With baseball coming back to Huntington Park and the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” hitting theaters this weekend, we’re stepping to the plate to count down the 10 greatest movies about the sport.
10. “Eight Men Out”
The story of the infamous Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series is a tragic one to say the least. The film’s true success lies in showing how and/or why these players would throw the biggest game(s) of their lives.
This HBO movie about Roger Maris’ (Barry Pepper) and Mickey Mantle’s (Thomas Jane) chase for Babe Ruth’s hallowed home run record is a smart, fun and poignant look inside the New York Yankees during the 1961 season. Pepper and Jane deserve a lot of credit for their strong and occasionally hilarious lead performances.
It’s a baseball movie, but also a math movie, as Brad Pitt’s Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane tries to put together a contending team on the cheap with some help from a master stat geek (Jonah Hill). The whole thing got its pop from a great script co-written by Aaron Sorkin.
7. “A League of their Own”
It’s true. There’s no crying in baseball. Penny Marshall’s heartfelt comedy about a female baseball league also marks the least-annoying movie ever to feature Madonna in an acting role.
6. “The Sandlot”
A coming-of-age tale for the ages about a ragtag group of kids in the ’60s. The kids love baseball so much they’re willing to come face to face with The Beast to retrieve a Babe Ruth-signed ball — “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
5. “The Bad News Bears”
The film — the original with Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal and a young but still creepy Jackie Earle Haley — that proved the only way to get the most out of a bunch of disenfranchised Little Leaguers is by having the town drunk coach the team.
4. “Field of Dreams”
Kevin Costner built it. The ghosts of Chicago Black Sox members came. But in the end, it was a hanky-inducing metaphor for the way baseball connects fathers and sons.
3. “Bull Durham”
Crash (Costner in his best baseball movie) has a number of great moments — his speeches about what “I believe in …” and how women get weary, not wooly — but giving “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) the nickname Meat is his best.
2. “The Natural”
Virtually every baseball movie features a dramatic home run. Barry Levinson’s 1984 drama about the ascension of an aging unknown with an almost supernatural talent (Robert Redford) places high for most-dramatic dramatic home run ever.
1. “Major League”
Maybe it’s the fact that it features our own lovable losers to the north, the Cleveland Indians, but we’re suckers for this pitch-perfect irreverent comedy. We wish Bob Uecker’s Harry Doyle could call every ballgame.