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The movies are a great conversation starterPosted Thursday, July 22, 2010, at 12:59 PM
Here's a chance for the reader and writer to either agree or disagree on something that is otherwise unimportant.
Sports Editor B.J. Hargis and I were sitting around talking about of all things, baseball movies.
Being the resident baseball junkie, I was then challenged by B.J. to compile my list for public consumption and was further challenged to back up my assertions.
Before I begin to list the movies I consider to be the best of the baseball sub-genre of sports movies, I'd like to preface it by saying there's no particular criteria beyond the premise that it must be about baseball.
Not in the manner such as Mr. Destiny where the lead character strikes out in the big game, thus forcing him to re-evaluate his life, but rather baseball should be the main theme.
With that less than stellar and most obvious of all notions in mind, here we go ranking the top five from bottom to top.
Coming in a No. 5 in my list is the Gary Cooper biopic about Lou Gehrig entitled "Pride of the Yankees."
This one is almost a no-brainer.
Not only does it offer an historical look at one of the most determined and durable players in the history of the sport, it also offers some insight into what it must have been like to be a ballplayer in his era.
The 1942 classic starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig and Teresa Wright as Eleanor Twitchell Gehrig, gave us a glimpse of the Iron Horse and portrayed him as the likeable and steady player he appeared to be from all accounts.
Coming in at No. 4, and remember this is just my personal opinion, is what B.J. calls a "cult classic" the original Bad News Bears starring Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal and a cast of several of the most entertaining youth teams a person could ever find.
This ranks in the top five simply because it portrays the game at it's simplest and most basic level, with lots of everyday color and circumstance thrown in -- along with one of the most unforgettable set of players ever conceived.
You have Tanner Butler, the small, yet mouthy infielder who speaks his mind no matter what the situation.
There's Timothy Lupus, the kid that always got picked last, picked on and looked past.
There's Rudi Stein, the big slow kid that couldn't really be an athlete on any team but the Bears.
There's the nerdy Ogilvie who's better at keeping stats than compiling them and then there's the dynamic duo of the team Kelly Leak and Amanda Whurlitzer.
The two (played by Jackie Earle Haley and Tatum O'Neal respectively) play off of each other quite well.
Haley, who is the new Freddie Krueger, portrays the tough Kelly Leak who can not only play ball better than anybody else in the league, but is also the typical outlaw/outcast while Amanda is the pioneer and first girl in the league and perhaps the most talented pitcher in the league as well.
There's the ever-obnoxius catcher Engelberg who is the epitome of every fat kid playing ball in the 70's.
And finally there's the highly uncouth coach Morris Buttermaker. A man who makes us all believe that baseball is really more than just a chance to get dirty.
Now is where some of you will either fall into line with me or will say I'm even farther off base.
Coming in at No. 3 is Major League starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. The colorful group of major league screw-ups brought together to force the Cleveland Indians to relocate to Miami by a widow showgirl owner.
The film shows how uniting the sport can be for a group of people who likely couldn't make it anywhere else.
Next comes a pair of films by Kevin Costner.
At No. 2 it's Bull Durham, simply one for true baseball fans.
It gives us not only a lighthearted look at the game from the aspect of three people, an aging veteran catcher on his way to a dubious record (hitting the most home runs in minor league baseball history), a brash young rookie fireballer with about as much maturity as a six year old locked in a candy store with an empty stomach and deep pockets and a female fan searching for a real identity and a real good time in a place where the biggest thing to happen each summer is the Durham Bulls.
It not only tells a good tale, it also supports the belief by some hardcore baseball fans that the sport is more than just a sport.
Take part of Annie Savoy's opening when she tells the audience that a baseball has 108 stitches, the same number of beads on a catholic rosary, does that set a stage or what.
Finally coming in at the top of the heap is Costner's fantasy vehicle based on a novel by Ray Kinsella "Field of Dreams."
Just in case you didn't get it, the movie (and the novel) is about more than the emergence of the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the game's early stars.
But its rather about how baseball has become as much a part of our lives as any sport and how it can both bind and separate father and son, husband and wife, brother and sister, family and friends.
Well there you have it, my top five. Don't get me wrong there's plenty more baseball movies that rank in the top 25 or so including Eight Men Out, The Rookie, The Natural, The Babe, Angels in the Outfield and more.
But these are my top five and while I figure most of you won't agree with me entirely, at least give me credit for trying.
Rick is a sports writer with the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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