For over one-hundred years, baseball has been America’s pastime. Being summer, I can’t wait to catch my first Sky Sox game of the season. Now, over the years there have been plenty of classics filmed in honor of the fall classic. We’ve all wanted to walk through a Field of Dreams, get batting tips from The Natural, cry for the Pride of the Yankees, and stare down Wild Thing (pre-Sheen meltdown) in the Major League. But, when was the last great baseball film? Where are all the movies to remind us why baseball has been a time honored tradition for so many decades?
The last baseball film that I can remember that was even remotely good was 2002’s The Rookie; which I would hardly call a classic. The 80’s and 90’s were jam packed with plenty of great baseball fare. For example, as mentioned before, The Natural (1984), Eight Men Out (1988), and pretty much every other Kevin Costner movie. In the 90’s some of the more popular films became a bit more kiddie with Rookie of the Year (‘93), The Sandlot (’93) and Angels in the Outfield (’94), but with some grown-up features thrown in like A League of Their Own (’92) and Cobb (’94). Not to mention baseball films have proven to be not only commercial successes, but also critical ones garnering numerous Oscar nominations. So what happened!?
I blame steroids. They’re an easy scapegoat, but so many classic baseball films emphasized the purity of the game and the heroes who made it the national pastime. It’s a little difficult to convincingly showcase the honor of a sport when some of its biggest stars of the time are cheating. Billy Crystal’s *61 (2001) is about removing an asterisk from the record books when just several months later so many fans would demand they be added to many more. Not enough time has passed yet for people to forget that betrayed feeling when they found their favorite player was juicing, so the cinemas lay dormant. So when will movies be ready to revisit the diamond?
The best news for film is that baseball has been around for an extremely long time. In over a century of existence there has to be a diamond in the rough type story to bring baseball films back to glory. I’m absolutely shocked they’ve only made one Jackie Robinson biopic and it’s from the fifties. How about a Jim Abbott biography, the guy pitched and fielded with one hand! Or the most hated man in baseball, (not Alex Rodriguez) Pete Rose’s tragic gambling tale could make for a gripping story. Those are three extremely undeveloped ideas that don’t come close to scratching the potential of what’s out there.
So, if you’re a huge baseball fan like me just hold on to the classics for now, until the studios are ready to take a chance. And if you’re wondering if this is heaven, just remember, no it’s Iowa.