Filling the void of Major League Baseball’s opening day
I was supposed to be sitting in the upper deck of Progressive Field in Cleveland, watching the Indians’ season-opener.
Instead, I’m 100 feet over the Atlantic Ocean at our condo in Myrtle Beach.
Yes, life can change just like that because of the coronavirus.
And now, I have plenty of time to think about baseball – in a different way. Baseball is a story about America. It is a story about how one generation connected to the next. It also is a story about us. It is a sport that serves as a backdrop in some of the best movies I’ve seen.
Baseball at the movies? The only thing missing is apple pie. I love baseball movies. And I love making lists. Put the two together and here is my list of the top 10 best baseball movies.
1. Field of Dreams (1989): I avoided this movie for the longest time. Cornfields? What does a cornfield have to do with baseball? Plenty, I realized after watching this classic and discovering the movie was really about a father and son and families, and baseball. That’s good enough for me.
2. Bull Durham (1988): I am biased toward this movie about Minor League baseball set in the late 1980s since I lived that life as a card-carrying member of the Baseball Writers of America. When this movie was popular, I wrote for the Canton (Ohio) Repository and Baseball America, and covered minor league baseball in places like Williamsport, Pennsylvania; New Britain, Connecticut; Hagerstown, Maryland; and London, Ontario. Believe me, the job wasn’t as glamorous as the movie, but it’s still worth watching.
3. Bang The Drum Slowly (1973): Worth the watch for the cast of actors, including Michael Moriarty and an up-and-coming Robert De Niro. In the 1973 movie, De Niro plays a minor league baseball player “of limited intellect” who battles a terminal illness with Moriarty playing his caring teammate. Yankee Stadium, before its renovation a few years later, is a bonus attraction
4. Eight Men Out (1988): I love to read and watch anything about the 1919 World Series when the Chicago White Sox threw the series to the Cincinnati Reds. I think “Eight Men Out” is off the charts. The “Black Sox” featured South Carolinian “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, whose baseball fate is still debated today.
5. Fear Strikes Out (1957): Was there a better choice than Anthony Perkins to portray Boston star Jimmy Piersall? The talented but troubled player battled mental illness, a tough topic for a movie to explore given the time period.
6. 42 (2013): The story of baseball player Jackie Robinson’s and Brooklyn Dodgers front office executive Branch Rickey’s battles to integrate baseball. Good cast, but did Harrison Ford steal the show?
7. Pride of the Yankees (1942): Gary Cooper does an incredible job of portraying Lou Gehrig, who battles a wicked disease that is now referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “People all say that I’ve had a bad break. But today ... today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” This is one of the greatest sports quotes ever.
8. Damn Yankees (1955): Remember the late-night movies after the 11 o’clock news? I do and that’s when I learned who the enemy was when I watched “Damn Yankees.” My first musical featured a Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil for his baseball team to beat the New York Yankees.
9. Fever Pitch (2005): OK, I admit it, this really isn’t in my top 10, but I just don’t want Boston Red Sox fans to complain there is too much Yankees in this list. If you are a guy, this is a “chick flick” you want your better half to see.
10. Major League (1989): I’m from Ohio and here is my take on the late 1980s movie that portrays Cleveland as beyond gritty and help, the team as awful and its stadium as the mistake by the lake. In those regards, the movie is 100% accurate. But if they did a remake, it would show a city in the midst of a $10 million downtown renovation, rooting for a team that’s always in contention in a stadium that is likely ranked one of the Top 5 in the country. It’s impossible not to like this funny movie with a memorable cast.
What are yours?