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The Best Baseball Movie of All Time: Elite Eight

After a few early upsets, our field has been trimmed in half.

Sure, you may be getting ballot box fatigue, with our Veterans’ Committee vote, Hall of Fame ballot, upcoming White Sox Hall of Fame, Top Prospect Polls, and whatever other joke poll I can insert into a story. But cinch it up and strap it down for a fun late-week foray into baseball on film!

We’re on to the Elite Eight! Given that the seeding is a little goofy anyway, we can’t really call anything an upset. But we can say that of the first eight matchups, really just one battle went down to the wire.

First Round Results

Moneyball 52%, The Natural 48% (109-102)
Our closest battle, with Moneyball jumping out to an early lead, The Natural storming back to take control, but the metrics movie prevailing in the end.

The Sandlot 88%, Take Me Out to the Ballgame 12% (156-22)
Not the biggest blowout of the first round, but close, as this was never a contest. If Damn Yankees had subbed in, maybe the laffer would have been just 80-20%.

Looking ahead: With support like this, The Sandlot might be poised to upset Moneyball in the Elite Eight.

Eight Men Out 60%, 42 40% (107-71)
Our only other close battle of the first round.

Major League 71%, The Pride of the Yankees 29% (134-55)
For those of us who think Major League is woefully overrated, maybe it not breaking 80% is an encouraging sign.

Looking ahead: An ultimate gritty reality vs. silly fiction matchup. Hard to say what will win out.

Field of Dreams 89%, The Stratton Story 11% (164-21)
The biggest blowout of the first round is a Field of Dreams win? Someone offer some smelling salts to Colleen Sullivan and Chrystal O’Keefe.

Bull Durham 83%, Bang the Drum Slowly 17% (151-31)
Bobby D never had a chance to catch Nuke LaLoosh.

Looking ahead: These two blowouts set up a hipsters vs squares, Costner vs. Costner battle in the Elite Eight.

A League of Their Own 86%, The Bingo Long All-Stars & Motor Pool 14% (155-26)
As pointed out in comments, a brutal matchup for Bingo Long. Perhaps A League of Their Own benefited from the best bracket placement in the entire tournament.

The Bad News Bears ’76 71%, Sugar 29% (120-50)
Sugar broke out to an early lead here, then saw all its support vaporize. Given the number of fans who’ve actually seen the film, this is a reputable showing.

Looking ahead: Could be doom for da Bears. Do not underestimate the Peaches.


The Elite Eight

Moneyball (2011)
Kristina Airdo

If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is Moneyball, I just have one question … HOW HAVE YOU NOT?! Plus Brad Pitt is in the movie, which is honestly a win for everyone. Am I biased? Yes … but we’re not talking about me right now!

The movie focuses on general manager Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who embark on a journey to rebuild a once-competitive, small-market baseball team with a VERY limited budget. Statistics were often overlooked by an industry that focused on basic stats such as AVG/HR/RBI, which may not show the whole picture of a player’s value on a team. Assistant GM Peter Brand, an econ grad, pitches a seemingly radical idea of focusing on unique player metrics, such as OBP and SLG%, as a way to better understand a player’s potential value to a team. A lot of feathers were ruffled within the organization and the clubhouse, believing that taking an analytical approach would destroy the team (spoiler alert! It didn’t).

While the A’s had a slow start to the 2002 season, they quickly turned things around and went on a record-breaking, 20-game tear to win the AL West. As a baseball fan, it’s sad that we don’t get the happy ending of a World Series title as Billy Beane intended, but this new “Moneyball” approach would go on to impact the game in a way no one expected. The 2004 Boston Red Sox were able to utilize these tactics to break their 86-year World Series drought, and since then teams have been constantly working to stay ahead of the curve and find the next edge in baseball.

As White Sox fans, we argued all season long about whether or not Yasmani Grandal is a valuable player to the team, many noting his low BA in the .100’s ... but he had something you couldn’t SEE in the stats. Let’s not forget his insane slash line with a nearly .400 OBP, which showed his hidden value by still getting on base at a high rate, and eventually made him one of the most impactful players for the White Sox. If you love baseball as much as I do, my homework for you is to watch Moneyball ASAP, and if you’ve already watched it, well … you love baseball right? Watch it again.

