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Nine Great Baseball Films for Summer Movie Nights

Clay Morgan - Contributing Writer

Hope springs eternal for baseball fans. Even teams that fade and fail throughout the summer get a fresh start with each new season.

Whether your excitement is at a fever pitch or you have no thrilling playoff run to look forward to, you can always revisit some of the finest offerings in Hollywood history about this great American game. So, here's a list of fun baseball movies to watch and rewatch.

BATTING PRACTICE

You can't go into a 9-inning game without some warmup, so here's a bonus BP pick...

Starring legendary comedy duo Lou Abbott and Bud Costello, The Naughty Nineties contains a cherished recorded version of "Who's on First", one of the most famous comedy routines of all time. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York has been playing the clip for years. No matter how many retakes they did, they just couldn't get crew and director to stop laughing (you might here faint laughter in the background).

TOP NINE BASEBALL MOVIES

Angels in the Outfield9. Angels in the Outfield
(PG for mild language)

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this remake of a 1951 film is how many future stars appear. Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all appear in this Disney production. Danny Glover stars as George Knox, manager of the hapless California Angels, which is what they were called before becoming the Anaheim Angels. Turns out some real angels want to give the bad team a lift, so a cadre of divine messengers led by Al (Christopher Lloyd) propels the Angels through a ridiculous playoff run.

Gordon-Levitt's character Roger can see the angels and just wants everyone to believe. Moviegoers bought in plenty, and Angels in the Outfield raked in north of $50 million. But good heavens, that ridiculous trailer!

Mr 3000 movie8. Mr. 3000
(PG-13 for sexual content and language)

Bernie Mac stars as fictional star Stan Ross of the Milwaukee Brewers in this pleasant film about an arrogant baseball legend who retires and leaves his team hanging after getting his 3,000th career hit. In retirement, Ross starts businesses and trades on being "Mr. 3000".

Here's the catch: Due to a clerical error, the world learns that Ross actually came up three hits shy of the epic milestone and Ross has to come out of retirement at the age of 47 to try to get those final three hits for real.

A good character arc by Mac, who is brilliant as usual, and a not so predictable climax provides a positive message about something bigger than a game.

American Pastime movie7. American Pastime
(PG)

During World War II, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order that the Constitution no longer applied to Americans of Japanese descent. Thousands of innocent U.S. citizens were rounded up and sent to live in camps. It's one of the saddest chapters in American history.

American Pastime tells the story of the Nomura family, who were sent to one of the camps where baseball served as one of the main diversions.

Writer/director Desmond Nakano put more than just passion into this film. His own parents and relatives were put into such camps, which reveal the dangers of bigotry and fear. By highlighting the game of baseball in such a dark place as an American concentration camp, Nakano shows the reality of Japanese-Americans during the 1940s — that they served America with honor when given the chance and were as American as their captors. (Watch the trailer!)

The Rookie movie6. The Rookie
(G)

Disney has made plenty of sports movies, including multiple flicks about baseball. The Rookie — which tells the true story of Jim Morris — is the best one they've made.

Dennis Quaid portrays Morris, whose story is unique in that he achieved his dream of playing pro ball long after he should have, becoming a 35-year-old rookie. The Rookie follows the Disney formula at its best, by anchoring the bright lights to family and community.

42 movie5. 42
(PG-13 for thematic elements including language)

Talk about transcending baseball. Jackie Robinson was a major pioneer of civil rights in America. By becoming the first African-American player in the Major Leagues, Robinson symbolically crossed the racist lines drawn by white America.

No baseball movie has ever played on more screens in America and deservedly so. Chadwick Boseman is terrific in the lead role. I wish 42, as a whole, was better. It's a good film for sure, just not great. Still, 42 is important and everyone should know this story.

The Natural movie4. The Natural
(PG)

The first movie I ever saw in a theater was The Natural. Roy Hobbes (Robert Redford) had all the talent in the world, but he wasted it like the stupid ballplayer he was. But, all that mattered to me as a kid watching this film were the home runs he hit with his magical bat named Wonder Boy.

The Natural did very well at the box office and nabbed a few Oscar nominations. But once I finally read Bernard Malamud's original novel in college, I wondered along with plenty of other critics what might have been if they had stayed true to Malamud's version in which Hobbes is more goat than hero in the end.

The Sandlot movie3. The Sandlot
(PG for some language and kids chewing tobacco)

"You're killing me Smalls!" The Sandlot is childhood delight at its essence, the greatest summer you ever had as a kid packaged into a fun feature that's not about whether you win or lose, or even how you play the game.

Many fans, perhaps even you dear reader, put The Sandlot at numero uno without equivocation. I would never argue with you on that. Every film in the top three here have potential to be the best baseball movie you've ever seen.

A League of Their Own movie2. A League of Their Own
(PG for language)

It's been more than two decades since this instant classic hit theaters and A League of Their Own is still the highest grossing baseball film ever, without even having to adjust for inflation. League has comedy, drama, history, and plenty of #girlpower.

When America went to war against the Axis powers in 1941, life on the home front changed dramatically. Even guys such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, two of the greatest players in MLB history, forewent three full seasons of their prime career years to serve in the U.S. Military. Candy magnate and Chicago Cubs owner Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall) recognized an opportunity in the states and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was formed.

Penny Marshall directed, Geena Davis and Tom Hanks starred (that hand sign scene!), and the supporting cast hit a home run. I love absolutely everything about this movie.

Field of Dreams movie1. Field of Dreams
(PG)

"If you build it, he will come." With those mysterious words, farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is launched on a journey to plow under his cornfield and build a baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa. Somehow, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is supposed to find redemption in an agri-heaven of childhood delight. Along the way, we meet Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) and Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, both young (Frank Whaley) and old (Burt Lancaster). In the end, we learn how the stakes were far more important, and moving, than even Ray could have believed.

Originally released to less than two dozen theaters in April of 1989, Field of Dreams was so well received that it stuck around through summer blockbuster season and lasted in cinemas all the way until Christmas. The film was based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.

Field of Dreams isn't just the best baseball movie ever made. The AFI has also ranked it the sixth greatest fantasy film ever. Field never gets old and will continue to go the distance for years to come.

EXTRA INNINGS

There's enough film minutes in this list to keep you thinking about the boys of summer all through the off-season. But if you're not quite ready to mosey home with your peanuts and Cracker Jacks just yet, there are a number of great baseball documentaries out there.

For my money, the gold glove standard of baseball documentaries is Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns. It's 18.5 hours on the history of the game and I've watched it twice. If you love baseball and/or history or just great documentary work, don't miss this classic series from the master of long-form documentaries.

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