After no upsets in the first round (let’s be honest; are there really 32 good baseball movies?), we’re on to the quarterfinals.
#1 Major League vs. #4 Trouble With the Curve
#1 Major League (from Alex Remington):
A classic R-rated ’80s comedy, Major League is basically baseball’s Slap Shot: a team of misanthropic misfits from Cleveland somehow starts winning, despite how much everyone hates them. Written by the guy who won the Oscar for The Sting, it’s a great ensemble piece, with a truly stellar cast including Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen, and Rene Russo, and it features an all-time great performance by Bob Uecker as the Cleveland announcer.
It’s not perfectly P.C., right down to the real-life name of the team the movie is about, but it’s one of the best underdog sports movies. (It’s definitely the best underdog baseball movie about a team of adults.)
#4 Trouble With the Curve (by snowshine):
An aging scout with failing vision is joined by his daughter on a scouting trip to North Carolina while evil executives connive behind his back. The Braves end up drafting a turkey, but then get a great pitching prospect out of nowhere.
The best film ever because: Braves! It’s all Braves all the time, Eastwood is terrific as a crotchety codger scout while Amy Adams provides a surprisingly nice turn as his daughter. One scene was shot in Swannanoa, NC and I am an extra in the stands.
The worst film ever because: The plot is pointless, and more importantly, nobody involved in the making of the film understands baseball or how professional organizations operate or… well, you get the picture. The plot would make more sense if set in the 1930’s (without the draft, obviously). The entire thing is a screed on the superiority of scouts Vs stat nerds.
#2 A League of Their Own vs. #3 Bull Durham
#2 A League of Their Own (from IMDB):
During World War II when all the men are fighting the war, most of the jobs that were left vacant because of their absence were filled in by women. The owners of the baseball teams, not wanting baseball to be dormant indefinitely, decide to form teams with women. So scouts are sent all over the country to find women players. One of the scouts, passes through Oregon and finds a woman named Dottie Hinson, who is incredible. He approaches her and asks her to try out but she’s not interested. However, her sister, Kit who wants to get out of Oregon, offers to go. But he agrees only if she can get her sister to go. When they try out, they’re chosen and are on the same team. Jimmy Dugan, a former player, who’s now a drunk, is the team manager. But he doesn’t feel as if it’s a real job so he drinks and is not exactly doing his job. So Dottie steps up. After a few months when it appears the girls are not garnering any attention, the league is facing closure till Dottie does something that grabs attention. And it isn’t long Dottie is the star of the team and Kit feels like she’s living in her shadow.
#3 Bull Durham (by Rob Copenhaver):
I actually hadn’t seen this until the tournament idea came about. The baseball part is pretty good: aging minor leaguer catcher is brought in to help “million dollar arm, 10 cent head” pitcher; hilarious hijinks ensue. And that part’s done well. “Nuke” Laloosh is a perfect name, and he’s played well by Tim Robbins. Crash Davis is played by Kevin Costner, who is actually playing in his second baseball movie. I thought it was the first, and you may think I’m flip-flopping this movie and Field of Dreams chronologically, but he was in a 1983 baseball movie called “Chasing Dreams“.
The romance part is interesting. The casting choice of Susan Sarandon is an odd choice; her age clearly tells you she’s going to “end up” with Crash Davis. Her initial monologue leads you to believe she “dates” A-ball baseball players (mostly young guys), but you’d think she’d be younger. That’s my only real gripe with the romance part. While forced at times, it’s an interesting component of the minor league life: the women that love to date baseball players for a season.
#1 The Sandlot vs. #4 Damn Yankees
#1 The Sandlot (by cliff):
Scotty Smalls moves to a residential neighborhood in metro LA in 1962 at around 13 or so years of age. He meets a group of neighborhood boys who get together to play baseball on a vacant lot. Because they have 8 players, they want another, but Scotty can’t play. After being humiliated, he is tutored on the side by “Bennny the Jet” Rodriguez, the team’s leader and best player. Eventually he rejoins the team and they become friends.
A big theme is the contest with “the Beast”, a neighbor’s huge dog, over baseballs hit over the neighbors’ fence. To make up for losing a ball and to avoid having to face “the Beast,” Scotty uses a baseball his Step Dad had. Well, that was signed by Babe Ruth. And, it too goes over the fence to “the Beast.” So, Scotty has to go to the owner of “the Beast” who his friends have said is the meanest man ever. It turns out the owner was a former baseball player who lost his vision from a ball. Because of the damage to Scotty’s Step-Dad’s ball, the owner gives him a ball he has signed by all of the ’27 Yankees.
Great childhood movie. Great baseball movie. Particularly the ending.
#4 Damn Yankees (by IMDB):
A frustrated fan of the hopeless Washington Senators makes a pact with the Devil to help the baseball team win the league pennant.
#2 Field of Dreams vs. #3 Bad News Bears (Original)
#2 Field of Dreams (by cliff):
“Field of Dreams” is well known to one and all. So, I will skip the narrative and get to the things that make it special to me (and maybe to a few others). This movie uses baseball as a metaphoric glue that binds people together despite psychic wounds and disagreements. It challenges you to believe there is something bigger than you and that such belief is good. It uses beautiful cinematography to capture the glory of the Midwestern Farm Belt, which is an American metaphor for “home.” Check this cast: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffman (as a little girl), Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield, and Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones.
As a “baseball movie” it brings in the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the Mel Ott led New York Giants, the aspirations of a minor leaguer to get just one Major League at bat, and a great soliloquy by James Earl Jones (playing a character based on J. D. Salinger) on baseball as part of the American experience. A cautionary to anyone watching is to pay close attention. All of the concepts or characters that enter seem to come back into the web of a series of interesting plot twists. Plus, you get to listen to the Allman Brothers play “Jessica” as road trip music. How do you beat all of that?
#3 Bad News Bears (from IMDB):
First of a trilogy of films takes an unflinching look at the underbelly of little league baseball in Southern California. Former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker is a lazy, beer swilling swimming pool cleaner who takes money to coach the Bears, a bunch of disheveled misfits who have virtually no baseball talent. Realizing his dilemma, Coach Buttermaker brings aboard girl pitching ace Amanda Whurlizer, the daughter of a former girlfriend, and Kelly Leak, a motorcycle punk who happens to be the best player around. Brimming with confidence, the Bears look to sweep into the championship game and avenge an earlier loss to their nemesis, the Yankees.