The News Herald will publish a weekly countdown of ’Five Good Movies’ you should watch about one particular sport.
Few things are better than a good sports movie - well, except for actual sports.
However, with nearly all of our favorite sports canceled or on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that really isn’t an option for the foreseeable future.
We’ve certainly had plenty of classic sports viewing options over the past month, but it doesn’t bring quite the same adrenaline rush as watching games when you don’t know the outcome.
The next best thing to a great sports event might be a great sports movie, and few sports have as good of a catalog of movies about them as baseball.
So without further ado, here are the top five baseball movies you should be watching while you wait for live sports to return to your life.
1. Bull Durham (1988)
For my money, Bull Durham is the greatest baseball movie of all time and I’m not particularly interested in hearing arguments to the contrary.
The movie takes place in Durham, N.C., with real-life minor league team the Durham Bulls the center of a story that revolves around veteran catcher/minor league legend Crash Davis, goofy rookie pitcher with a "million dollar arm and a 10-cent head" Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh, and local baseball savant/groupie Annie Savoy.
Davis is sent down from Triple-A to mentor the "bonus baby" Laloosh and teach him how to be a professional. A love triangle between the two and Annie ensues, and the chemistry between all three actors makes that part fun to watch.
But it’s the actual baseball stuff that makes Bull Durham the best baseball movie ever. No movie has captured minor league baseball culture/atmosphere better, and Kevin Costner is probably the most convincing professional baseball player of any actor in a baseball movie.
The movie is outrageously funny with a bevy of memorable quotes: "He hit the @*$#&^! bull, guy gets a free steak," "Strikeouts are boring, besides that they’re fascist," "Don’t think, it can only hurt the ballclub," "Candlesticks always make a nice gift," and of course Crash’s entire monologue in Annie’s house, much of which can’t be printed in these pages.
Almost 32 years after its release, the movie still holds up and is as funny as ever. This isn’t even a recommendation to watch. I’m demanding that you watch Bull Durham.
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on VUDU and Roku Channel, rent for $3.99 on Apple TV, buy for $12.99 on Prime Video.
2. A League of Their Own (1992)
Another movie that has aged beautifully since its release 28 years ago, A League of Their Own tells a story based on the real-life All American Girls Professional Baseball League which was started during World War II and had an 11-year run before eventually folding.
The heart of the film is about two sisters, Dottie Hinson and younger sister Kit, who leave their simple farm life in Oregon for Chicago to try out for the new women’s league, and former player/current alcoholic Jimmy Dugan who is brought in to manage the Rockford Peaches.
It’s a top five Tom Hanks performance, and every scene with Dugan and Dottie together is outstanding. There’s also no shortage of great quotes: "By the way I loved you in the Wizard of Oz," "Who’s Lou?!?" "The hard is what makes it great," and the infamous, "There’s no crying in baseball!"
There are some nitpicks to be found with some of the baseball stuff, like how the Peaches appeared to have only one pitcher on staff by the World Series after one was traded and another left the team, or how Dottie had plenty of time to avoid getting trucked by her sister at the end by just stepping to the side and making the tag, or how they were able to make it so far with an impossibly bad right fielder.
But it’s an extremely funny and heartwarming movie and still holds up on rewatch.
WHERE TO WATCH: Rent for $2.99 on VUDU, Prime Video, and Sling, or for $3.99 on Apple TV.
3. Major League (1989)
Another incredibly funny and quotable film about the Cleveland Indians, one of baseball’s most moribund franchises, and the rogues gallery of ’has-beens and never was’ put together by sinister ex-showgirl widow owner Rachel Phelps in an attempt to sabotage the season and move to the team to Miami.
The baseball parts of the movie are incredibly funny and entertaining, with hilarious training camp and spring training montages, and a shockingly exhilarating Big Game sequence that actually feels like you’re watching a real postseason baseball game.
The romantic storyline featuring broken down old catcher Jake Taylor and his ex-girlfriend Lynn Weslin is....less great. As a kid, this part of the movie felt boring and distracting. As an adult, it seems pretty problematic and super cringey.
First off, Jake is definitely a stalker and almost certainly is the subject of multiple restraining orders. Three years after their breakup - caused by him cheating on her - he returns to Cleveland and accosts her in a restaurant while she’s out with her current boyfriend.
Unable to get her number - it’s unlisted, which is another red flag here - Jake then confronts her at the library where she works and again tries to convince her to take him back. She again says no and tells him she’s engaged.
Still unwilling to take no for an answer, Jake follows her home from the library and shows up unannounced and uninvited to what turns out to be her fiance’s apartment in the midst of a dinner party.
Jake’s creepiness eventually pays off and he wins Lynn back and the Indians (spoiler alert) win the big game against the hated Yankees.
Feel free to skip past the Jake-Lynn scenes since everything else in Major League is fantastic, including some all-time quotes: "This guy threw at his own kid at a father-son game," "Well you may run like Hayes but you hit like #&%$," "Vaughn, a juvenile delinquent in the offseason..." "We should’ve got a live chicken," "Are you trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?" and "Juuuuuust a bit outside."
WHERE TO WATCH: Rent for $2.99 on Prime Video and VUDU, or $3.99 on Apple TV.
4. Moneyball (2011)
Moneyball is most certainly not a comedy, but it is definitely one of the best movies the decade, baseball or otherwise.
The movie is based on Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book from 2003 about Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane’s analytical approach to building a winning baseball team.
Brad Pitt plays Beane in the movie and Jonah Hill stars as his right-hand man Peter Brand, a character based on former A’s executive Paul DePodesta.
There are some accuracy issues with the movie, like how manager Art Howe was portrayed as far more resistant to Beane’s ideas than he was in reality, or how the movie basically pretends like Oakland’s dominant pitching rotation of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder didn’t exist, as well as several other minor details which the filmmakers take liberties with.
It is an extremely well-made film, however, that was nominated for a bunch of Oscars. It’s a very smart and thoughtful look at the epicenter of the analytics revolution in, though it also features incredible baseball sequence with Scott Hattieberg’s heroics in the climax of the 20-game winning streak.
Best quote: "How can you not be romantic about baseball?"
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on STARZ with a subscription, rent for $2.99 on Prime Video, Sling, or VUDU, or $3.99 on Apple TV.
5. The Natural (1984)
The story of the legend of Roy Hobbs is alternatively ridiculous and captivating, but 36 years after its release this movie still somehow holds up.
Hobbs, played by a way too old for the part Robert Redford, starts out as a 19-year-old baseball prodigy (Redford was 47 at the time) who boards a plane to Chicago for a tryout with the Cubs.
After striking out the Babe Ruth-inspired "Whammer" on three pitches at a stopover, Hobbs is then shot in the stomach by a mysterious woman for no apparent reason and when we see Hobbs again it’s 15 years later and he’s a rookie for the New York Knights.
Manager Pop Fisher inexplicably refuses to play Hobbs for weeks until eventually giving him an opportunity which Hobbs takes advantage of by literally hitting the cover off of the baseball.
There’s a magic bat named "Wonderboy," a sequence where the Knights’ star player dies from running into a wall followed by Hobbs then dating his girlfriend, a mysterious Lady in White, and an operatic Big Game sequence that is beautiful and cheesy. It works, though, and will make even the most cynical sports fan get the feels.
It’s also way, way different from how the book the movie it was based on ends, with (spoiler alert) Hobbs striking out in the big game after accepting a bribe to throw the game and having his secrets discovered by the sportswriter Max Mercy. The movie went in a slightly different direction.
Best quote: "Some mistakes I guess we never stop paying for."
WHERE TO WATCH: Free on Netflix, rent for $2.99 on Prime Video, VUDU, and Sling, or $3.99 on Apple TV.