"America’s pastime" has been a favorite subject for feature films even before "moving pictures" became talkies, and the game repaid the favor by imitating the art of filmmaking on Aug. 12, 2021.
On that day actor Kevin Costner magically conjured the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox out from an Iowa cornfield, each player wearing the team uniform of a bygone era, to play on the "Field of Dreams" baseball diamond.
It mattered little that the Sox defeated the Yankees that day. Who won and who lost and the actual score was lost in the excitement of the game — the umpire announcing "play ball," the crack of the bat as it came in contact with the ball, the smell of the hot dogs and freshly popped corn.
These are but a few of the elements that come together to make up baseball. And the elements making up the game are why so many films have been made about it, covering all the genres — drama, comedy, historical, biographical, and even fantasy.
Here’s Newsmax’s list of the top 10, listed in alphabetical order:
"A League of Their Own" (1992) When the "boys of summer" went off to war in the 1940s, it was up to the ladies to keep the game alive. What resulted in this comedy-drama inspired by the exploits of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the brainchild of fictitious Chicago candy maker Walter Harvey, a character intended to mimic Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley.
"Penny Marshall’s direction is as sharp as the crack of a bat," wrote Duane Bryge for Hollywood Reporter. "By shrewdly presenting the baseball scenes in fast-cutting, action-packed montages, she will silence the macho bleacher bums who may nitpick about the players’ skills and by fully utilizing her top technical team, in particular composer Hans Zimmer’s big-band, swing-swing-swing type beats, she keeps the frames alive."
"Bull Durham" (1988) This is a romantic comedy centered around an actual minor league baseball team — the Durham (N.C.) Bulls, featuring an aging catcher (Kevin Costner), a rookie pitcher (Tim Robbins), and a team fan who loves both the game and the players.
"Our Flick of the Week is 'Bull Durham,' a bright, funny, surprisingly adult and literate ode to baseball and to people who love the game. And the best news is that you don’t have to like baseball to enjoy this film," wrote Gene Siskel for the Chicago Tribune.
"The acting in 'Bull Durham' cannot be faulted and should be remembered at Oscar time. Sarandon has one of the juiciest female roles in years and she makes you think no one could play it better."
"Eight Men Out" (1988) Writer-director John Sayles' smart examination of the Black Sox scandal tells the story of how and why the underpaid Chicago White Sox took bribes to deliberately throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Unlike other baseball films that can be enjoyed by nearly everyone, this one is directed specifically at fans of the sport.
"This historical piece is a treat for baseball aficionados," wrote Randy White for Common Sense Media. "But others may lack the stamina for the plodding examination of responsibility and betrayal."
"Everybody Wants Some!!" (2016) A comedic tale about an all-state high school pitcher’s first days in 1980 as a college freshman follows his new college baseball teammates as they wind their way through the perils of unsupervised adulthood during the weekend before the official start of classes.
Reviewer Roger Ebert gave it 3½ out of four stars, saying that director Richard "Linklater keeps it loose, funny, relishing in the free-form of the group dynamic." He added, "'Everybody Wants Some!!' is a corrective to the tired, false 'dumb jock' stereotype."
"Field of Dreams" (1989) W. P. Kinsella's 1982 novel "Shoeless Joe" inspired this film about an Iowa farmer who hears a voice in his cornfield whisper, "If you build it, he will come." After he builds a regulation baseball diamond, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and other early 20th century baseball greats arrive and play in what was earlier a cornfield.
"Yes, the movie is sentimental," wrote Joe Leydon, film critic of The Moving Picture Show. "No, you cannot resist its final moments. It takes a real movie to make real men cry with joy. All you real men out there — get out your handkerchiefs."
"Major League" (1989) When the former Las Vegas showgirl wife of the Indians owner inherits the team upon his death, she’ll do anything to get out of Cleveland including assembling the worst roster she can find so they’ll finish last, allowing her to break a lease and move the club to Miami. But despite a near-sighted pitcher, a "has-been and a couple of never-will-be’s," the players get wise to her plans and manage to contend for the division title.
"'Major League' lacks the subtlety of 'Bull Durham' or the drama of 'Eight Men Out,' but for sheer crowd-pleasing fun it belts one high into the left-field bleachers," wrote the Variety staff. "Writer-director David S. Ward creates an adult version of 'The Bad News Bears' in this R-rated baseball comedy about a squad of misfits who rally together to bring the pennant back to Cleveland."
"Moneyball" (2011) Based on the story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, this biographical dramatic sports drama offers a glimpse of how small-market baseball teams use statistics, spreadsheets and computer models to maximize their smaller salary budgets and compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. It tells the story of how Beane, faced with loss of several top stars to free agency following the 2001 season, adopts "sabermetrics" to assemble a collection of lower-valued players that bests the club’s previous season record and tie for the most victories in Major League Baseball, including a then-American League record 20-game winning streak.
Satya Nagendra Padala wrote for the International Business Times that it’s "easily one of the best movies of the year with a great plot and a powerful performance by Brad Pitt." Padalra added, "The film received 95% fresh approval rating from critics based on 189 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 8/10."
"Sugar" (2008) A fictional fable follows the struggle of Dominican Republic pitcher Miguel "Sugar" Santos to raise himself and his family from poverty and into the big leagues. After he’s recruited into the minor league system by an Iowa farm club, he begins to question his motives.
"'Sugar' is that sweetest of films: A sensitive and memorable story that surprises at every turn," wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today. "This fascinating character study of a 19-year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic who makes it into the minor leagues is authentic and poignant."
"The Natural" (1984) The real-life story of former Phillies, Cubs and Orioles first baseman Eddie Waitkus is the genesis of the story of Roy Hobbs as a player with nearly supernatural talent who seemingly comes out of nowhere as an aging rookie to take a last-place team out of the skids. Robert Redford, as Hobbs, first appears as a 19-year-old who is shot by a crazed stalker female fan, which happened to Waitkus, then re-emerges 16 years later as an unknown with a seemingly hapless team.
"As Hobbs, Robert Redford has never been better," wrote Richard Schickel for Time. "The good lines are in his face now, and they reflect experience knowingly squinted at. A lefty who moves like the ballplayer he once wanted to be, he has, like all the truly great movie stars, the ability to appear as if he has transcended acting and can now simply behave a part like this."
"The Pride if the Yankees" (1942) This biographical film depicts the story of legendary Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, nicknamed "The Iron Horse," portrayed by the legendary actor Gary Cooper. His career was cut short when he was afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is an incurable neuromuscular illness. His memorable July 4, 1939 "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech at Yankee Stadium capped his career on the diamond. "The Pride if the Yankees" was released within a year of his death in 1941 at age 37.
"For baseball and non-baseball fan alike, this sentimental, romantic saga of the NY kid who rose to the baseball heights and later met such a tragic end is well worth seeing," wrote Variety staff, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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