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Can There Really Be One Best (Or Worst) Baseball Movie?


Can There Really Be One Best (Or Worst) Baseball Movie?

“And the one baseball movie you really have to see is…”

Who can say? Everyone tries to tell you, but everyone, including you, has an opinion--unless you’re very open-minded and admit that there are probably about 10 or so that most baseball fans argue are the most enjoyable to see from time to time.

Because aren’t you tired of being told by online reviewers (and your son’s Little League coach) that Bull Durham is the best baseball movie of all time? Not everyone agrees with that, do they? Do you?

Not even today’s real baseball players feel the same, it turns out.

What movie do Major Leaguers like?
Last season during Spring Training, a reporter asked players on the San Diego Padres to name their favorite baseball movie. As you might guess, the answers were varied—there wasn’t a consensus of any kind.

But because most ballplayers are in their twenties and still playing a kids game, many of them said their favorite movie was one they enjoyed the most when they were kids.

The movie they picked? The Sandlot. You probably know that one and maybe even agree. “You’re killing me, Smalls!” is a quote that’s become part of everyday life. There’s the Beast, and kids using real chewing tobacco before going on carnival rides: bad idea, but a great movie, even with its flaws.

Yes, flaws. The Sandlot takes place in 1962 and Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez and Ham, Squints and Yeah-Yeah talk excitedly about their favorite baseball player…Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth? He retired in 1935.

That’s not how it works in real life. Kids that age (12 or so) admire All-Stars of their day. They would have looked up to Mantle and Mays, Koufax and Drysdale, Pete Rose and Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente and Harmon Killebrew. The stars of the day.

But that minor detail in no way takes away from the movie, which is fun and always entertains. And it’s interesting, maybe even ironic, that many baseball players in 2016 like a baseball movie from 1993…23 years ago. (But then again, the players were just kids when they saw it.)

Who comes up with these “top” lists?
Probably very few people see every baseball movie that comes out just because it’s a baseball movie. We catch some and miss others. And how many people go hunting down baseball movies made back in the 1960s or earlier? How many twenty-somethings have seen The Pride of the Yankees?

And if you think about some old and not-so-old movies—such as 1948’s The Babe Ruth Story (with William Bendix) and The Babe from 1992 (starring John Goodman), it’s probably better if you missed them. (Apologies if one of those is on your favorites list.)

So where do these so-called “best baseball movie” lists come from? (And there are plenty out there.) And why in some cases are there movies listed that you’ve never heard of? Or that leave out your personal favorite?

Well, perhaps there are just too many baseball movies to consider, ranging from great to average to downright…mediocre. But a lot of people can’t even agree on which movie goes in what category.

The worst baseball movies are…
For instance, here’s a list of what a handful of reviewers (and normal people) say are the worst baseball movies of all time. What do you think?

1. Ed (1996), starring Matt LeBlanc and a chimpanzee
2. The Babe (1992), John Goodman
3. Major League: Back to the Minors (1998), Scout Bakula, Corbin Bernsen
4. The Scout (1994), Albert Brooks and Brendan Fraser
5. Summer Catch (2001), Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel
6. The Fan (1996), Wesley Snipes and Robert DeNiro

Warning: Don’t be so quick to agree because these same self-proclaimed movie experts put the following movies on their worst baseball movie lists:
For Love of the Game (1999)
Major League (1989) (the original!)
The Sandlot (1993)
Rookie of the Year (1993)

So, as you can see, if someone puts Major League and The Sandlot on the worst baseball movie list, there has to be something funny going on, and it only reinforces the need to not take any “top” list (best or worst) too seriously.

Should you turn to the experts?
Many people turn to—a hugely popular website—to get a quick review of a movie or to explore movie categories. Their “top” lists and movie reviews seem to match what popular opinion is.

If you ask Rotten Tomatoes what the top 25 baseball movies are, they’ll give you a list that includes titles you’d wholeheartedly agree with.

But…they also include movies that surely won’t show up on your top 25. Check to see if you’ve seen (or heard of) any of these so-called top baseball movies:
Mr. 3000 (2004). Bernie Mac comes out of retirement to get hit number 3,000.
The Perfect Game (2010). A ragtag team in Monterrey, Mexico, makes it to the Little League World Series in 1957.
Game 6 (2005). A writer worries about both Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and opening night of his new screenplay.
Off the Black (2006). A drama about an aging, alcoholic high-school baseball umpire, played by Nick Nolte.
Cobb (1994). Tommy Lee Jones plays the great and unlikable Ty Cobb.
Fear Strikes Out (1957). About ’50s Major Leaguer Jimmy Piersall, with mental problems, starring Tony Perkins.
Ballplayer: Pelotero (2012). A documentary about the controversial scouting system in the Dominican Republic.
Up for Grabs (2005). A documentary about the legal battle for Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball.
Sugar (2008). A drama about a young Dominican pitcher hoping to make it to the Big Leagues.
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (2000). A look at the life of Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers player who was the first Jewish baseball star in the Major Leagues.

Why would movies that few people have seen, or even heard of, make a list of all-time bests? It comes down to the old saying that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Chances are you and your closest baseball buddies wouldn’t even agree on what the top baseball movies are.

Can we all agree on these top movies?
But you would likely agree on one thing: the 10 or so movies that should be on anyone’s list—(AND NOT IN ANY SPECIFIC ORDER), including a few made over the past 10 years:
A League of Their Own (1992)
The Natural (1984)
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
The Sandlot (1993)
Major League (1989)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Bull Durham (1988)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Moneyball (2011)
61* (2001)
Maybe one of your favorites—from the ones below—isn’t even on the above list:
42 (2013)
Trouble with the Curve (2012)
The Bad News Bears (1976)
For Love of the Game (1999)
But that shouldn’t bother you. Just create your very own top 10 list of the best baseball movies of all time.

Because as you should realize by now, your list is just as valid as anyone else’s