Tag Archives: baseball movies

Baseball Movie Monday is a Natural This Week

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today’s choice was literally a natural to include on the countdown.

Last Movie Monday we looked at Moneyball which showed the future of the game of baseball through the use of advance metrics.

Today it is only natural to balance things out a little bit by looking at a film that celebrates the pre sabermetrics Golden Age of baseball.

Roy Hobbs and his bat named “Wonderboy” anchor The Natural which is a tale of making the most of second chances and knocking out a few stadium lights in the process.

The movie came out in 1984 and is an adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s 1952 baseball novel of the same name.

At the cork core of the Natural is a story about a man, his homemade bat and some sparks on and off of the field. Photo R. Anderson

At the cork core of the Natural is a story about a man, his homemade bat and some sparks on and off of the field.
Photo R. Anderson

Starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Wilfred Brimley, Kim Bassinger and Robert Duvall the movie recounts the experiences of Roy Hobbs, a player in the 1930’s with great “natural” talent, and questionable decision making when it comes to members of the opposite sex.

After being shot when he was 19 by a crazed female fan, Hobbs makes a comeback attempt in his mid-thirties with the New York Knights managed by Pop Fisher (played by Brimley).

There are of course many baseball clichés included in the movie from the grizzled “seen it all manager” to the “intrepid baseball reporter” looking for a scoop, but all in all the clichés do not distract from the overall tone of the story.

And the movie’s climax is certainly one for the ages with the cascade of sparks falling down from the busted stadium lights after Hobbs hits the home run as the iconic music plays in the background.

It is an iconic scene in and iconic film and certainly one to remember.

The music from that iconic scene can be heard at Ranger Ballpark in Arlington whenever a member of the home team sends one over the outfield fence.

I am sure there are other teams that do the same thing but the only one I have seen do it in person is the Rangers.

Admittedly I am sure many of us have hummed along to that song after achieving some feat of skill or other accomplishment while picturing a shower of sparks falling around us.

Some days just getting out of bed can be cause for humming the theme to The Natural as we make our way around the base path of life.

In addition to creating lasting memories of home runs that knock out the stadium lights the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger).

So with all of that in its corner it would be only natural for The Natural to make our countdown.

Now if you’ll excuse, I need to go dodge a shower of sparks.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Bringing Cinematic Sunshine to a Cold, Gray Day

In the musical/movie, Annie, the title character sings a song about the sun coming out the day after today.

While the song about a sunshine filled tomorrow has more to do with an orphan’s wish for better days during the Great Depression than actual meteorology, for many people the gray days of winter have them wishing that they could bet their bottom dollar to get the sun to come out.

This is the plight I have found myself in the last couple of weeks as my section of Texas has had more gray skies than blue skies.

And while the gray in the sky has me asking just who stole my sunshine, there is one place where the sun always shines and the grass is always green.

I am referring to the world of cinematic baseball where even when a movie is filmed during the winter the action on the screen invokes warm days and clear skies.

To be clear not all baseball games are warm. I have sat through many cold early season baseball games including a particularly cold Pensacola night but somehow even freezing at a Ballpark seems warmer than just walking around on a gray day.

There is just something about a Ballpark that warms one down to the core.

In the spirit of seeking sunshine and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day.

That equates to about 12 weeks of cinematic baseball to get you in the mood for the arrival of the Boys of Summer in April.

Today we kick off our 12 week countdown to opening day with Bleacher Bums.

The film follows a group of season ticket holders over the course of a season and explores the interpersonal relationships that develop when you spend several hours a week surrounded by people who share a common interest, in this case baseball.

I have often said that baseball is a sport that is best experienced live at the Ballpark. There are so many sights, sounds, smells and other sensory sensations that just can’t be captured on television.

But in the spirit of our quest for cinematic sunshine Bleacher Bums can provide that in Ballpark feeling. You may want to have some hot dogs and popcorn available to fully recreate the sitting in the bleachers feeling.

While the actual baseball scenes in the movie offer a few errors, the film connects on the interaction of fans and the conversations that often break out during the course of a game.

Through the years just as I think I have heard almost everything imaginable in a Ballpark something new is overheard from my seat and I am reminded of Bleacher Bums and how it captures the Ballpark conversations to a science.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to check the weather forecast once more to see if there is any sunshine coming in the 10-day forecast.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

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