If I had known in the summer of 2019 that baseball games would be off the table for the foreseeable future, I’d have gone every weekend, eaten my weight in soft pretzels and hotdogs and lived in a Blue Jays jersey. But we’ve learned that pandemics don’t exactly announce themselves, and as such, I only made it to one game that year. For a girl who breathed baseball as a kid, that’s basically sacrilege. (Seriously. You know how people say that they want Morgan Freeman or Wil Wheaton to narrate the movie of their lives? I’d want Tom Cheek. He was the voice of summer for me.)
But there is a glimmer of hope this year now that COVID restrictions are being lifted: The Toronto Blue Jays have submitted a proposal to return to Toronto at the end of the month. Do not cheer, though. Baseball fans are superstitious, and there will be no counting chickens (blue jays?) until they’re firmly back in the 6ix. Instead, we’ve rounded up six baseball movies to watch while we pretend not to wait for the news.
The Natural (1984)
Nominated for four Academy Awards and a Golden Globe, Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs—a kid with a “natural” talent for baseball. The flick spans the years of Hobbs’s career, from the early days of playing catch with his late father, through his prime ball-playing years, to his return to his roots with his own kids. From the all-star cast to Hobbs’s iconic last at-bat of the movie, this pick has earned its status as a classic. (Spoiler alert—If you’ve never seen this one, don’t watch the link below! You need to see the whole thing!)
Bull Durham (1988)
Half sports movie, half love story, this movie is summer magic. Susan Sarandon stars as Annie Savoy, a follower of minor league team the Durham Bulls, who “worships at the church of baseball” and couples up with one player a season. The year in question, she’s choosing between a young Tim Robbins as Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh and veteran Kevin Costner as “Crash” Davis. Costner nails one of my all-time favourite movie monologues in this one, which is just the start of what makes this movie so good.
Field of Dreams (1989)
If you don’t know this classic, you’ve probably been living under a rock for 30 years. But that’s okay—you know what they say, “If you build it, they will come.” Starring Kevin Costner (surprise, surprise), Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and my doppelgänger Gaby Hoffman, this movie playing on TBS on repeat was my sign that summer was coming.
A League of Their Own (1992)
I wore out a VHS tape of this movie about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League the summer I turned 14. No joke. I watched it every game day. I was a catcher like main character Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis), and I cursed the universe that I wasn’t born in the ’20s so that I could have played in the AAGPBL. (Two World Wars and the Great Depression didn’t register, apparently.) Come to think of it, maybe I'd pick Geena to narrate my life instead.
The Sandlot (1993)
“You’re killing me, Smalls” is the refrain of ’90s kids everywhere. This flick centres around a ragtag group of sandlot ball players in the summer of 1962, told through the eyes of newbie Scotty Smalls who can’t play baseball to save his life. It encapsulates summer nostalgia in such a perfect way that it transcends eras. I can watch this movie on repeat, and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is the reason I love Chuck Taylors, but confession: I have to skip the tobacco and Tilt-a-Whirl vomit scene.
If you’re not a baseball nut, you probably don’t know that in the summer of 1961, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were neck-and-neck to beat Babe Ruth’s single-single season homerun record (60, for those of you in the cheap seats). This movie is as much a history lesson as it is a baseball flick, and I’ve seen it more times than I can count, but I always inwardly cheer when quiet, hardworking Maris takes the batter’s box showdown. And don’t even get me started on the asterisk.
It took me days to land on this list, but there were a few late cuts that deserve airtime: For Love of the Game (Costner again, obviously), Moneyball (Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane) and Trouble with the Curve (Clint Eastwood as an old baseball scout with Amy Adams as his crackerjack daughter) are all at least worth a watch. On the flip side, Major League can go fly a kite. You can fight me on that.
Post image: Mike Bowman/Unsplash