I leave you White Sox fans with one final question: Why do we like Yasmani Grandal?

The Sandlot (1993)
Delia Ritchie

The Sandlot provides a nostalgia-laced glimpse at how baseball can unite even the most unlikeliest of people, especially youths. Although the film takes place in 1962 primarily, it ends in a similar, but slightly different way to Stand By Me (1986); two of the main characters, Scottie Smalls and his sandlot mentor, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, are shown as adults and still loving the game of baseball. Because to Benny, “baseball was more than just a game.”

One of my favorite scenes is likely one of yours, when the kids all get together on the Fourth of July to play baseball with fireworks blasting around them. Benny hits a home run, but everyone is focused on the sky. With Ray Charles’ perfect cover of “America the Beautiful” illustrating the fireworks, the picturesque, dirt-covered sandlot felt just like a Major League Baseball stadium and the most Americana 60’s outlook on life — especially the wonder from all of the infielders staring at the reds, whites, and blues exploding and cracking as the scene plays out.

Although there’s plenty of witty exchanges and a unique cast (notably, Denis Leary and James Earl Jones), this movie is lauded (and rightfully so) as one of the best baseball movies, especially amongst my age demographic of college-age adults who cling to childhood memories of saying “you’re killing me Smalls!” to aggravate our non-baseball fan friends.

The Sandlot provides an outlook at the way baseball can alter our lives in the most unexpected ways, even if some of the players grew up in mysterious circumstances.

Poll

Which is the better baseball movie?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Moneyball
    (63 votes)
  • 48%
    The Sandlot
    (59 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now

Eight Men Out (1988)
Joe Resis

This film is a fascinating depiction of what many refer to as the biggest scandal in MLB history. Before the players’ union existed, the culture surrounding player vs. owner issues was entirely different. Mainly, players had very little leverage in 1919, which the film clarifies. As a result, viewers can grasp the decision-making process of the players involved in the scandal.

The film also shows the brief aftermath, which includes how Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball, received power and set a precedent for future commissioners. After being granted the large amount of power he demanded, Landis later received credit for restoring integrity to MLB and taking a stand against gambling by those affiliated with the league. However, he has earned criticism for the controversial lifetime (and now post-lifetime) bans of Buck Weaver and Joe Jackson. (Weaver, especially, played at most, a minimal role and was banned for awareness of foul play and failing to “promptly tell his club about it.”) The scandal essentially laid the groundwork for Landis to take control of baseball, and the scandal was so large that owners were desperate for someone to restore order.

Regardless of where viewers fall on the appreciation scale regarding Landis, however, the film does a nice job showing how seriously owners were about making sure nothing of that sort would happen again. One minor critique of the film is that other teams’ players’ treatment is not addressed adequately. Charles Comiskey, who is vilified, was hardly an unusual owner compared to others of that era in that respect.

Major League (1989)
Zach Hayes

Look, Major League has a lot of problems. Like many films of, well, even today, it conflates stalking with romance, it’s filled with boorish, inappropriate humor, and employs a fair share of racial tropes that certainly don’t stand the test of time.

Unfortunately, this is true of most baseball movies. So as far as the actual baseball goes, no film has ever quite managed to capture the thrill, the suspense, the essence of the day-to-day grind of baseball like Major League. There’s no manufactured drama, nor is there any need: With characters like Ricky Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes, Pedro Cerrano, and Roger Dorn, you don’t need to try very hard. Say what you want about Charlie Sheen — and there’s a lot to say — but he’s certainly got more entertainment value than Kevin Costner.

Rachel Phelps may or may not have been a mishmash of real-life figures, but anybody who’s watched Ted Lasso knows the endurance of such a character. The irony of Clu Haywood might be lost on some, but not those who recognize 1982 Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich in the role of the Yankees’ beefy slugger.

And, of course, there’s Bob Uecker. Juuuuuust a bit outside. What more needs to be said?

