Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal and Whim
Selections from the book

Baseball's Opening Day Films

It’s coming, like death and taxes, sure as April, the only first day in sports that’s celebrated like a holy occasion. The people of Cincinnati, home of the first pro team, still take the day off, but in the meantime, before the games begin, the anticipation can get heady, so baseball movies, a great American subgenre, are a natural remedy.

Selections from Flickipedia. For more movie recommendations in this category, please consult the book.

scene from the end of the affair
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) The saddest baseball movie? Coming from a 1955 novel, this subdued, grown-up drama simply waits out the last season of a low-IQ MLB catcher (Robert De Niro), who learns at the outset that he has a fatal disease. Emphasis is placed less on mortality or the game, and more on the day-to-day traveling life of pro players in the days before bazillion-dollar contracts and steroids. Viewers who were moved when this movie came out – and it’s tough not to be, when De Niro in his last game looks for a fly ball that’s no longer there – keep it close to their hearts.

The Bad News Bears (1976) Besides being possibly the least condescending Hollywood film ever made about kids, and a scabrous mockery of American suburbia and so many of the life principles our middle class hold dear, this Little League satire, deplorably remade in 2006, remains paradigmatic ‘70s realism – the dusty fields, arid sprawl, parking lots, beer in the dugout, and glaring noon light will reignite anyone’s memories of small-town ball, organized by annoying adults but played in the heat by kids.

Bull Durham (1988) There’s no other sport that inspires more emotion, rumination and heartfelt worship than baseball, and Ron Shelton’s signature movie embodies all of these in one perfect, life-loving swoop. A slice of minor league life remains lovable because there are no big-headed major league egos around, just the fervent hoping to get there. No underdog triumphs, no sentimental formulas, no baloney, from Tim Robbins’ talented jerk to Susan Sarandon’s small-town groupie dizzy with big-city ideas, to Kevin Costner’s career-anchoring perf as the aging catcher who shoulders the responsibility of molding the uncontrollable pitcher into a star even as his own dreams of the majors sail further out of reach. The script crackles with educated wit, the minor characters are just as funny and original as the main players, and the homage to baseball is everything it should be: heartbreaking in some ways but crazy for the game, for summer evenings, and for retaining a fiery sliver of youth deep into the middle years.

The Rookie (2002) The true tale of Jim Morris, a middle-aged high school science teacher who loses a bet to his students, tries out for the majors and makes it. Though advertised as a kids’ movie, the script never condescends or collapses into silliness, and Morris’s tale is genuinely warming. Americans love the triumph of the underdog against all odds (and what’s more intimidating than growing old?), and The Rookie doesn’t disappoint in this regard: if you didn’t know it was a true story, who would believe a 35-year-old rookie who could throw a hundred miles per hour?

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