“It’s all right. In Chicago we get used to this sort of thing.”
Back in February, I promised to watch 20 baseball movies by the end of Spring Training. “Baseball Sunday,” I called the endeavor, reviving a tradition my friends and I started back in college.
More specifically, I planned to watch 20 baseball movies, in chronological order, before ranking each of them, calculating how much time is actually spent playing the sport in each and, ultimately, sharing that one piece of baseball wisdom that just about every sports movie is so eager to offer.
This is part of that promise.
Before we get to the rankings – which will be released by the end of the Spring (hey, I could have meant the actual season, not just the time spent in Arizona) – I’ll walk you through the list five movies at a time, with some of my own thoughts and opinions mixed in. These movies are listed in chronological order, as well as the order in which I watched them. I’d take the “Time Spent Playing Baseball” with a grain of salt, though, it isn’t exactly a science. I’m pretty positive I left the clock running
at least once more than once.
Before reading about movies 11-15, you can check out movies 1-5 here, or movies 6-10 here. So far, we’ve discussed Bang the Drum Slowly, The Bad News Bears, The Natural, Eight Men Out, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own and the Major League trilogy. Today, we’ll get into some of the kid-dedicated films, each of which were a HUGE part of my childhood, as well as For the Love of the Game and Hardball. Let’s get to it.
Rookie of the Year – 1993
Boy, oh boy, does this one bring back memories. Along with the next two movies on the list, Rookie of the Year is one of those movies that defined my childhood. Not only is it about baseball in Chicago, it’s about an 11-year-old boy who makes his way onto the Cubs thanks to a freak accident. I
wanted still want to be Henry Rowengartner, because he lived the dream: playing for the Chicago Cubs. This one doesn’t have a star-studded cast, but Thomas Ian Nicholas was around for a while (Kevin from American Pie) and he even sings the Seventh Inning Stretch at Wrigley from time to time.
As far as my review, I don’t think I can be impartial. I am completely, unashamedly biased and I don’t care about admitting it (if you’ve been here for a while, you’ll remember my old Gravatar was of this movie). I love Rookie of the Year, and although it is certainly for kids and definitely has its flaws, it’s a fun movie, and one of the very few about the Chicago Cubs. If you want to get excited about Opening Day at Wrigley, this is a great one to watch. If you have kids, watch it with them. It holds up plenty.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39% Critics, 52% Users
Time Spent Playing Baseball: 44 minutes, 4 seconds
Baseball Lesson: Don’t take this game too seriously.
The Sandlot – 1993
If there was any movie on this list that I didn’t need to watch again, The Sandlot was it. Problem is, I absolutely love, love, love The Sandlot. Aside from The Goonies, it’s by far the movie I’ve seen the most in my life (if you haven’t seen it, you’re pretty much un-American). The film follows a group of kids from the 1950s who simply live for baseball. One day, new-kid Scotty Smalls foolishly swipes his step-father’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball to use in a game. Of course, the kids lose the ball and have to battle with “The Beast” to get it back.
Even though Rookie of the Year is about the Cubs and has far more actual baseball in it, the Sandlot easily tops it, for me. This movie is full of memorable quotes and moments, and is a legitimate classic in my book. If you haven’t seen this one in a while, take the time to re-watch it. No matter what age you are, you’ll be instantly thrust back into your childhood. I can’t even think of how to sell this movie, because there are way too many good things to share. Trust me, and check it out.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58% Critics, 89% Users
Time Spent Playing Baseball: 14 minutes 50 seconds
Baseball Lesson: This is baseball, you gotta stop thinking. Just have fun.
Another year, another coming of age, childhood baseball movie. Unlike the first two, though, Angels in the Outfield doesn’t hold up quite as well. Still, the cast is absolutely loaded and is, in many ways, ahead of its time (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mathew McConaughey, Adrian Brody, Dermot Mulroney, Tony Danza, Christoper Lloyd, and Danny Glover). In this one, a young boy tries to rekindle a relationship with his estranged father through baseball (and, more specifically, the California Angels). Sadly, his dad does not and says he’ll only return “when the Angels win the pennant). After praying for the team to turn it around, something magical happens on the field.
This movie was definitely better in my head and is far more child-oriented than the last two. I don’t suspect it will rank very highly, when all is said and done, but it was still an enjoyable, fun movie. (Also, it’s a remake from 1951).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 35% Critics, 49% Users
Time Spent Playing Baseball: 28 minutes, 3 seconds
Baseball Lesson: If you got the talent, believe in it.
For the Love of the Game – 1999
I think Kevin Costner would take a role in any baseball movie you threw at him. As the ranking old-timer in this one (once again), Costner plays a pitcher at the end of his career who ramps it up for one final game. This time, he’s joined by John C. Reilly and J.K. Simmons in yet another star-studded cast. In between every inning, flashbacks take you through Costner’s former life and early career, while something special develops on the field.
Although the concept for the movie is actually pretty unique, the peripheral love story and two hour plus run time slow it down way too much. I like Costner, I like baseball, and I like the idea, but For the Love of the Game is about 30-40 minutes too long.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46% Critics, 76% Users
Time Spent Playing Baseball: 35 minutes 15 seconds
Baseball Lesson: Leave it all on the field.
Hardball – 2001
Keanu!!! Keanu Reeves is my favorite bad-actor of all time (and I say bad in the most loving way possible). In this one, Reeves plays a gambling alcoholic who is forced to coach an inner-city (of Chicago) youth team as they navigate the tricky waters of baseball and life.
Although Hardball is fairly derivative of The Bad News Bears, it takes on a far more serious tone and does so honestly and smoothly. There are plenty of unique, memorable moments and you’ll never finish this movie without having “I love it when you call me big poppa” stuck in your head. This is more of a complete movie than just a baseball-flick, but it has plenty of game, and is certainly worth your time.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 39% Critics, 70% Users
Time Spent Playing Baseball: 22 min 30 seconds
Baseball Lesson: Drown everything out and just play.
All photos above have come from www.IMDB.com