MLB

A Quick Guide To Baseball Movies

Written by Jameus Mooney

If you’re anything like me, you probably love baseball and watch a lot of television. We have just about three weeks left of spring until Opening Day 2020 on the 26th, and again, if you’re anything like me, it tends to drag. I usually get excited to see specific prospects (this year was Braves Drew Waters and Rays Vidal Brujan) but after 5 or 6 days I get a general idea of what they have to offer down the line. For me, I love television and movies. For television, there isn’t much original content surrounding baseball other than random references to the game (which, my personal favorite is in FOX’s Prison Break when David Apolskis is sentenced to prison for Grand Larceny…when he steals a Honus Wagner baseball card, because that’d be me as a criminal). So, most of the time if I want a baseball fix, I’d have to stick with good ol’ fashioned cinema. So, for the sake of helping everybody else out, I’ve logged every baseball movie I’ve seen on my Letterboxd. So far, I’m up to 42 different films from many different eras, some more documented than others.

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly star in the 1949 musical “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

Right now, the Criterion Channel is making it rather easy to watch 3 older, yet entertaining baseball flicks at the click of a button with their “Triple Play” collection. “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” may be synonymous later on with legendary Cardinal, Athletics, White Sox and Cub broadcaster Harry Caray, but the first movie stars Frank Sinatra in a musical of the same name. Opposite Gene Kelly, there isn’t much plot but if you can sit down and want good background noise or can appreciate what goes into a musical, then it’s a decent suggestion. The second movie of the collection is “Kill The Umpire” with Bill Bendix, which is okay but not great by any Freddie Freeman stretch at first base. The third, however, is a gem. It is the original Angels In The Outfield, which chronicles a fantasy run of the Pittsburgh Pirates and later was remade by Disney to be a completely different film in 1994 starring Tony Danza and Danny Glover. It’s a fun, well-hearted film that highlights the importance of family with a sporting background, and really puts an emphasis on older orphans looking to get adopted, especially for the 1950s.

Of course, I mentioned the remake, which does a lot more publicizing adoption. “It could happen” signifies hope in a kid that doesn’t have much to be hopeful for, and is super heartwarming. Christopher Lloyd is always hilarious and features Matthew McConaughey as a ballplayer. This is definitely one of my favorites to put on if I want a simple story that has great execution. Unfortunately, it is not on Disney+ but it is on YouTube.

Billy Chapel’s career is how I always pictured Justin Verlander’s ending up before his 2017 trade to the Houston Astros.

Is this Heaven? No, it’s PSE. Not including Kevin Costner’s iconic baseball movies in this would be a cocksucking call. Let’s start with his most recent one from 1999, For the Love of the Game, that follows one game of Billy Chapel’s legendary career with the Detroit Tigers. Facing retirement and seeing the love of his life (portrayed by Kelly Preston), he pitches a perfect game in Yankee stadium to retire but doesn’t even realize it because throughout the entire game, he’s recollecting on their story together throughout. This is basically a Lifetime movie for sports fans, but a very fun one if you’re into that kind of movie. The second one is Field of Dreams, a phenomenal drama that follows Ray Kinsella, a former from Iowa who hears a spirit’s voice in the fields so he finds Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) and they open up a ballfield to see players of the past despite the farm being close to foreclosure.

The story’s protagonist really didn’t know his father growing up, but got to know him through baseball, which any guy who follows baseball can resonate with. Plus, the voice of Mufasa gave us the best speech ever:

“For it is money they have and peace they lack.”

As you can see, I’m a sucker for Kevin Costner. I still even defend the ending to Message In a Bottle, please don’t judge me. Come on, he is the greatest sports movie actor of all-time, how could one not love Tin Cup, Draft Day or McFarland USA? But, his best one is my favorite baseball movie, where Crash Davis has his AAA contract bought out so that he could “hold some flavor of the month’s dick in the bus leagues.” Of course, the flavor of the month was Tim Robbins as Nuke, a pitcher with control issues, as Susan Sarandon plays the lady of the night who chooses to sleep with one ballplayer per season. This is a top 5 funniest movie of all-time, up there with Coming To America and Tommy Boy. This is by far the most quotable one, too. “Anything that flies that far outta have a damn stewardess on it.” “The rose goes in the front, big guy.” “He walked 18. New league record! He struck out 18. Another new league record. In addition, he hit the sportswriters, the public-address announcer, the bull mascot…twice…also new league record’s.” But it also has a lot of life lessons, such as “the world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness,” “candlesticks always make a nice gift” and “I just want to be.” It explains the nuances of the game really well, from the dying quail to the fascism of the strikeout. My regular readers of course know, I believe in strikeouts being fascist like Crash believes that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

For the Love of the Game and Field of Dreams are on Hulu, while Bull Durham is free with advertisements on Tubi and Vudu.

“I’ve been cut already?”

The next is Major League, yes…yes…yes…my second favorite is a movie with a group of misfits that attempt to foil the plan of the owner’s tanking scheme so that the ex-showgirl can move the squad to Miami. “I’ve barely heard of half these guys, and the one’s I do know are way past their prime. This guy here is dead! Well, cross him off then!” One is a non-ballplayer who runs like Willie Mays but hits like shit, the All-Star second baseman is more focused on his life after baseball and the catcher has been playing in Mexico with bad knees. They bring in Dennis Haysburt (24) to play outfielder Pedro Cerrano, a Voodoo man who does not mesh well with the rest of the team. The ace? An ex-convict. 2 is also fun as the second baseman Roger Dorn becomes the owner. Major League is on AMC while the sequel is on Netflix and Hulu. There’s also a third I’m not fond of. Clu Haywood is played by Pete Vukovich, which any avid baseball fan will know as a former Cy Young award winner with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jonah Hill (Superbad) and Brad Pitt (Se7en) star in Moneyball.

