Baseball on the Silver Screen Offers Something for Everyone

Tomorrow, marks the DVD release of the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier and all of the issues that he faced as a result of that.

I have previously written about the movie and Jackie Robinson and will be adding the movie to my collection of baseball movies sometime this week.

The pending addition of another movie into my growing collection of films about baseball got me thinking about just how many films there are about baseball.

My baseball film collection is modest by most standards I would think but I am also highly particular about which movies get added to it. I am the same way about my collection of books about baseball believing firmly in the quality of quantity approach.

While I doubt that any one person could collect every single movie about baseball, nor do I think they should try, there are definitely movies that capture each element of the game and should be part of any collection of baseball movies.

Hundreds if not thousands of movies have been made about the game of baseball through the years. Photo R. Anderson

Hundreds if not thousands of movies have been made about the game of baseball through the years.
Photo R. Anderson

Just taking into account the Kevin Costner Baseball trilogy one is exposed to the humor that comes from Bull Durham, the emotional Field of Dreams, and the tale of a pitcher holding on for one more perfect moment in For Love of the Game.

Personally I would love to see Kevin Costner take on another baseball role as a manager or some other area where a former player struggles with life once the fans stop cheering their name. But it appears that wish will need to wait as Costner seems content with playing the earthly dad to Superman.

So moving away from the Kevin Costner movies about baseball there are the films with a certain fantasy element to them. For these movies one can usually look at the Walt Disney vault for films like Angels in the Outfield.

Of course making a movie about a team that they owned was sheer marketing genius by the Mouse House. But, then again you don’t get to become as big as the Walt Disney Company without being good at business.

While I never really bought into the fantasy elements of Angels in the Outfield, there was one Disney baseball movie deemed worthy to join my collection and that movie was the Rookie.  For those who may not be aware of that particular film it follows the real-life story of a Texas high school baseball coach turned relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The real life story of a Texas teacher turned Major League pitcher portrayed in the Rookie is one of the feel good movies about baseball.  Photo R. Anderson

The real life story of a Texas teacher turned Major League pitcher portrayed in the Rookie is one of the feel good movies about baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

As a fan of the Devil Rays turned just plain Rays, I try to soak up as much of the team’s history as possible. Granted there are only about 15 years of history so far but I have lived each one of those years with the team and can remember covering the announcement of their birth into the league so I guess you could say they hold an extra special place in my heart.

For those looking for more on the real life stories of baseball one can really do no wrong by curling up on the coach and watching Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball and his followup Baseball: The 10th Inning which covered changes made in the time since the first documentary was released.

Burns is arguably one of the leading documentations of this era and his take on the history of baseball is definitely one for the ages.

Jackie Robinson is not the only player to get the big screen biography treatment. Baseball fans can catch movies with Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb and John Goodman as Babe Ruth among others.

Of course not everything about baseball movies should be about dry stats and real life achievements and player biographies.

For a pure historical telling of baseball, warts and all, one should not miss the Ken Burns take on the subject. Photo R. Anderson

For a pure historical telling of baseball, warts and all, one should not miss the Ken Burns take on the subject.
Photo R. Anderson

Sometimes a baseball movie should just be about pure unadulterated humor. For the strict humor baseball movies I tend to go towards the Major League films. Add to the equation that Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen did all of his own pitching in the film and you have the makings of a cinematic classic.

For more Sheen on the diamond one can catch Eight Men Out, a very well done look at the Chicago Black Sox scandal.

Of course there is also the whole sub genre of baseball films turned into romantic comedies. While I tend to steer clear of most “chick flicks” there have been times when the baseball elements of a romcom have caused me to go to the theater and see the movies. Fever Pitch was one such movie as was Summer Catch. But as a rule I prefer that the only sap in my baseball movies comes from the pine tar on the bats.

So there is a look at baseball through the cinematic lens. There are bound to be films that I have left out and I am sure each individual looks for something different in terms of what makes a good baseball film to them. So that is likely one of the reasons there are so many films about baseball to begin with.

Of course nothing quite captures baseball like an actual seat at the ballpark whether it be at the Little League level or all the way up to the major Leagues. Baseball is simply better live. But during those 5-6 months of the year when there isn’t any live baseball to go see movies about baseball can certainly help scratch the itch between the crowning of the World Series champion and the time players report to Spring Training.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to make some room on my shelf for another baseball movie.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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