Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 2

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the past two weeks we here at Triple B have presented our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 2 on the list.

Our last movie on the countdown, Major League, was about humor pure and simple. Today as we inch closer to revealing the number one movie on the countdown we switch from humor back to more serious subject matter with an added hint of the supernatural rolled in.

Coming in at number 2 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is Field of Dreams the story about an Iowa corn field and what happens when “you build it.”

Field of Dreams was Kevin Costner’s second baseball related movie and will celebrate its 25th anniversary on April 21, this year.

The number 2 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. Photo R. Anderson
The number 2 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner.
Photo R. Anderson

Following the exploits of an Iowa farmer who hears voices that tell him to plow over his crop of corn and build a baseball diamond to allow the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his friends to play on it, the movie deals with second chances and following one’s heart which is a central theme of many of the movies on our countdown.

With superb performances from James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, and Ray Liotta rounding out the cast, the film delves into topics of faith and belief in both a simpler time in baseball as well as each of us.

There are of course elements in the movie that could never happen in real life regardless of how many voices we hear in the corn fields of life but the belief that things like the ones depicted in the movie could happen somewhere are part of what make the movie one of the all-time bests.

Each of our inner children want to believe that somewhere there is a “field of dreams” where we can relive our happiest experiences and perhaps avoid some of the sadder times in life.

For some that field is a baseball diamond. For others the field might be somewhere where we can spend a little more time with a loved one who is no longer with us.

The movie tackles each of those elements perfectly and never really spends too much time explaining the supernatural elements of the film and they never seem too over the top.

It just feels natural that there could be a cornfield in Iowa that is cosmically linked somehow to allow ballplayers to be young once more and enjoy the simple joy of “having a catch.”

There are certainly plenty of emotional moments in the movie and despite Tom Hanks’ proclamation in A League of Their Own that “there is no crying in baseball” there are still certain scenes in Field of Dreams that get me a little watery eyed each time that I see them.

That of course is the mark of a good movie that even after seeing it countless times over the past quarter century the emotional elements still run true and can elicit a reaction despite knowing what is coming.

And of course coming is a central theme of the movie with the whole “build it and he will come approach.”

Or to put it in the words of James Earl Jones’ character, Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Perhaps no other sport is as linked with feelings of nostalgia as baseball is and Field of Dreams taps into that nostalgia in a way that is not over the top or judgmental. It just feels as comforting as a worn glove when the leather is broken in at just the right amount or perhaps like a baseball cap where the bill is curved at just the right angle to keep the glare of the sun at bay.

If you have not already done so, you should “go the distance” and add Field of Dreams to your movie viewing habits.

As for the actual field used in the movie, it is still set up for visitors. Plans were even announced to have a professional baseball team play at the complex.

There are questions as to whether that will happen but regardless of whether or not professional baseball comes to the Iowa corn field, fans of the movie will continue to make their way to the hallowed ground from the film that sparked their memories of summer days gone by.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 3

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 3 on the list.

Sometimes a baseball movie should just be about pure unadulterated humor. Yes, baseball is big business but it is also still a game and games are meant to be fun.

Coming in at number 3 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is Major League the story of a rag tag group of players uniting for a common goal against a common enemy in their team owner.

The number 3 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Major League starring Charlie Sheen. Photo R. Anderson
The number 3 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Major League starring Charlie Sheen.
Photo R. Anderson

For the strict humor baseball movies it is hard to top Major League. 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.

The movie follows the Cleveland Indians as they are in rebuilding mode following the death of their long-time owner.

The late owner’s widow has a plan to move the team from Cleveland to Miami. The catch in that plan is that they have to be the worst team in baseball in order to get out of their stadium lease.

To accomplish this goal the owner invites the worst players she can find to the team thinking that it will be a slam dunk to be so bad that a move to Miami can occur.

Of course at the time that the move came out the Marlins and Rays were not yet playing so the idea of moving a team to Florida was somewhat new and in the years that followed several teams used a move to Florida as a bargaining chip to get a better stadium deal back home.

In the end the players learn of the plot and in true underdog fashion they find a way to make it to the playoffs despite the strong odds against them.

In addition to Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn the movie includes performances by Dennis “That Allstate Insurance guy” Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, Rene Russo, Tom Berenger, and most notably Bob “Just a bit outside” Uecker.

Uecker’s performance as the Indians play by play announcer, Harry Doyle, introduced so many quotable moments that they are forever etched in the lexicon of many fans of both the movie and baseball.

It is hard to watch a wild pitch to this day without uttering the phrase, “Just a bit outside.”

Of course a particularly rough outing from a pitcher with control issues can lead to uttering, “ball eight,” as well.

While I am sure that Uecker’s real life calls of the Milwaukee Brewers are not quite as over the top as his performance in Major League I have often wanted to hear him call a Brewers game just to be sure.

Baseball movies throughout the years have included great performances by real announcers that are able to let loose and play a slightly funnier version of themselves and Uecker definitely used every second of screen time to his advantage.

