It’s difficult to make a good baseball movie because of the physical requirements involved from the actors. Quite simply, some of them can’t go through the swinging and throwing motions that make them look realistic.
There are also unbelievable story lines, historical inaccuracies and the concept of editorial license gone out of control. Even so, in honor of the Academy Awards tonight, I’d like to share with you my top five favorite baseball movies:
FIELD OF DREAMS: It’s the story here matters, plus the bond between fathers and sons, which is the essence behind the film. The acting is superb and the writing terrific. James Earl Jones’ monologue on baseball being woven into the fabric of American history and life is priceless. Yes, they have Ray Liotta – Shoeless Joe – batting right-handed, which really is unforgivable, like wearing cross trainers in a gladiator movie. Even so, the interaction between Kevin Costner and Jones is terrific, and Burt Lancaster, for a small role, is a driving force in the film. And, the end, when Costner meets his dad, is a powerful scene. “Dad, wanna have a catch?’’
EIGHT MEN OUT: They at least have Shoeless Joe batting left-handed in this one, but it is a realistic telling of a historical story that carries this one for me. The in-game scenes were well done and there doesn’t appear to be the stretching of editorial license, as was the case in *61. Another thing I like in this film is there is no super star actor that diverts your attention from the story. I liked this movie even before Charlie Sheen’s “Two And A Half Men.’’ I liked everything about this movie, and loved the ending when John Cusack was watching a Jackson in a semi-pro game twenty years later.
COBB: Yes, that was Roger Clemens in a bit role. By the way, for his tough guy reputation, had Clemens played in Ty Cobb’s era he would’ve been eaten alive. Cobb would have bunted down the first base line and run up his back. No telling what Cobb would have done if Clemens threw a piece of a broken bat at him. It’s a powerful biography that shows Tommy Lee Jones depicting Cobb in a less than flattering light.
PRIDE OF THE YANKEES: Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in a sentimental tearjerker. Of course liberties were taken, but the movie reveals the human and fragile side that was Gehrig. There were times when it was hard to tell whether Cooper was playing Gehrig or Will Kane, the stoic sheriff who stood up to the evil Frank Miller to save the town.
42: The most realistic version of the Jackie Robinson story ever on the screen. The scene when Branch Rickey – played by Harrison Ford – tries to bait Robinson in his office is as good as it gets. “I want a player with the guts not to fight back,’’ Rickey tells Robinson before offering him that historic contract. It’s hard to pull off a historic moment, but they got it right when Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Robinson. One other thing, Chris Merloni plays a good Leo Durocher, put I still see him as Detective Elliot Stabler.
MISSING THE CUT
Bull Durham: Fun movie, but too many clichés. Did love the scene on the mound when they were figuring out what to wedding present to get. Tim Robbins as Nuke LaLoosh just didn’t look like a pitcher.
For the Love of the Game: Another with Kevin Costner. They lost me when Costner’s catcher wore his Tigers cap outside the stadium. That just doesn’t happen.
Bang the Drum Slowly: Sorry, too sappy. Plus, Robert DeNiro is a gangster.
The Natural: I know what they were trying to get at, but hitters don’t carry homemade bats in a violin case and knock the cover off the ball.
I would love to know your favorites.