Baseball bettors should be very familiar with a publication called Baseball America, as it is filled with pertinent information that can help turn a profit.
However, it is a list of baseball movies by that publication that is the subject of this week’s Rx.com poll question.
With the help of NBC movie maven Gene Shalit, a panel of experts participating in their Century Celebration, staff members and friends of Baseball America, set out to pick their 10 favorite baseball movies.
Shalit stuck to two key criteria : it must be worth watching 10 years after its release, and its characters must be interesting enough to be enjoyed by people who know nothing about baseball.
We took their top-10 and cut it in half for the purpose of this poll. However, if your favorite movie does not appear on the list feel free to add it in the comment section.
No. 5: Pride of the Yankees (1942)
This classic is about baseball the way “Steel Magnolias” was about hairdressers. Much is made about Gary Cooper (as Gehrig) not really being left-handed, but in this movie it hardly matters. The movie is hopelessly sentimental, but it was made in a different age and is the best of the baseball melodramas. And at the end, when Cooper gives the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech, you’ll shed a tear in spite of yourself. Bonus points for appearances by actual Yankees, including Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey.
No. 4: Eight Men Out (1988)
A thoroughly modern look back at a simpler time, this movie does not romanticize baseball’s history and captures the time of the Black Sox scandal in an authentic way. John Sayles wrote and directed the movie, based on a book by Eliot Asinof, and does a great job of bringing the complexity of the story to the screen. A great cast helps as well. About the only thing the movie lacks is emotional intensity.
No. 3: Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
This is the baseball version of “Brian’s Song,” only better. It started a period of great modern baseball movies and is still regarded by many as the best of the bunch. The movie helped launch the careers of Michael Moriarty as the star pitcher and Robert DeNiro as the dying catcher. Some prefer the Mark Harris novel (he also wrote the screenplay) or criticize the details of the baseball in the movie, but that is quibbling. It’s a truly touching film.
No. 2: Field of Dream (1989)
Only the truly cynical aren’t taken by this movie, which captures better than any other the mystical hold that baseball can have over people. Kevin Costner and the rest of the cast are great in this adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe.” It seems that everyone latches on to something different as their favorite part or as the message of the film. Like baseball itself, it’s a simple movie that also proves beautifully complex.
No. 1: Bull Durham (1988)
This movie is far and away the most authentic portrayal of the game, both on and off the field. Baseball is treated with casual reverence: It’s a great game, and we love it, but it is a game. Costner is at his best, and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are perfect complements. The romance between Costner and Sarandon is also just right. It’s all thanks to writer and director Ron Shelton, who spent five years in the minor leagues and cared about doing things right. He avoids the usual sports movie clichés – he filmed Costner catching a foul pop just because he said movies never show the routine plays and creates characters that we like and a world that we don’t want to leave.
Now that you know Baseball America’s list, let’s take our own poll. Once again, add your own favorite baseball movie if you don’t see it on our poll.