The grass is cut. The hot dogs are ready. It’s that time of year, again – it’s Opening Day of the 2012 Major League Baseball season! As hope springs eternal for all 30 teams (hey, everyone’s tied for first place for at least one day!), Access Hollywood’s Scott “Movie” Mantz counts down his Top 10 baseball films of all-time.
10) “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942)
The Coach (aka the director): Sam Wood
The Lineup: Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth
The Pitch: Gary Cooper plays Lou Gehrig – a.k.a “The Iron Horse” – the famous NY Yankee who played a whopping 2,130 consecutive games before dying at the age of 37 from ALS, a deadly nerve disease. Cooper knocks it out of the park with his unforgettable “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.
9) “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973)
The Coach: John D. Hancock
The Lineup: Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro
The Pitch: Moriarty plays a star pitcher who takes a dying catcher (De Niro) under his wing. It may be set against the backdrop of baseball, but “Bang the Drum Slowly” – based on the novel by Mark Harris – is a beautifully told and moving story about the power of friendship.
8) “Fever Pitch” (2005)
The Coaches: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
The Lineup: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore
The Pitch: Jimmy Fallon plays a diehard baseball fan and Drew Barrymore is the woman who loves him – until he chooses his beloved Boston Red Sox over her! This underrated gem accurately portrays what it truly means to be the #1 fan of baseball, or anything for that matter.
7) “A League of Their Own” (1992)
The Coach: Penny Marshall
The Lineup: Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Tom Hanks
The Pitch: While the male pros were off fighting World War II, the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943 filled their very big shoes — no high heels in sight. The Rockford Peaches kept it together for their washed-up coach (Hanks), because, after all, there’s no crying in baseball.
6) “The Bad News Bears” (1976)
The Coach: Michael Ritchie
The Lineup: Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal
The Pitch: Matthau plays a lazy, drunken, washed-up former-minor leaguer who coaches a bunch of pathetic, foul-mouthed misfits. Hysterical and moving, the baseball comedy proves that you can be small and still dream big.
5) “Field of Dreams” (1989)
The Coach: Roger Donaldson
The Lineup: Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones
The Pitch: An emotional and heartfelt story about a struggling farmer (Costner), who hears the words “If you build it, they will come” in his head and builds a magical baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. And come they did, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (Liotta) and Costner’s long-lost father.
4) “Eight Men Out” (1988)
The Coach: John Sayles
The Lineup: John Cusack, David Strathairn, Charlie Sheen
The Pitch: This compelling look at the dark side of baseball documents the Black Sox scandal of 1919, in which the defamed Chicago team cashed in and fixed their own World Series.
3) “Major League” (1989)
The Coach: David S. Ward
The Lineup: Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen
The Pitch: This rags-to-riches comedy isn’t just the funniest movie ever made about baseball, it’s the funniest movie about sports, period. A bitchy new owner wants her Cleveland Indians to lose so badly that she can move them to Florida, but these down-and-out players rise to the occasion just to ruin her plans.
2) “Bull Durham” (1988)
The Coach: Ron Shelton
The Lineup: Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon
The Pitch: One of the most accurate depictions of baseball, both on and off the field. It’s gritty, sexy and funny as hell. Costner has never been better, and his chemistry with Sarandon sets the movie on fire.
1) “The Natural” (1984)
The Coach: Barry Levinson
The Lineup: Robert Redford, Glenn Close
The Pitch: A former baseball great (Redford) tries to make a comeback with the help of a magical bat. It’s a divine, soaring, loving tribute to America’s pastime, and it treats baseball and its players with the respect they deserve.
-- Scott Mantz