Poll

Which is the better baseball movie?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Eight Men Out
    (43 votes)
  • 64%
    Major League
    (78 votes)
121 votes total Vote Now

Field of Dreams (1989)
Brett Ballantini

What folks don’t seem to get about Field of Dreams is that it is a sports fantasy. There are ghosts. A reclusive writer (J.D. Salinger, changed for the movie because, well, J.D. was a bit of a curmudgeon, yeah) decides to join a farmboy stranger on a quixotic quest to “go the distance.” Yes, if you live in the boonies and your kid is choking on a hot dog, you may well need to summon a ballplayer ghost doctor like the delectable Burt Lancaster to save her. Ray Liotta turns Joe Jackson into a righthander. Dead players come to life. Father and son “have a catch.”

But hey, it’s a fantasy. Get past it. Sure, the movie trips a bit over a Hallmark line, but if you watched Ray Kinsella and his father “have” that catch toward the end without a tear in your eye, you are a robot.

Bull Durham (1988)
Tommy Barbee

From the opening sequence, where Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) waxes poetic about the “Church of Baseball” in a way that combines bumper sticker wisdom and romantic optimism, it’s easy to see what makes Bull Durham a unique baseball movie. Yes, others are more realistic or even better at building the mythology of baseball, but I would argue none are as quotable — even 34 years later. While there are definite nods to nostalgia, the most obvious being a featured role of prominent baseball “clown” Max Patkin, it isn’t overdone and helps contextualize the romanticism with which Annie approaches baseball as an entity. To help ground her world is the cynicism and naivety of “Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner) and “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins). The chemistry of the three (Robbins and Sarandon went on to be a Hollywood couple for 30 years, thanks to the film) elevates an already-rich script into movie moments that are still critically-acclaimed today.

Poll

Which is the better baseball movie?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Field of Dreams
    (68 votes)
  • 45%
    Bull Durham
    (56 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now

A League of Their Own (1992)
Jacki Krestel

A League of Their Own is the fictional account of two sisters who were founding members of the very nonfictional All American Girls Professional Baseball League. This movie is a bonafide classic. It literally has everything a baseball-loving moviegoer could want: a great cast, story, baseball content — and an added sprinkle of historical charm.

It’s also extremely quotable, from the iconic “There’s no crying in baseball!” to the less-appreciated “Well, it’d bruise the hell out of me.”

So wonderful is this movie that we can even overlook the ties it has to the team that plays on the north side of town. (Phillip Wrigley, fictionalized as “Walter Harvey” in the movie, was the founder of the AAGPBL.)

On a personal note, I chose to hype this movie because when I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was a ballplayer. It didn’t take long for me to learn that I wouldn’t always be immediately welcomed by sports culture at large. Women like me are often seen as novelties. A League of Their Own was released when I was 10 years old, and it made me feel a little more normal for loving the game so much — a little less like a novelty. As one character aptly put it: “I mean, look. There’s a lot of us. I think we’re all alright.”

The Bad News Bears (1976)
Brett Ballantini

Well, on one hand, this movie dates very poorly, with children miming some of the ugliest racial epithets you’ll ever experience in a baseball, er, any movie. But, it is a product of its time, given that nary a critic winced, often praising the clever dialogue of the film. And if you are able to excise such language — perhaps watching an edited-for-TV version? — the film is pretty fun, perhaps even inspirational, as an underdog story.

Walter Matthau is the Bears’ crude manager, Tatum O’Neal the unlikely star hurler.

Think this movie wasn’t a phenomenon? There were two quick sequels, a short-lived TV series, and, 30 years later, a theatrical remake casting Billy Bob Thornton in the Budweiser-guzzling Matthau role.

Poll

Which is the better baseball movie?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    A League of Their Own
    (93 votes)
  • 22%
    The Bad News Bears ’76
    (27 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now

Please continue to give us your feedback on these matchups, and movies we missed, in the “new and improved” comments below. This tournament got a lot of attention and fun ribbing right from the jump, and Brett seems confident we’ll expand and do this again next year.