#10 The Natural 1984 – Baseball has a reputation as being a sedate relaxing sport that is somewhat like fishing. Those who love the sport can enjoy a 1-0 Pitching duel as much as a homerun derby. Baseball has always been “The Poetic” sport. It’s true Americana. Books like “The Boys of Summer” romanticize the sport. “The Natural” is more of a baseball portrait as it is a movie. In fact the movie can be boring at times. But this movie is just so damn beautiful. The Knights are one of the most well-known fictional sport teams that has had a successful merchandise market. (Selling Flannel Knights uniforms) Notable line: “Pick me a good bat Bobby”.
#9 Miracle on Ice – 1981 In the 1980 Olympics The U.S. Hockey team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Earlier in 1980, in an exhibition game, the Russian Olympic team beat the NHL All-Star team. So there was only one word that defined the 1980 Russian team. “Unbeatable”. Notable line: “I’m not looking for the best players. I’m looking for the right players”.(Spoken by coach Herb Brooks)I need to add that the few Russian friends I have told me that the 1980 Soviet team was told to throw the game by the Russian Mafia. This is very plausible and did ruin the movie for me.
#8 Rudy – 1993 Daniel E. Ruettiger “Rudy” grew up in a steel mill town that family generations worked at. The program went like this, finish high school sign up for work at the steel mill, drink beer on Saturdays while watching the Notre Dame fighting Irish down at the neighborhood pub. Retire at 65 with a gold watch and pension. But Rudy had a dream. (Those damn dreams). He wants to play for Notre Dame and not just watch them with a beer in his hand.
This movie is a true story about a boy who realized his dream at the cost of alienating his family and his would be fiancé. There’s only one major problem, (Well a couple) Rudy doesn’t have the grades to get into Notre Dame, and he’s half the size of the average college football player. This movie will make you feel warm and want to cry for Rudy, or it will depress you and make you want to cry about your own life. Notable line: “Come on, hit me damn it”. (When a larger player go easy on little Rudy)
#7 Cool Runnings – 1993 In the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics the world was pulling for what seemed to be a novelty. A teamed that was comprised of all black Jamaicans and a Canadian coach. Cool Runnings is not just a story about the Jamaican Bobsled Team, but about redemption and the eventual fulfillment of their dreams. It’s a story about a former bobsledder that illegally added weight to his bob sled, only to be strip of his medal and shamed into obscurity and a young Jamaican runner who injured himself in earlier Olympic trials. Notable line: “Jamaica’s got demselves a bobsled team mon”.
#6 Bull Durham 1988 – Up until 1988, the world had no Idea of the life of a minor league baseball team. Bull Durham is a fictional story of Crash Davis who is a lifetime minor league record holder. It’s an entertaining movie if you can stand Susan Sarandon’s acting. To add conflict to what would be a mundane documentary as life on minor league buses, the AA class Durham Bulls get Crash Davis in a trade where he’s demoted back to double A ball to handle a first round pitching prospect with an arm that throws 100 miles per hour. Crash proves himself to be the star of the team, while the kid gets called up the same season and not Crash. The movie shows how life is unfair. It’s the old minor league veteran’s knowledge that gets the pitching prospect called up. Once called up Durham has no use for an aging minor leaguer. Notable line: “I’m not interested in any woman that’s interested in that boy”.
#5 The Winning Team – 1952 (AKA The Grover Cleveland Alexander Story) In 1911 Grover Cleveland Alexander is a farmer who is blessed with a great pitching arm. But he’s also blessed with a supportive wife (Doris Day) who has her own dreams of Grover being a farmer and the two having children and living life as farmers. When given the chance to pitch against a professional team, Alexander throws a 3 hitter. The professional team offers Grover (Played by Ronald Reagan) a professional contract. The farmer convinces his fiancé that with the money he makes playing professional baseball, they’ll be able to buy a farm in no time. Ronald Reagan does an excellent job playing a ball player going through the ups and downs of injuries and meteoric stardom. This is a true story. Parts for the script were provided by Mrs. Alexander. Notable Line: “I’d love to pitch for your team but I’m going to be a farmer”.
#4 The Rookie-2002 In 1983 the fourth pick of the first round of the June draft in Major League Baseball; The Milwaukee Brewers chose Left handed pitcher Jim Morris from San Angelo University. Again, Jimmy was a kid who lived/loved baseball. The son of a senior enlisted Navy recruiter who had little compassion for dreams or dreamers. He was constantly moving from duty station to duty station. In 1986 after signing a minor league contract with the Brewers, Morris suffered a shoulder injury and possibly an elbow tendon tear. (I cannot find documentation on this but Morris’ comeback success is not unusual for those who have successful Tommy John surgery. (Elbow tendon reconstruction)
13 years later at the age of 35, Morris is coaching a high school baseball team and during one practice, his catcher asks him if he wants to throw a few. Morris has a habit of going out to an old baseball diamond by an abandoned oil field and throws a bucket of baseballs just to relax. His high school catcher sees him and invites him to throw to a real catcher. After a few soft tosses, his catcher says: “Come on coach, BRING IT”. Morris lets go of a 90 plus mile per hour fast ball that leaves everyone watching, jaw-dropping speechless.