Major League begat two sequels that while not quite as funny as the original are certainly worth viewing as well. There are even some rumors floating around of another sequel with the original cast returning but one really wonders how much comedic gas they could have left in the tank although I certainly could go for some more calls from Harry Doyle and am also curious to see if Charlie Sheen can still bring the heat.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 4

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 4 on the list.

Today we return to the world of real events captured on film as part of our journey to what Triple B feels is the best baseball movie of all time.

While there is certainly no shortage of baseball movies about real people, the quest for a second chance often rings throughout the narrative of many of these movies.

The number 4 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is The Rookie starring Dennis Quaid. Photo R. Anderson
The number 4 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is The Rookie starring Dennis Quaid.
Photo R. Anderson

Coming in at number 4 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is The Rookie which tells the true life tale of a high school baseball coach getting to live out his dream of pitching in the big leagues after he thought that his dream had been shattered following an injury.

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.

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.

After being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), blows out his shoulder ending his hopes of achieving his lifelong dream of pitching in the Major Leagues.

Fast forward a few years to 1999 and Morris is now married with three children, is a high school science teacher, and is the head baseball coach in Big Lake, TX.

After discovering that Morris can still bring the heat, his players offer him a deal that if they make the state playoffs, Morris will try out again for the Major Leagues.

After the Owls make the playoffs, Morris tries out for the Devil Rays and after being signed to a Minor League contract is assigned to the Class AA Orlando Rays (now the Montgomery Biscuits). After a quick stop in Orlando Morris moves up to the AAA Durham Bulls.

In September Jim is told that the Major League club has called him up, and that they will be playing in Texas against the Rangers. In true Hollywood fashion Morris makes his Major League debut against the Rangers in front of many of his friends and family who traveled to see his debut.

Morris pitched for the Devil Rays for a couple of years before finally hanging up his glove for the final time.

The movie and real life story of Jim Morris show that it is never too late for one to chase their dreams, which is an important lesson for everyone to keep in mind and is what makes The Rookie the number 4 movie on our countdown.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 5

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 5 on the list.

Today we have a doubleheader of sorts on our totally subjective baseball movie list with two movies about the baseball scouts who travel the country evaluating talent.

Coming in at number 5 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list are Talent for the Game and Trouble with the Curve which each shine a light on what it takes to be a Major League Baseball scout.

The number 5 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Talent for the Game and Trouble With the Curve. Photo R. Anderson
The number 5 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Talent for the Game and Trouble With the Curve.
Photo R. Anderson

Although the movies came out around 20 years apart they each do a superb job of showing the life of a professional baseball scout.

Throughout the history of baseball individuals have scoured the back roads of America looking for that hidden gem of a player that can be the missing piece of the puzzle for a team looking to have long term success.

Countless hours are spent by these scouts out on those back roads watching baseball games at Ballparks across the country trying to find players for their organization to draft.

In recent years teams have focused on international players with baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and other nations but the fact remains the bulk of Major League Baseball players are still from America and someone needs to discover them.

Of course with the addition of the internet and other factors the need for scouts to physically travel the back roads has diminished in some way over the last couple of decades as You Tube and other sources provide a way to track players nearly from the first time that they pick up a ball or a bat. Several teams have even made drastic cuts in the size of their scouting departments while ramping up efforts on the analytical side of the game.

Personally I prefer to think of baseball with the scouts as part of the game and not some area to be replaced by computers and spreadsheets.

A few years back I attended a Baltimore Orioles Spring Training game at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota and was seated in the “scout section.” Throughout the entire game I was entertained by stories from these rough around the edges baseball lifers and was given a firsthand look into a piece of the life of a scout.

Many of the stories were not politically correct but they showed insight into a brotherhood where there was a kinship among the nomadic brothers in arms despite the competitive nature that goes along with the job.

For those without access to scouts of their own, Talent for the Game and Trouble with the Curve transport the viewer into a scout’s life as they balance their love for the game with the elements of time that are encroaching to make their fate seem like that of the dinosaurs.

Edward James Olmos and Clint Eastwood each give strong performances as the scouts. Both movies also feature strong supporting casts and story lines that have one pulling for the scouts to defeat the odds and find a way to continue doing what they are doing.

Next year I plan to once again find a Spring Training seat with the scouts to hear more tales of a nomadic live on the road. Until then, Talent for the Game and Trouble with the Curve will be my guide to the life of a baseball scout in search of the next big thing.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 6

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 6 on the list.

Last time we looked at Moneyball which showed the future of the game of baseball. Today it is only natural to balance things out a little bit by looking at the past.

Roy Hobbs and his “Wonderboy” come in at number 6 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list with The Natural which is a tale of making the most of second chances and knocking out a few stadium lights with a handmade bat in the process.

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

The number 6 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is The Natural starring Robert Redford. Photo R. Anderson
The number 6 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is The Natural starring Robert Redford.
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 scene can be heard at Ranger Ballpark in Arlington whenever a member of the home team sends one out of the park. 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 the countdown.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson