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!
There are no Cinderellas left in the tournament, with all Final Four movies left bolstered by big name recognition, if not critical acclaim. We’re on to the Elite Eight! This round, we had one nail-biter, one blowout, and a couple of close clashes.
Elite Eight Results
Moneyball 52%, The Sandlot 48% (63-59)
With a second straight win against a tough foe, both by just four percentage points, Moneyball is proving to be the most battle-tested movie of the bunch.
Major League 64%, Eight Men Out 36%, (78-43)
Ludicrousness triumphs over grit.
Looking ahead: Moneyball has stood strong against two tough charges, while Major League has coasted. Major League has already vanquished one serious opponent, though.
Field of Dreams 55%, Bull Durham 45% (68-56)
This Costner-on-Coster violence saw sap succeed vs. snark. Field of Dreams is proving a very formidable movie.
A League of Their Own 78%, The Bad News Bears ’76 23%, (93-27)
A League of Their Own, against fairly formidable opponents, has just crushed it so far.
Looking ahead: Yikes. A League of Their Own has not blinked so far. Looking at the moment like the favorite to win it all.
The Final Four
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?
Major League (1989)
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?
Which is the better baseball movie?
This poll is closed
Field of Dreams (1989)
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.
A League of Their Own (1992)
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.”
Which is the better baseball movie?
This poll is closed
Field of Dreams
A League of Their Own
Please continue to give us your feedback on these matchups, and movies we missed.