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I am one of those people that always gets sucked into reading those click bait lists that count down the “greatest/best/worst/craziest” whatever… During this time of social distancing, everyone seems to have a plethora of time on their hands to watch things on the TV. Because of this and because Angie and I, like so many other people right now, are missing baseball beyond that which man can comprehend, we have decided to come up with our own list of what WE consider the top 20 baseball movies of all time. Please check back for the next 20 days and tell us what you think. With any of these lists, there is certain to be some great movies missing and some you have never heard of that you may want to watch. Keep in mind, these are movies that we love for many different reasons. They might not all be the most critically acclaimed big screen gems, but they added something to our baseball lives and we wanted to share them with you. We would LOVE to hear back from anyone and everyone, whether you think this list is great, or garbage, or interesting, or fun, or lacking, or adding to your own baseball life in any way. Follow us on Instagram @smallballamerica and check out our reviews for each movie here on our website. Enjoy!!!
# 20 The Final Season (2007)
“Norway is Baseball.”
We are starting our list of top 20 baseball movies we love with the great, but lesser known film, The Final Season. This movie, based on a true story, chronicles the 1991 season (the “final” season) of the Norway, Iowa Tigers high school baseball team.
The Norway High School baseball team was a powerhouse in the state of Iowa for decades, winning 19 state championships entering the 1991 season. However, the small town of Norway was faced with the hard reality that their school was going to be consolidated with a nearby district and NHS would cease to exist after the ‘91 baseball season. Through a series of events and decisions made by those in charge of the district, legendary coach Jim Van Scoyoc, the man at the helm for 12 of those 19 state titles, would not be leading the Tigers for their last run at a state championship. That job would fall to Van Scoyoc’s assistant Kent Stock, who had never been the head coach of a baseball team before.
The Final Season tells the gritty, heartwarming story of Coach Stock and the Tigers as they make one more run at a state title while at the same time showing the hard reality of a small town dealing with the loss of their school and the town’s identity. Director David Mickey Evens (The Sandlot, Radio Flyer, Ed) does a wonderful job of telling the story of this small Iowa town where baseball and community meant everything to the people living there. We think you will really enjoy this new classic. Give it a go and please let us know what you think!
Check out the Trailer for The Final Season
Did you love this movie? Share your thoughts!
# 19 Rookie of the Year (1993)
“Pitcher’s got a big butt…”
Ok, so this Rookie of the Year isn’t exactly the Citizen Kane of baseball movies, but it is pretty fun. Any kid who grew up in the ‘90’s is a little nostalgic for this one. It was a great day when you could trade your ‘89 Fleer Billy Ripken with F— Face on the knob to your best friend for a ‘91 Upper Deck Jordan taking BP with the Sox and two Phil Plantiers, then grab a cherry Squeeze-It and watch Rookie of the Year.
This classic baseball movie is about a young Cubs fan named Henry Rowengartner who loves baseball, but isn’t exactly a “superstar” when it comes to playing the game. However, during a mishap while playing at school Henry falls and breaks his throwing arm. After his cast comes off, Henry finds that his arm has healed in such a way that he is able to throw a baseball VERY fast! The hilarity really takes off from there, as Henry may or may not end up pitching for his favorite team, the Cubs.
This movie features some fun names from the ‘90’s like Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie series), Gary Busey (Buddy Holly Story, Point Break), Daniel Stern (Home Alone I & II, The Wonder Years), and Eddie Bracken (Vacation, Home Alone II, Baby’s Day Out). Again, sometimes a film moves us more because of what it meant to us when we watched it, not because it is an Oscar winning, tour de force. This is one of those. Give it a whirl if you’ve never seen it, or jump back to the ‘90’s again if you’ve got nothing else going on.
Check out the trailer for Rookie of the Year
Is this movie in your top #20? Let us know if you love Rookie of the Year!
# 18 Moneyball (2011)
“When your enemy’s making mistakes, don’t interrupt him.”
There are some that think Moneyball is the best baseball movie ever made, bar none… I am not one of those people. I really like Moneyball, but I don’t love it. It is a very interesting movie that tells a fascinating story, and has very good acting, which is sometimes missing in sports movies. However, it lacks the romanticism, majesty, nostalgia, (or sappiness) etc… of other baseball movies. That is not bad in any way, but because we love movies that have those things, we are putting Moneyball at 18 on our list. That said, this is a very good movie and I know people will strongly disagree with it being this low on the list.
Moneyball is a true baseball story about big market & small market teams, statistics, and thinking outside the box. It follows Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, who is running one of those small market teams that just can’t seem to compete with those big salary teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers when it comes to keeping players and signing big name free agents. They simply lack the monetary resources. So, Beane thinks by valuing other statistics, data points, and players who can do things that will fit his “program,” the A’s can get to the promised land.
Moneyball stars such hard hitters as Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and Chris Pratt among others. If you are a baseball fan, you know the A’s haven’t quite gotten all the way there yet, but Billy Beane’s thinking has revolutionized baseball and the way the game is played at all levels. As I have said, it is a very interesting, good movie with excellent acting and a very good story. There will be some that love this movie, and some that will say, “eh.” It is an important movie to watch if you are having problems understanding why baseball has changed over the past 10-15 years. Overall, it’s a pretty good one. Enjoy.
Check out the Trailer for Moneyball
Where does this movie land in your Top #20?
# 17 Cobb (1994)
“Baseball is a red blooded sport for red blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and molly-coddles had better stay out… It’s a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest.”
Next on our list of great baseball movies is the “official/unofficial” true story of one of the greatest baseball players and hitters of all time, Ty Cobb. Cobb recounts the life of the “Georgia Peach” through the storytelling of his biographer, sportswriter, Al Stump.
Cobb chronicles the relationship of the baseball great and the sportswriter hired to follow him around and take notes on the superstar so that a biography can shed light on the “true” story of Ty Cobb. However, as Al Stump finds out, there is more to the “misunderstood” story of Ty Cobb. That is to say, most people have the story straight already. Ty Cobb was a hard man to know, be around, and love… or even like, and that is portrayed in this movie. There are some great baseball scenes from the early days of the game in this film, as well as inside stories about some of the game’s first real stars.
Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Lonesome Dove, Lincoln) does his usual great job in portraying Cobb. Even though it is a little more difficult to see him play Cobb as a young man in the flashback scenes, he still does a great job. Robert Wuhl is also in this movie, playing the sportswriter, Al Stump (Batman, Bull Durham, Arliss). This is a darker movie overall, and surely doesn’t give us the warm fuzzy feeling of so many other sports movies, but it tells a story that should be known about a ballplayer so great he should never be forgotten.
Watch the Trailer to Cobb
# 16 The Rookie(2002)
“You know what we get to do today Brooks? We get to play baseball.”
At #16 is the newer classic The Rookie. This movie tells one of those stories that is just so unreal, that if you didn’t know it was true, you probably wouldn’t believe it. That is what makes it a very good film to watch and enjoy. For those of us approaching (or in) middle age, it is also a movie that is very relatable in regards to missing and appreciating being able to play the game.
The story is pretty straightforward. It Chronicles the comeback story of a failed minor league pitcher, Jim Morris. Jim is teaching and coaching at a high school in Texas, well into his 30’s, when he gets the itch to play again. He is pushed by his team and those around him to give it another shot. So, after a lot of back and forth, he does. The movie goes on to tell an incredible true story that is hard not to shed a few tears to.
The Rookie stars Dennis Quaid (Midway, Frequency, The Big Easy), as the fireballer Jim Morris, and Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Blow, Saving Mr. Banks) as his tough Texas wife. As I said, have a Kleenex ready if you have played and love the game, or if you just like a good story. The Rookie is a well done movie with great acting that tells a fascinating story. If you have not seen it, give it a try.
Watch the Trailer for The Rookie
# 15 Trouble with the Curve(2012)
“Now get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you!.”
Trouble With the Curve is a film about an old time baseball scout named Gus Lobel. It’s a fictional story that follows Gus, a talent evaluator in his “golden years” some might say, and his estranged daughter as they venture out on a scouting assignment together to North Carolina.
During their trip, Gus and his daughter Mickey try to work through some of their “issues.” It is mostly Mickey who wants to work through them, but the crotchety old timer is forced to tell his side of the story as he needs Mickey’s help on this trip (his eyes are failing him). Along the way there is a love interest for Mickey and Gus exercises some demons as well.
This is a good movie that all can enjoy. It intertwines old ideals and new ways of thinking and shows how a young woman can thrive in an industry usually dominated by men. It stars Clint Eastwood as Gus (Dirty Hairy, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven…), score one for the old guys. Amy Adams is Mickey (Enchanted, American Hustle, The Fighter), score one for the young guys, and Justin Timberlake as Mickey’s love interest Johnny (The Social Network, Trolls), score one for all the ladies! Others who make appearances include John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, and Scott Eastwood. This is a pretty good movie that tells a great story where baseball is the backdrop to everything else going on. That said, it is still all about the game.
Watch the Trailer for Trouble with the Curve
# 14 Fever Pitch(2005)
“I like being part of something that’s bigger than me, than I. It’s good for your soul to invest in something you can’t control.”
Here we have the first real love story on the list. Actually, there are two love stories in one. We have the love story between two people, Ben and Lindsey, who meet when Ben, a teacher, brings his math class to Lindsey’s office for a field trip. Then there is the love story between Ben and his beloved Boston Red Sox.
Fever Pitch follows work obsessed Lindsey and Red Sox obsessed Ben as they navigate what seems like a perfect match. They meet in the off season while they both have plenty of time to hang out together. It seemed like their summer would work out for them both. While Lindsey was working toward a promotion Ben could attend every game at Fenway. As the season played out, work and baseball were creating difficulties in their relationship. It all came to a head at the end of the season when each had decisions to make that would change the trajectory of their relationship.
Fever Pitch is a love story about two people with strong feelings about life and priorities. Ben is played by Jimmy Fallon (Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show) and Drew Barrymore plays the role of Lindsey (ET, The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates). This movie intertwines both a fun love story and what it means to be a true fan. Die hard baseball fans will appreciate the commitment shown by Ben and others will enjoy the love story that plays out on the screen. There is a good mix of both that all can enjoy.
Watch the Trailer for Fever Pitch
# 13 Chasing 3000(2010)
“… No ballplayer meant more to us than Clemente… Nobody!”
To be honest, Chasing 3000 should probably be higher on this list, but it followed our made up system of ranking these movies, so here it is at 13. This film is based on the true story of two brothers traveling across the country in order to get to Pittsburgh in time to see Roberto Clemente get his 3000th hit.
Chasing 3000 takes place in 1972, and follows teenage brothers Mickey and Roger as they travel alone from California to Pittsburgh, or “the Burgh” in order to see their beloved Roberto Clemente achieve the tremendous milestone of 3000 hits. The boys spent their entire lives in Pittsburgh, but because Roger suffers from MD, their mother decided it might be better for his health to move the family to California. No one is happy there, and all three family members miss Pittsburgh and the Pirates. As the summer winds down and the baseball season is ending, Clemente is inching closer and closer to 3000 hits. With only a few games left in the season, Mickey and Roger decide to drive themselves to Pittsburgh to be a part of the big moment. However, nothing is ever as easy at it seems.
Chasing 3000 stars Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams, Goodfellas, Wild Hogs) as the adult Mickey, retelling the story, Trevor Morgan (The Patriot, Jurassic Park III) as the younger Mickey, and Rory Culkin (Signs, Scream 4) as Roger. This film also features Lauren Holly as the boys’ mother and Seymour Cassel as their “Poppy.” This is a great movie! I would strongly urge everyone to watch it. It tells a great story (true story), the acting is very good all the way around, the soundtrack is very good, and it explains very well why baseball has a romance to it that so many feel deep in their souls. Watch this movie!
# 12 Summer Catch(2001)
“If you want big rewards, you gotta take big risks.”
