With basketball and hockey winding down, baseball season is in full swing. Whether you’re backing the Pirates or another MLB team, the best way to get a fix when baseball’s not on TV is by watching one of these great movies. If you haven’t seen all of them, what are you waiting for?
“Pride of the Yankees” (1942, 128 min.) Gary Cooper stars in a tear-jerker about the life and career of Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, one of the best baseball players who ever lived. Directed by well-known filmmaker Sam Wood, the picture is a fantastic portrait of baseball history, not to mention one of the sport’s greatest players.
“42” (2013, 128 min.) An intense biopic, filmmaker Brian Helgeland tackles the early professional career of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in the majors. Boosted by strong performances from Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, “42” is a very powerful film that tackles an incredibly important moment in baseball history.
“The Bad News Bears” (1976, 102 min.) Let’s get one thing out of the way now. Skip the 2005 remake of this wonderful film at all costs. The earlier version is excellent and stirs those memories of playing baseball at a younger age. Oh, it also carries a memorable performance from the curmudgeonly perfect Walter Matthau as the coach.
“Major League” (1989, 107 min.) A spectacular cast — Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Dennis Haysbert and Corbin Bernsen included — got passing grades as baseball players in this epic sports comedy about an outrageous pennant-chasing Cleveland Indians team. Don’t waste your time with the two sequels, though.
“Eight Men Out” (1988, 119 min.) Much like “Pride of the Yankees,” “Eight Men Out” has its roots in baseball history. Unfortunately, the story stands as a black eye for baseball. The feature film covers what is referred to as the Black Sox scandal, or when a group of the White Sox players notoriously threw the 1919 World Series.
“Field of Dreams” (1989, 107 min.) Adapted from the award-winning W.P. Kinsella novel “Shoeless Joe,” “Field of Dreams” has a spot in every baseball fan’s heart. It not only details the magic to be had from the baseball diamond, but the importance of family. Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones serve up terrific performances in this spiritual quest.
“Sugar” (2008, 114 min.) If there’s one film on this list that not enough baseball fans have seen, this is it. “Sugar” details the difficult trip through the minor leagues by a Dominican pitcher. While the baseball stuff is a big part of this movie, the off-the-field struggles are the most important aspect of “Sugar.” This is a true under-the-radar gem.
“Money Ball” (2011, 133 min.) While not as good as the book it was adapted from — Michael Lewis’ 2003 bestseller of the same name — “Moneyball” is a strong look at the game behind the game, as far as putting a team out on the field goes. Throw in top-shelf performances from Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and you have a superb picture.
“A League of Their Own” (1992, 128 min.) Hey, why not give the ladies a chance to play? Director Penny Marshall brings forth the story of the first female professional baseball league in this excellent dramedy that wears its emotions on its uniform sleeve. An A-list cast includes Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.
“The Natural” (1984, 138 min.) Adapted from the 1952 novel of the same name from Bernard Malamud, “The Natural” will also have a place among the top baseball movies. Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall and Kim Basinger star in a film about Roy Hobbs, a prodigy of a baseball player who takes the sport by storm years after a mysterious accident.
“The Rookie” (2002, 127 min.) Based on a true story, this inspirational baseball story explores the road to the majors by a Texas high school coach. Jimmy Morris — played by Dennis Quaid — attempts to try out for a major-league team after losing a bet to his baseball team, and ends up surprising everyone. Especially himself.
“The Sandlot” (1993, 101 min.) It’s not the best baseball movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s another film that successfully brings back memories of playing ball with all of your old friends in the neighborhood. The pic follows a group of teens who fill their summer days by playing baseball and making some mischief.
“Bull Durham” (1998, 108 min.) Most consider “Bull Durham” the best baseball movie of all time, and it’s definitely a contender. Ron Shelton wrote and directed this highly enjoyable portrait of life in the minor leagues, as a journeyman takes a top prospect under his wing in an attempt to prep him for the bigs. Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are fabulous.
Extra innings: “Cobb” (1994, 128 min.), “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973, 96 min.), “Game 6″ (2005, 87 min.), “Fever Pitch” (2005, 104 min.) and “Mr. Baseball” (1992, 108 min.).