Ah. Baseball season. It’s chockfull of tradition, fills its fans up with warm and fuzzy feelings and makes us all want to grab our mitts, go out and play catch with our dads. Unlike other sports, baseball is steeped in tradition that some things within the sport that will just never change. The Yankees will always be the evil empire, the White Sox will never be as popular as the Cubs (I mean seriously, more people showed up to my Bar Mitzvah than to the Sox’s championship parade). And the Cubs… Well, the Cubs will never win a World Series.
Although there are some great football, basketball and hockey movies out there, baseball films were always the ones that captured my imagination and never got old. After all this is America, where the themes of friendship, overcoming obstacles and accomplishing the impossible are the building blocks to what we consider the American dream to be.
That being said, I decided to dedicate this piece to ranking what I consider to be the top five baseball films of all time. (Note: I apologize in advance to every die-hard Iowan who reads this piece. Field of Dreams did not make this list.)
#5. A League of Their Own (1992)
Okay so this isn’t a baseball movie, but softball is close enough. The acting is superb (yes, even Rosie O’Donnell), and the film’s focus on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which captured the hearts of the nation during WWII. Simply put, this is a story that deserves to be told. Finally, to the credit of these women, the ball that was played during this film was very impressive. They looked like pros.
#4. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Hey, don’t laugh. You loved this movie. Wasn’t it everyone’s dream to play in the majors at the tender age of 12? I mean, come on! The kid breaks his arm, miraculously learns to throw a 90-mph fastball and leads the Cubbies to a World Series! As a Cubs fan, this movie is as close as I’ll ever get to a World Series, and as a result, it must be given its proper due.
#3. The Natural (1984)
My dad’s favorite, no doubt. Some say it’s overrated, some call it the greatest baseball movie of all time. Despite Robert Redford’s understated brilliance and a touching plot, it’s good, but not great.
#2. Major League (1989)
Find me another sports movie that has had a bigger impact on the franchise it represented. It’s true, the Cleveland Indian community has embraced this movie (and thankfully has forgotten its sequel) and would probably consider signing Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Willy Mays Hays right now, if given the chance. I own this movie and have probably seen it fifteen times. It NEVER gets old.
#1. The Sandlot (1993)
The ’90s were truly the decade of great children’s sports movies. Fact: I cheered as much for the Coach Bombay’s Mighty Ducks as I did for Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. I wasn’t around to see the 1985 Bears take the nation by storm, but I loved “The Little Giants.” In all, there was no team I loved as much as “The Sandlot” crew. Scotty Smalls killed me every time. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez reached Jordan-esque heights with his athletic exploits and his epic outrunning of the beast. And finally, Hamilton “Ham” Porter was the toughest, meanest, tobacco-chewing 12-year-old of all time. This movie embodied what it meant to be a kid, to love baseball and to live through an all-American summer. It is a masterpiece of a film that I watched as a kid, still watch as a young adult and will one day watch with my own son, who I can only hope will have the same love for this film that I do.