9 of the Best Baseball Movies Ever, and Why

Take you out to the ball game? If you prefer to stay at home, and watch some great baseball hits, here are nine innings of the best baseball movies ever made, and why.

In alphabetical order, here are the 9 and some secrets about them. Play ball!

The Bad News Bears (1976)

Paramount, rated PG

Walter Matthau as Coach Buttermaker plays a beer-guzzling coach who helps a lackluster boy’s baseball team by adding his girlfriend’s daughter, (played by Tatum O’Neal), to play in the team. She ends up helping them break their losing streak. This raw and funny film became one of the top-grossing movies of 1976.

It already starred two Oscar winners (Matthau and O’Neal already won Best Supporting Academy Awards), and that was used in the advertising. O’Neal was the youngest winner ever in a competitive category, winning at 10 for “Paper Moon” three years before this movie.

The Bad News Bears

In another twist, the bratty boy in the film played by Jackie Earle Haley quit acting after this movie but made a major comeback. He earned an Oscar nomination for “Little Children” in 2006 playing a child molester, and later played the iconic Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot in 2010.

There were two sequels: “Bad News Bears in Breaking Training” and “Bad News Bears Go to Japan,” and an even more raw and crude re-make of “Bad News Bears” starring Billy Bob Thornton in 2005, but none of them did as well as the original.

Best Line: “This quitting thing, it’s a hard habit to break once you start” — Coach Buttermaker (Matthau)

Bull Durham (1988)

Orion Pictures, rated R

Kevin Costner, who appears twice in this best-baseball list, stars as “Crash” Davis in a movie partly based on the minor league baseball experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton. Crash is a veteran catcher brought in to teach a rookie pitcher played by Tim Robbins. A baseball groupie played by Susan Sarandon (who started her 20-year affair with Robbins at the time) ends up seducing both of the men.

Sports Illustrated ranked it as the #1 Greatest Sports Movie of all time, and Shelton got nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and won the honor at the Writer’s Guild.

Best Line: “A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’ Think about that for a while.” — Ebby LaLoosh (Robbins)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Universal, rated PG

Kevin Costner, who almost didn’t get the role because he just played a baseball player in “Bull Durham,” this time stars as an Iowa corn farmer who hears voices, interprets them and follows the command to build a baseball diamond in his fields. And then, the 1919 Chicago White Sox came to town.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as teenagers were extras in the Fenway Park scene, and the movie was nominated in 1990 for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (losing to “Driving Miss Daisy”), and also received nominations for Best Music and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The story is not true, but based on W.P. Kinsella’s book “Shoeless Joe.” The spot in Dyersville, Iowa is now having a 30th-anniversary celebration this summer, and the townsfolk expect they will come.

Best Line: “If you build it, he will come.” (It’s often misquoted as “they will come” and it made the list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.

A League of Their Own (1992)

Columbia Pictures, rated PG

Based on real people, and the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, director Penny Marshall became fascinated with the stories of these women after seeing a documentary. She turned the stories into a hit movie starring an A-list cast of Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz and Tea Leoni.

This story follows two sisters who join the first professional female baseball league. The film shows the serious and comedic aspects of women taking over America’s favorite sport during WWII.

Actual characters at the Baseball Hall of Fame and in the end credits are original players from the league, and Tom Hank’s character Jimmy Dugan is loosely based on real-life baseball players Jimmy Foxx and Hack Wilson.

Marshall cast her daughter, Tracy Reiner, as Betty Spaghetti (and spent three days filming the scene where she finds out her husband died), and brother Garry Marshall is Walter Harvey, while her niece (Garry’s daughter) Kathleen Marshall plays outfielder “Mumbles” Brockman.

In 2012, the National Film Registry added the movie to the Library of Congress, saying it is “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

Best Line: “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” —a Jimmy Duggan (Hanks)

Moneyball (2011)

Columbia Pictures, rated PG-13

Based on a true story by Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, it’s about how the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 general manager Billy Beane attempted to cobble together a winning team. He used computer generated data to keep a budget and find the best players to draft.

Bean is played by Brad Pitt and Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi play themselves in the film as star players. He meets a Yale economic graduate Peter Brand, portrayed by Jonah Hill, who evaluates the players based on statistics.

Best Line: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”— Billy Beane (Pitt)

The Natural (1984)

TriStar Pictures, PG

In this adaptation of a novel, Roy Hobbs (portrayed by Robert Redford) tries to stage a middle-aged comeback after being a once-promising superstar. His talent was recognized by his father (played by Alan Fudge) and is cheered on by his sweetheart, played by Glenn Close.

An inspiration for Hobbs was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was also an inspiration for “Field of Dreams.”  Hobbs lives the life of fame after taking a losing baseball team in the 1930s to the top of the league with the aid of a bat cut from a tree struck by lightning.

Although Redford wasn’t nominated for an Oscar in this role, Close was nominated as Best Supporting Actress, and the film was also nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Music, which won a Grammy for Randy Newman.

Best Line: “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift then you fail.” — Ed Hobbs (Alan Fudge)

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Samuel Goldwyn Company, not rated

Gary Cooper stars in this biopic as Lou Gehrig whose career was cut short by a debilitative disease that would bear his name. He played 2,130 games before being diagnosed with the nerve disease at 37.

The sad film and love story (Teresa Wright plays his wife Eleanor) earned 10 Oscar nominations, including for both lead actors, but only one won for Best Editing.

Although there is no recording or film of Gehrig’s iconic farewell speech on July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium, the small part of the newsreel footage that’s available was reproduced. The “luckiest man” line was moved to the end from the beginning of his speech to add dramatic effect, and has become part of the best Movie Quotes in history by the American Film Institute.

Best Line: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth… play ball!” — Lou Gehrig (Cooper)

The Rookie (2002)

Walt Disney Pictures, rated G

Dennis Quaid plays a real-life high school science teacher and baseball coach named Jim Morris, who tries out as a pitcher for the Tampa Devil Rays. At age 35, he led the team to the majors, and proved that older guys can still play the game. He threwi a 98-mph fast ball.

Quaid recently said in an interview that even after more than 100 movies, “The Rookie” is still a favorite among fans. “Once a week I got to go to Dodge Stadium and throw from the mound, the same mound that Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and [Fernando] Valenzuela did, and that was a big thrill.”

The actual Jim Morris plays an umpire in the Orlando games.

Best Line: “You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.” — Jimmy Morris (Quaid)

The Sandlot (1993)

 20th Century Fox, rated PG

A charming coming-of-age comedy features a gang of rowdy friends in the early 1960s that play baseball every day at a local sandlot. Scotty Smalls (played by Tommy Guiry) moves to a new neighborhood and wants to learn how to play baseball, and is taken under the wing of some friends who take him on treehouse sleep-ins, the local pool and traveling fair.

The young actors won Best Ensemble at the Young Artists Awards and five of them, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, Brandon Quintin Adams and Grant Gelt all had roles in different episodes of the TV show “Boy Meets World,” as did Art LaFleur who plays Babe Ruth.

One iconic line: “You’re killing me, Smalls” is a paraphrase of “They’re killing me out there, Whitey” said by Denver Broncos coach Lou Saban, and was also parroted in “A League of their Own” that came out the year before this one did.

Best Line: “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart kid and you can never go wrong.” — “The Babe” (Art LaFleur)

Pride of the Yankees
Pride of the Yankees star Gary Coopei and Babe Ruthi

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