Apparently there is some four team basketball tournament that has its championship game on Monday night. I don't know. I know I won't be watching that because Monday is Opening Day for the 2009 Major League Baseball season.
Baseball is America's Pasttime. Opening Day should be a national holiday!
Do you have any Opening Day traditions? I have a couple. In previous years, I have used vacation time to take the afternoon off on Opening Day. There are usually at least two baseball games on TV throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The Minnesota Twins home opener will be on Monday at 7:10 at the Metrodome against the Seattle Mariners.
Another tradition for me is to watch several baseball movies the weekend leading up to Opening Day. There are usually a few on TV, and of course, I have several on DVD, or even VHS! And that brings me to today's topic, baseball movies.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted my Top 15 Greatest Minnesotans and it created a ton of discussion, which is the purpose of lists. Today, I am going to list off my Top 15 Greatest Baseball Movies. I'm sure that you have seen many of them already, and you may have others that you would like to mention as well, so please leave your comments below.
To start out with, I am only going to include movies that I have seen. I have not seen Bang the Drum Slowly, or Long Gone, or The Stratton Story, so I am not in a position to rank them. I would love your thoughts on where you would rank them if you have seen them.
In January, I was fortunate to be invited to see a screening of a great baseball movie called Sugar. It is the story of a baseball player from the Dominican Republic who is good enough to be signed and after playing in the Dominican academy, he goes to the Unites States for spring training. It shows his successes as well as the trials and difficulties that you can imagine a person who speaks only Spanish would have in the United States. It is an absolutely wonderful baseball movie that would rank easily in my Top 5, but I will not include it in the list at this time. It will be coming out in theatres shortly.
So without further ado, here are my Top 15 Baseball Movies:
15.) Rookie of the Year - Henry Rowengardner loved baseball, and his dad was a former ball player. 12 year old Henry wasn't very good. Until he apparently tore and tightened all of the ligaments in his throwing shoulder and could throw really, really hard. The Cubs signed him, and he ended up making them a winning team.
14.) Hard Ball - Keanu Reaves coaching little league in the inner city. It is hard to picture, isn't it? But this movie brings out many emotions and is really an excellent movie. And G-Baby is the man!
13.) Fever Pitch - I am guessing that this movie might rank higher to those in Boston. Jimmy Fallon plays a Red Sox fanatic, and still gets to date Drew Barrymore, who becomes a big fan. And then they got to go on the field when the Red Sox finally won their first World Series after all those years.
12.) The Rookie - The real-life story of Jim Morris, a high school science teacher and baseball coach who, as a 37 year old, motivated his team by telling them he would go to a major league tryout if his team won the state tournament. They did, so he did... and he got an opportunity to sign a pro contract, and eventually got to the big leagues.
11.) Little Big League - The Twins owner passes away, so his 12 year old grandson takes over the team. When things get bad, he makes himself manager and his coaching methods help the Twins reach a one-game playoff against Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., and the Mariners.
10.)Benchwarmers - I like laughing, so I am picking this comedy for my Top 10. Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder are adult misfits who stand up for the non-athletes of the world. They become a three person baseball team and take on Little League teams toward the championship.
9.) Summer Catch - The story about life in the Cape Cod League, the movie is actually fairly accurate in chronically the goings on during the best summer college league in the country. And the scene where Freddie Prinze, Jr. mows over some flowers is priceless.
8.) A League of Their Own - The story of the war-time All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The cast in this movie is excellent (Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Lori Petty), and there are so many great one-liners including "There's no crying in baseball."
7.) Soul of the Game - As Branch Rickey was trying to find the right player to be the first African American player in Major League Baseball, Satchell Paige and Josh Gibson thought it would be them, rather than Jackie Robinson. This is their story, and it is wonderfully told.
6.) 61* - Billy Crystal's tribute to his old friend Mickey Mantle and baseball single season home run king, Roger Maris. He did a great job of chronically everything that the two players went through during that magical 1961 season, the good and the bad.
5.) Eight Men Out - The story of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. "Say it ain't so, Joe!" The White Sox were huge favorites in the 1919 World Series, but several players took money to lose the series because their owner, Mr. Comiskey, was so cheap. The commissioner banished the involved players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, for life.
4.) For Love of the Game - Kevin Costner plays an aging righty who has a decision to make. Should he be traded away from his Tigers team after an illustrious career, or should he retire into the sunset. His life in and around baseball, and Kelly Preston, flashes through his mind as he pitches the game of his life.
3.) Field of Dreams - Many would have this as their #1, and you wouldnt' get much argument from me. This time, Costner plays a farmer from Iowa who hears voices in his corn field that tell him to build a baseball field. He thinks that "If you build it, he will come" is in reference to Shoeless Joe, but in the end, it's a much more important figure in his life that comes to play. Along this road to self-discovery, he travels all over the place, going to a ballgame at Fenway Park with James Earl Jones, then traveling up to Chisholm, Minnesota, to meet Moonlight Graham. This is an excellent movie!
2.) Bull Durham - Yes, Kevin Costner, again. This time, he plays long time minor league catcher Crash Davis. He is brought in to work with mega-prospect and bonus-baby Nuke LaLoosh, who has a 'million dollar arm, and a ten cent head." It's really three stories in one. LaLoosh is being groomed for big league stardom. Annie Savoy is a big baseball fan who enjoys reading and 'helping' one minor league player each year become a better player. And finally, it is about Crash Davis, who is holding on to his baseball life after so many years. Again, this is an absolute classic!
1.) Major League - Again, I like laughing, and Major League provides a laugh a minute, sometimes more. The characters are excellent. Tom Berenger plays the veteran catcher getting one last shot. Wesley Snipes plays Willie Mays Hays who 'runs like Mays, but... " doesn't hit very well. Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn gets out of jail to become the team's closer. He gets himself into trouble with 3B Roger Dorn. Pedro Cerrano has bats that are afraid of the curveball. And despite everything and everyone being against them, they come through in the end. I'm certain you could probably come up with a dozen one liners from thsi movie.
Alright, now it is your turn. I woudl like your thoughts on my Top 15 baseball movies, and ask that you share your Top 5, Top 10, or Top 15 baseball movies in the comments. I only included 15, so some other baseball movies for you to consider would include Pride of the Yankees, Cobb, Bang the Drum Slowly, Bad News Bears, Long Gone, The Stratton Story, Mr. Baseball, Mr. 3000, Angels in the OF, The Babe and several more.
Happy Opening Day! Next year at this time, we will be celebrating the home opener at Target Field. People will come. People will most definitely come!