Pop Culture

Relieve the Tension of the World Series...With a Baseball Movie

We're gonna need something stronger than beer if the rest of the Series is like Game 2.
We're gonna need something stronger than beer if the rest of the Series is like Game 2. Paramount Pictures
The Astros are in the Fall Classic for only the second time and the outlook is...not bad! They're tied 1-1 going into the home stretch against the Dodgers. It's a whole new Series, as Fox baseball announcer and hair-plug enthusiast Joe Buck is about to sprain his larynx reminding us.

But maybe you’re the pessimistic type, or maybe the stress of watching a high-stakes sporting event is bad for your overall health, or maybe you're not your best at work after staying up to watch 11-inning games (*cough*). If so, you can still get in the Series spirit with some cinematic baseball options. Hell, there are baseball movies for every mood.

For Those Escaping Reality:

Angels in the Outfield (1951)
There's a 1994 remake of this that is fine, just fine, but you should seek out the original (directed by Clarence Brown, more widely known for National Velvet and The Yearling) if only for the nonexistent "angel" special effects.

The Natural (1984)
The “escaping reality” part doesn’t refer just to the fairy-tale aspect of Roy Hobbs’s miracle season, but also the early scenes where soft camera focus attempts to disguise a 47-year-old Robert Redford and 46-year-old Glenn Close as teenagers.

Field of Dreams (1989)
This could have also gone under the tearjerker section; then again, you’ve got ghost ballplayers haunting an Iowa cornfield and Tim Busfield's reality-warping Dockers/short-sleeved button-down combo. Yes, it’s unbelievably cheesy and manipulative, but only a heart of stone won't skip a beat at “Wanna have a catch?”

For Those Needing Parental Guidance:

The Bad News Bears (1976)
Accept no Billy Bob Thornton for Walter Matthau substitutes. This movie came too late in my life to alter my unremarkable Little League career. Then again, if Tatum O’Neal had been *our* pitcher, I might’ve stuck it out.

Bull Durham (1988)
Crash’s speech about his beliefs becomes more relevant the older one gets, even the part about Oswald acting alone. It also has the best bat boy/hitter exchange of all time:

Bat Boy: “Get a hit, Crash.”
Crash: “Shut up.”

Major League (1989)
Not nearly as smart or nuanced as Bull Durham, but certainly more of a crowd-pleaser. I rewatched this recently and experienced sympathetic shooting knee pains every time Tom Berenger was onscreen.

The Sandlot (1993)
On second thought, Benny ended up playing for the Dodgers, so don’t watch this.

For Those Who Have Something In Their Eye:

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
First baseman Lou Gehrig retired from baseball in 1939 to battle the disease that now bears his name (obligatory “How could he not see that coming?”). Gary Cooper portrays him here, in the movie that re-creates his famous “Luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech. Coincidentally, this was the last time most of the country didn’t actively loathe the Yankees.

Eight Men Out (1988)
How times have changed. Not the influence of organized crime on professional sports, but the fact the criminals are now actually running the leagues. And to anyone who thinks John Cusack isn’t a good actor, watch his face in the final scene while the other fans are talking about the “Black Sox.”

I also just realized Charlie Sheen is in two of these movies. Apologies.

The Rookie (2002)
This is the rare redemption movie that actually serves as part of its lead actor’s re-emergence as well. The Rookie came right in the middle of a pretty impressive Dennis Quaid run that included Frequency, Traffic and Far From Heaven. Throw this on after Field of Dreams if you want that potentially lethal father/son reconciliation combo.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar