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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
What is your favorite baseball movie?

By Lynn Hoppes

Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, The Natural
In an unscientific poll, we like "Field of Dreams," "The Sandlot" and "The Natural."
Both World Series teams have a long baseball history, and there have been several movies made about each.

In fact, pitching great Jack Morris, who won the 1984 World Series with the Detroit Tigers, might have a beef with the producers of the 1999 movie "For Love of the Game."

That movie, based on the novel by Michael Shaara, is about an aging baseball pitcher for the Tigers who looks back on his career and his relationships with others.

"There are so many eerie similarities between the Kevin Costner character and me," said Morris, who pitched for 13 years in Detroit. "Well, except for the girlfriend and the love affair and the Hollywood ending. I swear they stole the script of my life!"

What about the Detroit movie "Tiger Town"? It came out in 1983 and told the story of a fading baseball player named Billy Young (played by Roy Scheider) who is befriended and inspired by a young boy.

And there was also "Cobb," which starred Tommy Lee Jones as the legendary Tigers star Ty Cobb and came out in 1994.

San Francisco fans likely will remember "The Fan," starring Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes, about a fan obsessed with a player. The dialogue was priceless:

Gil Renard: "Don't you talk back to me! You show me some respect! Without people like me, you're nothing! We're the ones that get you your 40 [expletive] million!
Bobby Rayburn: Look, what do you want?
Gil Renard: What do I want? I want every time they think of you, they're gonna think of me."


So why do baseball movies, no matter the year, still resonate today?

Morris has an idea.

"That's because every kid, boy or girl, played the sport while growing up at some point," he said. "Most girls didn't play football or hockey. But, when it comes to baseball or softball, pretty much everyone did."

Corbin Bernsen, who played Roger Dorn in "Major League," said there is a simple reason why baseball leads the way.

"It's Americana. I don't know what you consider America's game, but it's baseball," Bernsen said. "You're sitting out on a nice summer day, and you're taking in a game. The fact that there isn't a lot of action all the time allows you time to reflect on the game itself. That's why it's the best."

Playbook asked several writers and editors their thoughts on baseball movies, and we picked our favorites. You can rank your own here.

1. "FIELD OF DREAMS"
Synopsis: Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) builds a baseball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield after heeding the call. Low and behold, the 1919 Black Sox show up.
Favorite dialogue: "If you build it, he will come." -- The Voice
Fan's quote: "I'm a sentimental guy, all right? Seen this movie 50 times. I've shed a tear all 50." -- ESPN's Jayson Stark.
Fan's quote: "I cry every time I watch it. I can’t help it. It’s about a father, a son and baseball. That is my childhood. That has been my entire life." -- ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.
Fan's quote: "I felt connected to that movie in a lot of ways. Obviously, because of the love of baseball that resonates, and on top of that, I grew up on a struggling dairy farm. The notion of plowing under a field of corn to make a baseball field hit home; there is a 10-acre field behind our farm in Vermont that would be perfect for something like that. James Earl Jones' speech gets me every time. Plus, I would've loved to have played catch with Shoeless Joe and to watch him play." -- ESPN's Buster Olney.
Fan's quote: "It had everything: meaning of a dad and son, the tough decisions in life, etc. It was not just a baseball move. -- Baseball great John Smoltz.

2. "MAJOR LEAGUE"
Synopsis: Reliever Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) and the rest of the zany Cleveland Indians thwart their owner's plans to move the team to Miami by winning.
Favorite dialogue: "The American Express Card. Don't steal home without it." -- Willie Mays Hayes
Fan's quote: "The foundation of the script was incredibly strong. The look was pretty good also. And from the use of real teams and stadiums and then the players, you could see that it took baseball seriously. People could see themselves in the players" -- Corbin Bernsen.

3. "BULL DURHAM"

Synopsis: Catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), young hurler "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and fan/groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) formed one of baseball's most memorable romantic threesomes as they shared a season with the Durham Bulls.
Favorite dialogue: "You just got lesson number one: Don't think -- it can only hurt the ballclub." -- Crash Davis
Fan's quote: "First, 'Bull Durham' is infinitely quotable. You’ve got classic one-liners -- 'Candlesticks always make a nice gift' -- and monologues from Crash Davis and Annie Savoy. You can rattle off 'Bull Durham' quotes for hours. Second, the movie loves baseball without getting sentimental and mawkish like 'Field of Dreams' or 'The Rookie.' It’s a better perspective of how baseball players love baseball (toiling away in the minors for 20 years), instead of how writers think baseball players must love baseball (the only way to connect with their dads)." -- ESPN.com editor Justin Swiderski.