Summer Catch is a typical early 2000 movie with a good looking “regular guy” who falls for the good looking out of his league girl. A fun little look at collegiate summer baseball league and all that goes along with it from small town fun to the fans who support the players in the quest for a leg up in the summer league. We love this movie because of the fun and innocence we see in the young men chasing a dream and learning who they are in the process.
Summer Catch takes place in Cape Cod, MA. Ryan Dunn, a promising baseball player, leaves the college and comes back to his home in Cape Cod to work with his father. During the summer, he trains with the local team under the guidance of a rude coach, John Schiffner. Ryan falls in love with Tenley Parrish, a rich girl whose family summers on Cape Cod. Her family does not like the connection between the two and that poses a major problem.
Summer Catch stars Freddie Prinze, Jr. (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scooby Doo, She’s All That) as Ryan Dunn and Jessica Biel (7th Heaven, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The A-Team ) as Tenley Parrish. This film also features Matthew Lillard & Wilmer Valderrama as Dunn’s teammates. You will also see Brittany Murphy as a local girl & Beverly D’Angelo makes an appearance as a host to one of the ball players. This is a fun movie! That makes you laugh and crave summer ball.
# 11 The Natural (1984)
“Pick me out a winner Bobby.”
The Natural is a movie that so many people absolutely love. However, there are some that think it’s just Ok. Honestly, lately we tend to feel a little meh, when it comes to this movie. It is certainly a classic, and it’s not a bad movie in any way, but I think it’s possible that this is one of those movies I’ve just seen too many times. The Natural tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a middle-aged baseball player who comes, virtually out of nowhere, to take the 1930’s baseball world by storm.
The Natural follows the fictional New York Knights, a team wallowing near the bottom of the standings until a new player arrives that no one has ever heard of before. After a rocky beginning, the new player helps turn the Knights around in an almost unbelievable fashion! There are other backstories that move the film along, but baseball is indeed the driver of this movie.
There are some pretty heavy hitters in The Natural. It stars Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs (Jeremiah Johnson, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Out of Africa), Robert Duvall (Lonesome Dove, The Godfather), Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, 101 Dalmations), and Kim Basinger (Batman, LA Confidential). Others you will recognize in this movie include Wilfred Brimley and Barbara Hershey. Overall, The Natural is a very good movie, and if you have not seen it, it is absolutely a must watch for any baseball fan!
# 10 Eight Men Out (1988)
“Say it isn’t so Joe…”
Next on our list is the classic, Eight Men Out. This movie is about the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919. It follows the Chicago White Sox and the eight players that “threw” the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Eight Men Out tells the story of such baseball greats as, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, and Chick Gandil among others. This movie does a great job of retelling this famous story and very much personalizes it for fans that never knew or got to even see footage of these players and this World Series. In the end, it’s a tragic tale of these players and the team they played for as well as a cheap owner and gamblers that were much more common that not during the early days of sports in America.
Eight Men Out stars John Cusack (High Fidelity, Say Anything), Charlie Sheen (Major League, Two & a Half Men), and DB Sweeney (The Cutting Edge). Other recognizable faces include Bill Irwin, John Mahoney, and Studs Terkel. This is an excellent movie about one of baseball’s darkest times. Every baseball fan should watch this movie in order to understand and appreciate why gambling is not tolerated under any circumstance in the game of baseball.
# 9 The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
“Today, I consider myself, the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
We’re inside of ten now on the list. Here we have the classic, The Pride of the Yankees. This movie follows the life and times of Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, from his childhood until his untimely demise. This one is great and must see for any baseball fan.
The Pride of the Yankees chronicles the life of legendary baseball player and Yankee great Lou Gehrig. The movie begins with Gehrig as a boy, moves through his time at Columbia University, Shows all of his great moments with the Bronx Bombers, and ends with his incredible speech to Yankee fans as his career ended due to ALS or, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
This film stars Gary Cooper (Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls), and Teresa Wright (The Best Years of our Lives). The fun thing about this movie is it also features other Yankee stars and Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, and Mark Koenig. The Pride of the Yankees is an absolute must see for any baseball fan. It tells much more than a story about a great baseball player, it tells the story of an American legend!