The team knows how good he is and during a motivational speech about having dreams, his team says: “What about you coach”? End of speech! The team makes Morris a deal. If they win the district championship, he’ll try out for a professional baseball team. The team wins and Morris finds himself at a baseball tryout throwing 90 miles per hour. In 1999, Jim Morris threw his first inning in the majors for the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out the side with fastballs. This movie is about a second chance at your dreams. Notable Line: “How do you expect to go anywhere in life unless you have dreams”? (This was part of his motivational speech to his team).
#3 Pride of the Yankees 1942 (AKA The Lou Gehrig Story)The son of German immigrants to the United States, the young Lou Gehrig is always playing sandlot baseball. The Gehrig kid can hit the ball so far, he breaks shop windows. (Even the police comment on what power the young kid has). The movie is written around the personal life of Hall of Famer and legendary Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig. The same Lou Gehrig that had the dubious honor of having a fatal neural/skeletal disease named after him. Walter Brennan plays a big role in this movie. He’s the sports announcer that acts as the voice for the shy Gehrig while Babe Ruth (in person) does his own marketing. Much of the movie is about the Love between Lou and his wife, Lou and the city of New York and Lou and his non-believing parents. Most significantly, the movie is about the love between Lou and Baseball. Notable line: “Give it to me straight doc. I’m a man that likes to know his batting average”.
#2 The Longest Yard 1974 The “original” Longest Yard will make you sad, make you cry, will scare you, make you wet your pants laughing and will have you rooting. This is the fictional story of an all-star quarterback that gets prison time for taking his girlfriend’s Sports car. Burt Reynolds is easily at his finest in The Longest yard. The warden of the prison (Played by Eddie Albert) that Paul” The Wrecking” Crew ends up in, has pulled many strings to get the all-star quarterback into his correctional facility. The warden has a semi-pro team made up of the guards and wants Crew to coach the team. Reynolds’ character says: “I just want to do my time and I’m out of here”. This creates animosity between Albert and Reynolds then Crew eventually caves into the Warden’s demands that Crew put together a team of the inmates to play the guards. It was the Semi-Pros vs. The Cons. Burt Reynolds puts together a motivated team that is actually beating the warden’s team. Albert uses his power as warden to extort Crew at half-time into throwing the game. When the hero says: “I can’t do that”. The warden responds: “Why not? You’ve done it before”. Paul Crew was suspected of shaving points off of big games for gambling purposes. NOTABLE EXCHANGE: “Why did you do it”? ” Do what”? “You know, shave all those points off of those games. You could have killed a man, stole your momma’s pension check or robbed a bank and none of us would have cared, but shaving points off of a football game, man that’s just un-American”.
#1 Field Of Dreams 1989- All of us go through life with an unfulfilled issue with one parent (Author unknown). This movie combines all of the elements of all of the previously mentioned storylines with one exception, they add the element of science fiction. (Similar to Damn Yankees) Ray Kinsella is a former rebellious hippie from Berkeley who was the son of a former major league catcher for the Yankees who died before he could reconcile his differences with his father. Women may not get this and I might be misogynistic by saying this, but, there is a special bond between a son and dad playing catch. You don’t have to talk. You don’t need a reason. But it bonds father and son. Just as many say the father/daughter relationship is special, so is the bond that comes from playing catch with your dad. In Field of Dreams, the young Ray Kinsella is at war with his father and says: “He could never respect a man whose hero was a criminal”. (Referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson) Kinsella knew Jackson was not a criminal but spewed this just to be hurtful. When asked: “But you knew Joe Jackson was innocent”, Kinsella responds, yeah but the son of a bitch up and died before I could take it back”.
A voice coming from Ray’s corn field tells him to plow down his crops and build a baseball diamond. It was the ever so famous line: “If you build it; They will come”. The voice also tells him to: “Go the distance” which is followed by a dream Ray and his wife both have about Ray and a famous writer from Boston going to a game at Fenway Park. The writer “Terrence Mann” played by the great actor James Earl Jones is supposed to be J.D. Salinger in real life as Ray Kinsella often refers to his life of teenage angst. He also refers to reading “Catcher in the Rye”.
Once the field is built, it become inhabited by the ghosts of Baseball’s past, including shoeless Joe Jackson.
This movie has a wonderful soundtrack. It has photography that rivals that of “The Natural”, and it has Burt Lancaster. The Field actually exists in Dyersville, Iowa. I believe this to be the greatest sports movie of all time. Ironically, the movie has little to do with Baseball, but Baseball is the vehicle that makes the plot work. It’s a movie about Parent/child relationships. It’s a movie about redemption and of course it is a Field about dreams.
NOTABLE MENTION: “WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP”. There really are no wonderful movies about Basketball that don’t include Bugs Bunny. But in 1992 Warner Brothers teamed Woody Harrelson with Wesley Snipes for a fictional movie about a white and black 2 on 2 basketball team from Venice Beach in L.A. It’s well worth the money, and yes Woody can slam dunk. It would have made the list but it would have come in at #11. I just wanted to represent as many sports as possible. NOTABLE LINE: “We goin’ to Sizzler; We goin’ to Sizzler”