The Starting Nine

In honor of Opening Day, we now present to you…

The Schleicher Spin’s Guide to the Best Baseball Films:

*In the Outfield:

Left Field –

Cobb (1994) – This biopic did not fare well upon release.  However, Tommy Lee Jones gives an Oscar-worthy performance in a film not about baseball but instead about one of the meanest SOB’s to ever live – who just also happened to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  It makes for a fascinating character study.

Center Field –

Are you Madonna? There's no Madonnas in baseball!

A League of Their Own (1992) – This excellent ensemble drama and family film teaches history while preaching about girl power.  Any young player of the game can find much to be inspired by here.

Right Field –

The Sandlot (1993) – This is another kid’s favorite that celebrates the joy of the game and endless summers running amuck in the neighborhood.

*Around the Bases:

Third Base –

Sugar  (2008) – A highly touted ballplayer from the Dominican Republic comes to the MidWest to play minor league ball and is sucked in by this mess we call trying to make it in America.  Understated and quietly compelling, this is our indie-baseball pick.

Second Base –

The Babe (1992) – This is another biopic that was unfairly dismissed when it was released.  It’s actually pretty good, and while no one can really fill the Babe’s mythical shoes, John Goodman does a helluva job here in the title role.

First Base –

There's tiger blood running through my veins even though I play for the Indians.

Major League (1989) – Wild Thing, I think you’re bi-winning here.  A classic underdog story.  Renee Russo in her prime.  Charlie Sheen – insane.  A whole lotta comedy.  A classic of the subgenre, this film treats you like a best friend who keeps you laughing no matter how old the jokes get.

Shortstop –

Eight Men Out (1988) – John Sayles’ ensemble drama about the 1919 Black Sox scandal is a meticulously crafted period piece, packed with equal parts diamond-action and off-field drama.  This is one humdinger of a film that ages like a fine wine.  This is the closest thing we have to an art-house baseball film.

*The Battery:

Catcher –

Field of Dreams (1989) – Ah, Kevin Costner in his prime was quite a guy, and this ultimate male rescue/wish-fulfillment fantasy is one of the decade’s iconic films.  If you build a good movie, they will love it.

Pitcher (The Opening Day Ace) –

How do you like them smashed lights, Kim?

The Natural (1984) – It’s a moody work of nostalgia.  It’s a period piece.  There’s that look on Kim Basinger’s beautifully icy visage as the sparks from the exploding lights come raining down in front of her luxury box seats.  There’s that closing shot of Robert Redford tossing the ball to his son in the high grass, the sunlight on their faces.  It’s a love story for guys and gals alike.  It knocks the ball so far out of the park, it lands only in our memories.

* The Bench:

  • The Bad News Bears (1976)
  • Bull Durham (1988)
  • Pastime (1990)
  • The Rookie (2002)

Lineup created by David H. Schleicher

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7 comments on “The Starting Nine

  1. Great rundown David. I’m especially pleased to see you highlight two of my favorite baseball movies, “The Sandlot” and “Sugar.” They both are excellent movies because they are about a lot more than baseball. The Sandlot explores the process of growing up and Sugar interrogates the promise versus the reality of the American Dream.

    And as the baseball season opens once again can I point out how many great baseball movies there are. Though I don’t love all of these movies your list hits a lot of them. (I would also add “61*”.) Of course there are bad ones like “Angels in the Outfield” (any version) or the unfortunate Mickey Mantle-Roger Marris film “Safe at Home” (a truly terrible movie), but there are really more great baseball movies than any other sport.

    What are the great football movies? “North Dallas Forty, “Rudy,” “Remember the Titans”? How about hockey? (“Slap Shot” is the only one I can think of.) And what about basketball? Why aren’t there more great basketball movies to join “Hoosiers” and “White Men Can’t Jump”? Despite baseball’s sagging popularity it still inspires great movies because the game is tailor made for movie drama. It’s easy to understand and the pace allows dramatic tension to build.

    And one more addition: when talking about great baseball movies, no list would be complete without considering the last act of “The Naked Gun.”

    Jason, oh man, the last act of The Naked Gun is classic – especially those bloopers! Funny you mention those other sports…I’m thinking a Best Sports Movies list should be in the works. –DHS

  2. Megan says:

    Excellent line up, Dave! Now I’m craving a baseball movie viewing party. Hey can we plan for one that will never come to fruition??? Here’s hoping for a winning season!

    Megan – maybe if we start trying to set it up now, we can be guarantied not to have a baseball movie viewing party by next year’s opening day! –DHS

  3. Dave, if I were to compile a list, it would look remarkably like yours. I almost forgot about “Cobb”. I remember that came at a time when Tommy Lee Jones had, like, 20 other movies out at the same time. He was really in-demand in the mid-90s. And I haven’t seen “Sugar” so I’ll need to check that out.

    How ’bout “Rookie of the Year”? HBO beat me into submission by playing that movie almost every day back in 94/95, and any movie in which a doctor exclaims, “Funky butt-lovin’!” after looking at an X-ray, can’t be all that bad.

    Chris, Rookie of the Year was pretty good – it was the best of that early/mid-90’s copycat trend of “Let’s make a movie about a kid who gets involved in the Major Leagues”. — DHS

  4. DeeDee says:

    Hi! D.H.Schleicher…

    I like baseball too…Well, I actually, like to “listen” to baseball when it’s on the “telly.” I don’t actually, keep-up with the stats and ballplayers.

    However, with that being said, I would like to toss my 2 cents…into the base-ball diamond ring and contribute…
    …My favorite two baseball films which have to be…“Fever Pitch”
    and the classic old 1942 film entitled “Pride Of The Yankees”

    DeeDee 😉

    DeeDee – I think many would agree with you on Pride of the Yankees. –DHS

  5. Sam Juliano says:

    I was waiting for someone here to mentioned THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, though it’s probably in bad taste to mention it to a Philly fan on the sport’s opening week! Ha! Just kidding. As a Yankee fan I’ve always loved the film, corn and all, though my absolute favorite baseball film is 1989’s FIELD OF DREAMS that you rightly mention here. But you’ve covered all bases here with BULL DURHAM, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, EIGHT MEN OUT and the underrated COBB. There’s always room for another though, and perhaps it’s on the drawing boards.

    Sam – we’re do for one. Football and boxing have been ruling the cinema roost for the past few years. –DHS

  6. […] David Schleicher has a great post up at his place on baseball movies as the 2011 season commences:                             https://theschleicherspin.com/2011/03/31/the-starting-nine/ […]

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