4. "A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN"
Synopsis: In this fictionalized version of events of an all-women's pro baseball league, the rivalry between Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and her sister liven things up while manager Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) tries to keep it together and respectable.
Favorite dialogue: "Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!" -- Jimmy Dugan
Fan's quote: "It was the last movie I made that I really had a good time on, and I still see some of the old ladies who were in it." -- Director Penny Marshall told USA Today.

5. "THE BAD NEWS BEARS"
Synopsis: Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal) comes in to save the day for this misfit squad, which also included the fat kid playing catcher, another baseball movie stereotypical must.
Favorite dialogue: "Now get back to the stands before I shave off half your mustache and shove it up your left nostril." -- Coach Morris Buttermaker
Fan's quote: "I was 12 years old when 'Bad News Bears' came out, and all I could think was, 'How come none of my Little League coaches drank martinis and cursed like Walter Matthau?' Also: 'What's a bail bond?' " -- ESPN.com writer Paul Lukas.

6. "MONEYBALL"
Synopsis: General manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) decides to overhaul the way the Oakland A's build their roster competing against the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox and their gigantic payrolls.
Favorite dialogue: "How can you not get romantic about baseball?" -- Billy Beane
Fan's quote: “The point of the movie is that things are constantly overvalued and undervalued; there’s opportunity and exploitation swirling around us." -- "Moneyball" director Bennett Miller told Newsweek.

7. "THE NATURAL"
Synopsis: Nearly washed-up Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) joins the New York Knights and shocks the baseball world with his amazing power and ability to knock the cover off the ball using his bat created from a tree struck by lightning.
Favorite dialogue: "The only thing I know about the dark is you can't see in it." -- Roy Hobbs
Fan's quote: "That was pretty cool. That is a fantasy thing for every kid to live like Babe Ruth or Roy Hobbs." -- Tigers great Jack Morris.

8. "THE SANDLOT"
Synopsis: The new kid in the neighborhood, Scotty Smalls, finds some fast friends who combine baseball and mischief.
Favorite dialogue: "This pop isn't workin', Benny! I'm bakin' like a toasted cheese-it! It's so hot here!" -- Ham Porter
Fan's quote: "It might be that I have seen the movie countless number of times and that it came out when I was 8 years old, but 'The Sandlot' is full of memorable scenes and lines that are deemed 'classic' by my generation. The S’mores scene in the treehouse, the scene at the town fair, 'For-ev-ver!', 'Pickle!', 'You play ball like a girl,' yelling 'You’re killing me, Smalls!' every time you are frustrated with someone, and comparing every girl you see to the one and only Wendy Peffercorn. -- ESPN.com editor Phil Dauria.

9. "THE ROOKIE"
Synopsis: True story of Texas high school teacher and baseball coach Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) who, at 35, made a baseball roster.
Favorite dialogue: "You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball." -- Jimmy
Fan's quote: "My favorite sports movies transcend the sports that they are about. Really, it was about second chances to me, second chances in life, second chances with relationships in your life. That's something that somebody who is not a baseball fan can relate to." -- Actor Dennis Quaid told About.com.

10. "FEVER PITCH"
Synopsis: The Farrelly brothers brought us this story of die-hard Red Sox fan Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon), who falls in love with Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) during the offseason only to struggle to keep their relationship going once the Red Sox return to action.
Favorite dialogue: "You do this thing ... it's so cute, I wanna kill myself." -- Ben
Fan's quote: "Red Sox fans waited many years to have it all -- love, happiness and a World Series title -- so truth made this piece of fiction somewhat believable. Still, it would have been hard to give up those great seats Ben had for any price, even to keep Drew Barrymore." -- ESPN.com contributor Bill Speros.

Hate some of these suggestions? Would have liked to see "Eight Men Out" or "61*" or "Pride of the Yankees" on the list? Let us know in the comments section.