# 8 42 (2013)
“It means someday you’re gonna meet God, and when he inquires as to why you didn’t take the field against Robinson in Philadelphia, and you answer that it’s because he was a Negro, it may not be a sufficient reply”
The next movie on the list tells the true story of a true baseball legend. 42 is about Jackie Robinson and the trials and tribulations he went through as he and Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, worked together to break baseball’s color barrier, allowing Robinson to be the first African American baseball player in the Major Leagues.
42 tells the devastatingly true story of Jackie Robinson and all he went through as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in order to be the man to successfully break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Robinson was instructed to play the game and put up with incessant racism without ever fighting back. It took its toll on Jackie, but also allowed him the opportunity to keep playing as well allow others to quickly follow in his footsteps and truly integrate the game.
This movie is a must see. It tells a great story that all should watch to better understand what it means to be an American. 42 stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson (Black Panther), Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (Indiana Jones…, Star Wars), and Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson (Shame, American Violet). If you’ve never seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s not just a baseball movie, it’s a history.
# 7 The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training(1977)
“Let’s win one for the Looper...”
“Let them play! Let them play! Let them play!”
Ok, maybe this one is just too sentimental for us. Maybe it’s because it was made the year I was born. Maybe it’s because we used this movie to motivate us when we were on a losing streak in high school. Maybe it’s because I still watch this movie at least once a year. Maybe it’s because it’s a little inappropriate for kids, but kids are the stars. I don’t know why, but I love this movie!
The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, is about a little league team that wins a regional tournament and gets the chance to play a game in the “new” Houston Astrodome! However, the team lacks a coach, but that doesn’t stop them… They simply hop in a stolen van (classic 70’s shaggin’ wagon) and head for “the dome.” There are twists and turns along the way and the ring leader, Kelly, reunites with his father in Texas and he helps lead the Bears as their coach for the game.
This movie is awesome! You may have noticed that the original Bad News Bears is not on the list, but this one is… Well, we love this one. It stars Bad News Bears regulars Jackie Earle Haley as Kelly Leak (Watchmen, Shutter Island), and Chris Barnes as Tanner Boyle. Other Bears include Jimmy Baio, Brett Marx, and Erin Blunt. The movie also stars William Devane and Clifton James. If you have not seen this version of the Bad News Bears, do yourself a favor and watch it!
# 6 61 (2001)
“Most of us, we bang around the game for a while, then we are forgotten. Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, DiMaggio, those guys were bigger than the game, and I know that is not what you want. But right now, whether you like it or not, you’re bigger than the game. And this is your chance to go out there and show them what you’re made of, and that you owe to yourself. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you start the game, and at any moment you want to get out, you give me a look, and I’ll take you out.”
I am too young to have watched the race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record but I can only imagine the way people were in awe of these two men. Babe Ruth was and is a legend to measure a baseball player by and these two, also Yankees, were two amazing men. 1961 was a year that was memorable for so many. I am old enough to have watched Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa on the race to break the Maris record. That summer was magical for our family as it was also the year our daughter was born. I know it was hard for the Maris family to watch their dad’s record surpassed but also very supportive as Mark Maguire passed him up in St. Louis.
The year was ironically 1961. The movie 61 follows Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as they find themselves neck and neck in a battle to break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record for the most home runs in a season. These men were very different in their personal and professional lives. They had different priorities and different ways of dealing with the stress of the matter at hand as well as the press that hounded them daily. At the heart of this movie is the trials of both Mantle & Maris and how the hardship affected their bond and affection for one another.
We really enjoyed the movie solidly directed by Billy Crystal, a huge baseball fan! It stars Thomas Jane (Boogie Nights, Arrested Development, Hung) as the hard partying Mantle and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, True Grit, The Green Mile) as the reserved family man, Maris . 61 also features Richard Masur as Milt Kahn and Anthony Hall as Whitey Ford. This movie is for the die hard baseball fans who want to relive the race to break one of the most famed records in sports history.