For Lack of a Better Topic

Listen. It’s the dead of winter, the closest the Sox have gotten to big news lately is the signing of a 39 year old backup 1B, and Jim Rice still isn’t in the Hall of Fame (regardless of whether he should be). I’m huting for topics. And, as you know, when I’m hurting for topics, you get to read a list. So without further ado, I give you my Top 5 Baseball Movies of All-Time, which turns out to be a topic a lot of people yell at me about.
The List I Just Named up There
5. The Bad News Bears
Because for the most part, no matter who you are, you started liking baseball when you were an annoying little kid. Because at some point you maybe played little league, and – if you were anything like me – were really not very good at it. Because you’ve seen both sides of baseball: the part that seems like a fairy-tale, and the part that seems like a nightmare. Because it’s funny and heartwarming and biting and pure pure 70’s (For the record, I’m talking about the Matthau, not the Thornton). Baseball is fun, it’s dirty, and sometimes it’s painful to watch while other times it shows you things you never thought you’d see. This movie does an excellent job of showing it all, from the absurdity to the triumph.
4. Eight Men Out
I’m a history guy, so this is a natural fit. Aside from telling the story of one of baseball’s darker episodes, it’s an amazingly well-done look at baseball during one of it’s most formative periods – the time before the true superstars, when baseball players were still guys who eked out livings, when MLB was just starting to assert its increasingly centralized nature, and right at the hinge between the dead ball and live ball eras. It hit all the right notes, and provides a better look at what baseball – and baseball players – were like at the time than any other source I can think of.
3. Major League
Hands down the funniest baseball movie ever made, Major League forces you to look past the ridiculousness of its plot (a team with that lineup ain’t gonna win any division in the history of baseball aside from the 2005 NL West, and it features a scheme only Jeffrey Loria could love) and instead see a classic rags-to-riches story with some of the most entertaining characters ever to not play the game: Willie Mays Hayes, the intensely cocky speedster, Ricky Vaughn, the nearsighted closer, Jake Taylor, the grizzled catcher and team leader, and Lou Brown, the almost impossibly grizzled manager (and possibly the most perfectly cast character in the history of baseball film). It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s got one of the best trick plays ever, and it constantly dumps on the Yankees. What’s not to love?
2. Field of Dreams
I generally don’t take well to mystical treatments of baseball, which I prefer to see portrayed in a hyper-realism, with flawed characters striving to be better than they are, rather than those who are simply imbued with mystical skill (and yes, that’s pretty much the entire explanation of why The Natural isn’t on this list). Field of Dreams takes the latter and adds the former. It holds at its heart the father-son bond, which is so central to so many baseball lives, and there’s an intense sadness about it – a question of what might have been that pervades baseball history. Plus I really want to make a baseball field out of corn.
1. Bull Durham
How flawlessly perfect is this movie? Is there any film that better captures the reverence for baseball than Bull Durham? It’s primary character is a catcher that’s excelled at being the best bad ballplayer in the history of the game – more minor league homers than anyone in history. It tackles the yearning for the majors without seeming to ever try. It’s about the fundamental realities of baseball, and includes some of the most profound statements about the game there have ever been – “This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball.” “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” “I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle.” “Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.” It’s like a sermon from the locker room of every AA team in the country. No film has ever or will ever better capture what baseball can mean to people; the movie’s about respecting the game, loving the game, and needing the game. Absolutely perfect.
So, apologies to a bunch of other great films, but those are my 5. And no apologies to The Natural, although I’m sure about 90% of the comments will essentially be “you’re a moron for not putting the natural on the list.”
Have at it.