Sports in media: top 5 baseball films

A favourite pastime to many. Jose Morales

A whole different kind of series

With the World Series having finished recently and the LA Dodgers on top, I felt it would be a good time to bring back the “sports in media” series. For those who aren’t familiar, “sports in media” takes a look at the more pop culture side of things. This time, instead of looking at the gaming scene with the intricate workings of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I’ll be taking a dive into the world of sports films. More specifically, I’ll be looking into the top five baseball films to have graced the silver screen.

To lay out the ranking rules a bit, this list is based off of both critical acclaim and personal bias. So if you see a film on here you don’t agree with, it’s probably due to the second part of the ranking rules. With that being said, let’s get on with the list:

Honourable Mention: Field of Dreams

Well it was either this or Angels in the Outfield and, between you and me, there was no way that film was making it on this list.

That aside, in what is the first of the ‘Kevin Costner trilogy’ of baseball movies to be ranked, Field of Dreams sneaks its way to an honourable mention for being a well-known classic in the sports genre. What prevents it from reaching an actual number value is the fact that there isn’t any actual baseball in it. Well, to be fair, there are some baseball segments in dream sequences and some at the very end, but it isn’t ‘real’ baseball. For those who haven’t seen the film, basically, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella decides to build a baseball diamond after hearing the eternally misquoted “if you build it, he will come”, which refers to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, a player that his father idolized. What follows is a heartwarming and heart wrenching story that still stands the test of time.

5. For the Love of the Game

This is the second film in the ‘Kevin Costner trilogy’ of baseball movies, and one that might have some folks scratching their heads. Yes, in terms of critical acclaim, For the Love of the Game was not as well-received as Field of Dreams. What earns it the number five spot however, is its legitimacy as a baseball film. It’s got actual teams, it’s got actual announcers, it’s the whole package. Costner puts forth a performance as aging pitcher Billy Chapel that, while not as well received as his performance in other sports films (or even baseball films), still brings forward heart. Kelly Preston also brings it home with her performance Jane Aubrey, making the most out of the emotional side of For the Love of the Game’s story. Again, it’s not as classic as Field of Dreams, but it’s baseball through and through.

4. Bull Durham

The third and final film in the ‘Kevin Costner trilogy’ of baseball movies is none other than the legendary Bull Durham. What is, at least from a critical standpoint, the most popular of the three Costner baseball films that made this list, Bill Burham follows “Crash” Davis (as portrayed by Costner), as a veteran minor-league catcher that teaches “Nuke” LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins) to pitch before he head onto the major league scene. Susan Sarandon also stars as Annie Savoy, who is a love interest to the character of “Crash”. Now, you might be thinking, “why does this film deserve to be at number four? Everything sounds fairly cliché.” ”Well, that’s kind of the reason. While also being a classic among sports films, this movie is the original cliché, or rather, it brought along the clichés that we see in other sports films today. Clichés that are so wonderfully executed that you can’t help but smile all along the way. 

3. A League of Their Own

Moving away from Kevin Costner and into the wider spectrum of baseball films, we arrive at A League of Their Own, which stars the brilliant talents of Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Tom Hanks. The film follows the story of the All-American Girls Baseball League, which came about during the timeframe of the Second World War. Due to soldiers taking off for the war, something has to be done in order to keep baseball alive within the hearts and minds of citizens. Via the creation of said league, female players are recruited by scouts and sent out onto the diamond to play. This is one of the all-time great baseball films, not just because of the feminist aspect on-screen, but also behind the camera as well. The film was directed by Peggy Marshall who, for those who don’t know, was the first female director to earn over $100 million dollars through box office gain. Girl power, Tom Hanks, and the game of baseball, is there any question that this film would be a classic?

2. 42

On top of everything else going on this year, 2020 also saw the tragic loss of famed actor Chadwick Boseman. Not only did Boseman bring Black Panther to life on the silver screen, but he also brought to life Jackie Robinson. Robinson, who was the first African-American player to play in the MLB during the modern era of the game, was a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers during the timeframe of 1947-1956. The film, which follows Robinson, looks into his hardships of being an African-American player in an all white league, as well as his personal and career accomplishments as part of the Dodgers. 42 (being the number Robinson wore) does take some historical liberties surrounding Robinson’s story, as with any Hollywood adaptation, but it looks as if the liberties were taken with facts during the timeframe of the story, rather than Robinson’s story itself. All in all, 42 is an exceptionally good film that knocks it out of the park and serves as a great example of how one man changed the game.

1. Moneyball

Numbers never looked so good, and Moneyball has loads of numbers. In what I personally consider to be the perfect baseball movie from start to finish, Moneyball brings forth Brad Pitt’s best performance as aging manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, as he attempts to change baseball forever. Given the state of the A’s team and their financial troubles, Moneyball looks into what would happen if you tried to work the stats in professional sports. Taking a crew of athletes that may not  have the professional look, but using what they’re skilled at in a variety of ways (i.e. hitting only single RBIs, throwing fast despite being left handed, etc.). Where this film hits home and earns the number one spot on the list is that it re-energized the baseball genre. It told what would be considered a bland story to most producers and managed to capture the same feeling that the game of baseball itself brings to the table. Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman also present wonderful performances within the film and help cement it as a brilliant baseball flick for the ages.

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