Reel Dad picks his seven favorite baseball films
As Major League Baseball debates the practicalities of a season in 2020, we can visit the movies to remember how great a game this can be. Here are seven of my favorite films about America’s pastime.
Field of Dreams (1989)
This classic baseball tale uses the game to explore the reasons for disconnection between fathers and sons. We find ourselves in the magical experience this sport creates as we begin to understand why we look for fantasies to hide painful truths. While the specifics of what happens in the Iowa cornfields may be difficult to logically accept, the emotional feelings they address are timeless. Fathers and sons crave each other’s attention even if they don’t know how to express the emotions. Some languages are difficult to learn.
This gem of a film from director Bennett Miller is actually less about the sport of baseball than a character study of a man trying to overcome his demons. This man could be in any business, facing any crisis that resurrects fears of failure from his youth. While his world sits inside a baseball stadium and offers the visuals we recognize, his challenge is universal. Each of us, at some point, must confront the remnants of our disappointments. For this man, the baggage he carries happens to include a baseball bat.
Eight Men Out (1988)
Few scandals in the history of sport are as legendary as the “Black Sox” scandal of the Chicago White Sox in 1919. In a baseball world different from today, players on teams - no matter their abilities - were paid low amounts. Some could not make ends meet to continue to play no matter their passion or skill. And, against their better judgment, some accepted bribes to “throw” the World Series of that year while others find the temptation too sordid to pursue putting the team at odds and the series outcome in question.
Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Movies help us get to know people from other times who demonstrate the kind of courage that we need to hear about today. On its surface, “Pride of the Yankees” could be viewed as a “biopic” from Hollywood, designed to pay tribute to a popular hero. But baseball player Lou Gehrig deserved more than the standard treatment. The film explores this great athlete’s personal journey as he confronts the devastating impact of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the body.
The Natural (1994)
If we remember “Field of Dreams” for how it explores how mystical baseball can be, the movie adaptation of “The Natural” makes us believe in the magic of the sport. Robert Redford is at his most engaging and human as an over-the-hill baseball player who simply wants one more chance to fulfill the potential that was so rudely taken away from him. He simply knows that the nation where he plays needs to believe in the sport for which he plays. Otherwise, who else will all those kids hanging around the ballpark have to believe in?
The Rookie (2002)
The power of this sport to fuel ambitious dreams comes to life in this inspirational tale of a man who is far too old to be competitive as a major league player but far too determined to let a silly thing like age get in his way. Dennis Quaid is pitch perfect as a man from West Texas who spent years trying to deny his ambition until he reached, in his life, a seventh-inning stretch that convinced him there’s no time like today to make dreams come true.
Damn Yankees (1957)
What? A musical about baseball? Absolutely. And a classic one, too. Legendary choreographer adapts his moves from the Broadway stage to create a picture-perfect tuner about an enthusiastic baseball fan who makes a most unusual deal to save his favorite team. Gwen Verdon gets her one chance at the movies to recreate a starring role from Broadway. The dancer captivates as a woman who knows what it takes to get what she wants.
Yes, staying inside makes me want to watch every baseball movie we can. Especially when the real season may take a while.
Thank goodness for the movies.