Throw in the performances of Burt Lancaster and Timothy Busfield (Thirtysomething) and you have one of my favorite movies. Also, one of my favorite DVD's (watch it to find out how they kept the grass of the field so green).

Eight Men Out (1988) - Sticking with the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal, this movie focuses on the events surrounding the scandal. This is a great movie for baseball historians or even traditional historians. For those unfamiliar with the scandal, it involved eight members of the Chicago White Sox who were banned from baseball after being paid to throw the World Series. Charlie Sheen stars as Shoeless Joe Jackson around whom the movie is based. Shoeless Joe may be the best baseball player dead or alive who is still not in the Hall of Fame, and after watching this movie you may question that decision. A great cast, a little history and a conspiracy theory all in one movie. How can you go wrong?

Bull Durham (1988) - Back to the funny stuff and another Kevin Costner baseball movie. Anyone who hates Kevin Costner, must not like baseball or baseball movies. This time Costner is an aging minor league catcher trying to teach a younger player, Tim Robbins, the ropes about baseball and romance. Susan Sarandon is the baseball groupie who sleeps with one player each season. Not necessarily a family film, due to the steamy love scenes between Costner and Sarandon, but a great movie for everyone else.

The Natural (1984) - Robert Redford stars in this mythical baseball epic as a can't miss player whose career is besieged by bad luck. The movie is a roller coaster of emotions for Redford's character; we see him go from hot prospect to overrated rookie due to injuries and problems with a woman, and ultimately redemption when he leads his team to the World Series. This is the best pure baseball movie on the list, even though it is entirely fictitious. The cast is filled with big name stars including Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey and Robert Duvall. The final scenes of the movie which are perfectly scored will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

A League of Their Own (1992) - Another great movie for history buffs. A League of Their Own highlights a period of sports history that few knew of before this movie. We follow the Rockford Peaches, an all girls baseball team which was a part of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League formed in the 1940's. The movie centers on the rivalry between two sisters, Geena Davis and Lori Petty, but is truly a baseball movie. Showing that a great supporting cast is the key to a great baseball movie, this movie is no exception. Tom Hanks is the reluctant coach, Jon Lovitz is the sarcastic scout, Madonna shows she can act and play a little baseball, and Rosie O'Donnell is at her best as a loud mouthed player. This movie is right up there with the rest of the great baseball movies.

SOAPBOX: Did we miss one? Let us know.

ROB GALLO of Wethersfield, CT, is a staff writer and the movie guru of Renaissance Online Magazine.

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