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Blog – Episode 06 : Baseball Films

Johnny July 8, 2019

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On this episode Eddie and I discussed our favorite baseball films. We did this to pay homage to how America’s Favorite Pastime is portrayed in the movies. Some are funny, some inspiring and some have social significance.  There are a few that have been so embedded in the public mind and exemplify the purity of the game that they have achieved what some might say is iconic status.

Since this year’s game is being played in Cleveland we noted that this is the sixth time the city has hosted the game. Three of those games – 1935, 1954 and 1981 – had the largest crowds in All Star Game history. The first two were over 69,000 and the 1981 set the record at over 72,000.

We also mentioned several films which have some link to that city – for example, Major League – David S. Ward (1989) and Major League II – David S. Ward (1994) and a much older film, The Kid from Cleveland (1949), which showcases the 1948 Cleveland Indians team. The reason this minor film deserves some recognition is the fact that 1948 is the last time Cleveland won the World Series.

Eddie described two films that he likes in particular. The first, For Love of the Game – Sam Raimi (1999), starring Kevin Costner, is one that strives to show how meaningful the game is to an aging pitcher as he strives to win the last game he believes he is likely to pitch. Kelly Preston stars as Costner’s love interest.

While Eddie liked both the book and the movie starring Costner, his real all-time favorite baseball movie is Brewster’s Millions (1985) – Walter Hill (1985), starring Richard Pryor. A minor league player with hopes of reaching the majors is challenged to spend $ 30 Million in 30 days in order to inherit $ 300 million. And, he must do so without telling anyone. How he meets this challenge provides the core of the film. 

I mentioned that I liked Field of Dreams – Phil Alden Robinson (1989), not only because James Earle Jones and Burt Lancaster were costars with Kevin Costner, but it represents why baseball has a hold on Americans. Also, I liked The Natural – Barry Levinson (1984) which has a mythological aspect and strives to give a sense of the purity of the game. That film starred Robert Redford, Glenn Close and Wilfred Brimley as the manager.

Among the other films we noted a couple that are significant because they portrayed the struggles faced by Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American to integrate the National League in 1947. Jackie Robinson Story (In Color) – Alfred E. Green (1950) starred Robinson himself and 42 – Brian Helgeland (2013),starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. We also mentioned that the Cleveland Indians have a role in this social change. The Indians integrated the American League with their introduction of Larry Doby.

Another point I raised was there are films where the actor was selected for his acting, not his athletic ability. Consequently, some baseball films have sequences where the actor swinging the bat illustrates less than stellar athletic ability. This is in contrast to those films where Kevin Costner, who played college baseball, appeared. In addition to the two mentioned previously, Costner showed his prowess in the classic Bull Durham – Ron Shelton (1988) which costarred Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. 

 A couple examples of films where the actor was good but his playing was not are: Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Sam Wood (1942) and William Bendix in The Babe Ruth Story – Roy Del Ruth (1948).

Below is a list of the films discussed on this episode and other baseball movies you may wish to view.

Until next time.

Baseball Films You May Want To View

The Kid from Cleveland (1949) – George Brent and a young, Russ Tamblyn and also stars 1948 Cleveland Indians team members

Angels In the Outfield – Clarence Brown (1951) – Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh. Young girl sees angels, helps Pittsburgh Pirates. A remake starring Danny Glover was made in 1994.

It Happens Every Spring – Lloyd Bacon (1949) – Ray Milland, Paul Douglas and Jean Peters (wife of Howard Hughes, 1957-71). Film won Academy Award for Best Story.

The Babe Ruth Story – Roy Del Ruth (1948) – William Bendix and Clair Trevor

The Babe – Arthur Hiller (1992) — John Goodman in another version of Babe Ruth’s life.

The Natural – Barry Levinson (1984) – Robert Redford, Darin McGavin, Kim Basinger

The Stratton Story – Sam Wood (1949) – Monty Stratton, loses leg in accident, returns to pitching starring James Stewart and June Allyson.      

Jackie Robinson Story – Alfred E. Green (1950) starring Jackie Robinson 2nd more recent with Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie is titled 42 – Brian Helgeland (2013),

Fear Strikes Out – Robert Mulligan (1957) (Jimmy Piersall story) Anthony Perkins, Karl Malden

The Bad News Bears – Michael Ritchie (1st in a Series) – Walter Matthau and Jamie Foster in tale of wacky Little League team.

Brewster’s Millions (1985) – Walter Hill (1985) – Richard Pryor, Jerry Orbach and Stephen Collins

Bull Durham – Ron Shelton (1988) – Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandan

Field of Dreams – Phil Alden Robinson (1989) – Kevin Costner, James Earle Jones, Burt Lancaster and Amy 

For Love of the Game – Sam Raimi (1999) – Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston

MMajor League – David S. Ward (1989) – Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Corbin Berenson, Dennis Haysbert, James Gammon, Charlie Sheen and Rene Russo

Major League II – David S. Ward (1984)  – Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Berenson, Dennis Haysbert, James Gammon

Mr. Baseball – Fred Schepisi (1992) – Tom Selleck, Dennis Haysbert in film about former major leaguer now playing in Japan.

Mr. 3000 – Charles Stone III (2004) – Clerical error forces Bernie Mack to come out of retirement to get 3000th hit to assure entrance into Hall of Fame.

Moneyball – Bennett Miller (2011) – Based on book by Michael Lewis, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt star in real life story of Oakland Athletics 20 straight games victory season in 2002.

The Pride of the Yankees – Sam Wood (1942) – Gary Cooper and Theresa Wright star in tragic story of Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, and his battle with ALS.

The Rookie – John Lee Hancock (202) – (A Disney film) High school coach achieves dream to reach major leagues with Dennis Quaid and Rachel Griffiths.

Million Dollar Arm – Craig Gillespie (2014)John Hamm seeks new pitching talent in India.

61* – Billy Crystal (2001)– Directed by Billy Crystal with Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper, film of Roger Maris chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record.

Trouble with the Curve – Robert Lorenz (2012) – Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake. Eastwood directs tale of aging scout seeking to find new talent and renewing relationship with his daughter.

A League of Their Own – Penny Marshall (1992)Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna in Penny Marshall’s movie detailing the women baseball teams assembled to play during World War II.

The Sandlot – David Mickey Evans (1993) – (A Disney film) Kid makes new friends while playing baseball at neighborhood sandlot.

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