If you’re anything like my father, baseball season is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. Stadiums are your places of worship. Your holy day is any day your team is playing. Your sacrificial rites involve catching a homerun and drinking your fair share of beer before they cut you off after the seventh inning. You also probably love a good movie about America’s pastime that gives your favorite sport a whole new aesthetic to appreciate. Baseball is such a narrative sport to begin with, which is why it lends itself so well to the silver screen in so many different ways.
Here are some films that cinephiles and baseball fans alike would enjoy.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992). This film was based on the incredible story of the women’s league formed during World War II. While many men who played baseball left America to defend our country, the world of baseball was empty until the founding of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Sisters Dottie and Kit (Geena Davis and Lori Petty, respectively) get recruited from their local team in rural Oregon. After baseball tryouts, the two make the team with a motley crew (including Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna) of other players. Their manager? Recovering drunk Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks). Naturally, hilarity ensues as the team bonds, grows and does what they do best: play baseball. The film is funny and moving, and who doesn’t love Tom Hanks yelling that “there’s no crying in baseball!” Absolutely iconic.
THE NATURAL (1984). This Robert Redford classic is based on the book of the same name by Bernard Malamud. Redford is Roy Hobbs, a boy who comes from a farm and has impeccable baseball talent. Hobbs builds a bat from a tree on his family’s property, carving “Wonderboy” into it after the tree is struck down by lightning. Bat at his side, he tries out for the Chicago Cubs, and eventually gets signed onto the New York Knights as a 35-year-old rookie. His career takes off from there. The cast also includes Glenn Close and Robert Duvall. This story of success, suffering and the beauty of baseball is definitely worth the watch, as it gives an air of nostalgia to viewers who have been experiencing the joys of baseball their whole lives.
FIELD OF DREAMS (1989). This is a compelling story of a man who gets closure from his troubled relationship with his father through the form of a baseball field. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is out on a limb maintaining his farm, mostly comprised of expansive cornfields, yet yearns for something more than his monotonous farm life. So when a mythic voice gives Ray messages to build a baseball field and sends him on a chase, the incredible becomes possible. Iowa serves as an ethereal backdrop to America’s sport, as the farmland and cornfield feel as vast as a baseball field itself. With historical nuances and an amazing cast, Field of Dreams is the quintessential other-worldly-powers-of-sports film that shows baseball is indeed a way of life that needs to be embraced.
MONEYBALL (2011). Based on Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, this film tells the story of Billy Beane, who is portrayed by Brad Pitt. The Oakland Athletics manager Beane tries a different recruitment strategy to improve his team by using statistics and analysis fueled by technology. With his tight budget, there is little room for error to sign on a good team. He teams up with economic analyst and recent Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), and together they try not to strike out with their new method. The amazing cast also includes Chris Pratt (pre-abs-of-Jesus), Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Statistics play an important role to the sport, and this film is a great dramatization of this, which is based on actual events.
THE SANDLOT (1993). If you and your hometown friends couldn’t relate to any of the kids in The Sandlot, did you even have a childhood? The Sandlot tells the coming-of-age story of an unforgettable summer of Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) as he moves to the San Fernando Valley in the 1960s and befriends baseball-crazed kids who are always up for misadventures galore. The director cultivated a strong bond between Benny (Mike Vitar) and Smalls by inviting the two actors to the set weeks early to rehearse. Other cast and crew members were thoroughly convinced that the two boys had been friends for years before the film. Overall, The Sandlot is the perfect movie for the summer and springtime, and no matter how many times you watch this, you are bound to laugh just as much as the time before.