The films that gave life to baseball

by Clayton Richer | Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2018
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Baseball has always been an iconic cultural pastime in America ever since it was first played in America’s streets throughout the mid-nineteenth century. Invented by a pioneering group of  New York volunteers, almost 200 years later its popularity ceases to wane. In fact, last year’s World Series battle between the  Astros and the Dodgers brought in an estimated 19 million viewers on American TV alone. There are supposedly 500 million fans of this sport worldwide.  

It’s only natural that over time baseball would become popularised through the hallways of Hollywood. Many films have romanticized the diamond plates, screaming fans, hot dogs and dusty dirt swept up over the pitch; this is why people continue to fall in love with the game over and over.  

Here are some films that we think are baseball’s finest exponents: 

Fields of Dreams – This is recognizably the most important baseball film of all time and arguably one of the most important sports films ever. Based on the myth of the American star outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson from the early 20th century, this classic (which features Kevin Costner) has an inimitable atmosphere that borders on the spiritual. Set in a mysterious Iowa cornfield, this 1989 film set the bar very high for baseball films to come. 

Moneyball – If baseball nerds could make a film, this would be it. Based on the true story conveyed by Michael Lewis’s bestseller of the same name, this film tells the story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), who was followed around by a genius apprentice (Jonah Hill). The film tells the story of how data and statistics ushered in a new age of baseball, thus kicking out the romantic age of gut instincts and expert scouts. 

Battered Bastards of Baseball – This is a brilliant sports documentary that follows a ragtag group of misfits and dead ends who have reached their potential. It’s based on the vision of baseball lover and actor Bing Russell (father of Kurt Russell), who in 1973 started an independent, single-A team called the Portland Mavericks, which was composed of players that no one else wanted. You must see this to believe it. Oh, and a great soundtrack to boot. 

A League of Their Own – This classic, historical comedy-drama is centered around the unique emergence of an all-female baseball league in the Midwest during the 1940s. The film stars a fledgling actress, Madonna, alongside Geena Davis and Tom Hanks. It’s smart, wry, witty and touching. By 2012 this film was selected as part of the national film registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. And it’s just been announced that the movie will be getting its own TV show on Amazon. 

Bull Durham – Well, you can’t get much better than Sports illustrated calling this the number one greatest sports movie of all time. The film stars a youthful-looking Kevin Costner as Crash Davis, who spends many hard-fought seasons surviving in the minor leagues for the Durham Bulls. Davis eventually meets upstart Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and attached love interest Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). The film depicts the minor-league baseball experiences of player and scriptwriter Ron Shelton, who went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for his script. It’s a sentimental, genuine story set in the real heartland of baseball. 

Grab a popcorn and a hotdog and start your own baseball movie festival. 

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Clayton Richer
About the Author

Clayton Richer is an MLB scribe from north of the border with a slight bias for the Toronto Blue Jays. Clayton has also been the shop-keeper at Baseball Hot Corner since the sites inception in 2012. Follow and interact with Clayton on Twitter @MLBHotCorner or @ClaytonRicher

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