Also on Hulu is Moneyball, the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics and from a pure baseball standpoint, may be the best baseball movie out there. Based on Michael Lewis’ book from 2003, it focuses on the innovative way Billy Beane put together the 2002 Oakland Athletics with a smaller payroll, putting the emphasis in on-base percentage as opposed to formerly used traditional statistics. The innovation changed baseball into what we know it as today.

Amazon Prime has a number of fun baseball movies, such as Prime original Bottom of the 9th which premiered last year and ranked 72nd on my 2019 ranked, which I’ve only gotten up to 108 and still have a lot in my watchlist so it isn’t finalized just yet. They have Hitting For The Cycle, a lesser known drama that’s very fun where an aging ballplayer returns home to find the family he neglected, after years of being abused. They have the 2005 Bad News Bears remake (the classic ’70s film is on Popcorn Flix) and The Perfect Game, based off of the 1957 Little League World Series with Wizards of Waverly Place star Jake T. Austin.

Tubi has a wide variety for free with advertisements, such as The Man From Left Field. It isn’t the best film in the world, but if you’re like me and a sucker for anything Reba McEntire (The Little Rascals) and Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), it’s a decent made-for-television flick that aired on CBS. One movie on Tubi that I was taken aback with how good it ended up being is Chasing 3000 starring Ray Liotta (Goodfellas). Two brothers travel across the country to see Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th and final Major League hit.

There’s a movie free on Pluto TV called Fear Strikes Out from 1957 that does not get nearly enough love, based on the true story of Red Sox All-Star Jimmy Piersall. It stars Karl Malden (On The Water Front) and Anthony Perkins (Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho“). It’s again, a story that uses baseball as a backdrop but not the focus. You see his early life living in an abusive household, and how he finally makes the majors only for mental illnesses to come through and almost cost him his spot. It does a great job addressing fame and mental illness, especially in a time period where we didn’t know much about it.

Little Big League.

There are also of plenty entertaining movies where kids make it to the Majors. Billy from Little Big League would be me if I had a grandfather that owned the Minnesota Twins, but alas, I do not so I had to get a job only writing at baseball 5 years ago when I was Billy’s age. He overtakes the ownership of the Twins and management, as he tries to lead them to the pennant. Also of similar premise, the movie Rookie of the Year is an audience favorite with Daniel Stern (Diner, Home Alone), which sees a little boy hurt his arm and suddenly be able to throw 100 mph, in which he is signed by the Chicago Cubs. Rookie of the Year is on Disney+, and stars Gary Busey (Silver Bullet) and Thomas Ian Nichols. The movie’s music is composed by Bill Conti, who is also the composer of Rocky. The next film of Nichols young career is also on Disney+ and was called “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court.” You can qualify this as a baseball movie if you wanted to make the argument.

The Natural, 1984.

A couple more of my favorites are some of the dramas. The Natural with Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). As he eloquently states, “God, I love baseball.” The story of him finding his way back home after years of struggling to make it as a ballplayer is amazing. Billy Crystal’s 61* is a fantastic recollection of the hatred that Roger Maris suffered in the Bronx because he wasn’t Mickey Mantle. 42 may be my favorite drama, however, as it follows Branch Rickey’s decision to sign Jackie Robinson and holds back no punches to show the struggle of adjusting to the Major League’s.

All in all, there are 42 movies in the list right now for you to watch at your own accordance, ranging everywhere from legendary films such as The Sandlot (Squints and Wendy Peffercorn are PSE’s favorite movie couple) and A League of Their Own to lesser known films such as The Phenom and The Comrades of Summer. When you click on the movie on the site, you’ll see ratings, reviews and how you can watch them.

Great Benefits of Watching Baseball Movies

Watching baseball movies can bring plenty of benefits. Check them out below:

Get Inspired

With actors portraying the role of baseball players and their stories, you get inspired to face life’s struggles like a true game. Also, if you have children who are aspiring baseball players, they’ll find these movies very admirable, teaching them the value of patience, hard work, and sportsmanship.

Learn the Basics

If you’re a new baseball fan or you want your kids to learn the basics of baseball, then watching baseball movies is a good way to start. From developing arm strength, fielding ability, speed, and hitting for power, your children will have an idea how baseball is being played. They can even learn about baseball equipment, like how to hold a bat or how to wear a catcher’s mask and helmet.

Satisfy Your MLB Cravings

Because of the pandemic, broadcasted sports worldwide are being postponed. So, a great way to satisfy your thirst for MLB is to divert your time and attention to watching baseball movies in your free time.

Great Family Bonding Experience

Baseball has always been a part of every family’s home, with pizza or whatever snack on the table, reuniting family members after a tiring day in school or work. With every game played, there’s always something exciting to look forward and watching how actors portray baseball players is also a great way to be with your loved ones.

Diversify Your Entertainment

Drama, action, or comedy movies could become boring if you always watch those genres. So, why not try watching baseball movies, that could be a great combination of fun, suspense, and drama? Diversifying your movie viewing experience will give you mental and emotional stimulation, for better stress management, happiness, and improved quality of life. You may even be motivated to play baseball with your children once the fog of the pandemic has lifted. 

About the author

Jameus Mooney