Lights, Play Ball, Action!
Not that anyone particularly cares, but the World Series seems as good an excuse as any to list my favorite movies about baseball:
5. Field of Dreams (1989)
OK, it's schmaltzy, sentimental and saddled with Kevin Costner in another of his ubersensitive modes. But I still get misty-eyed every time I see Ray Liotta emerge from that friggin' cornfield to finally play catch with his son (and Ray Liotta isn't exactly the tug-at-your-heartstrings type).
4. Major League (1989)
Not a great comedy by any means, but the movie actually does have some resonance for baseball fans. Written and directed by David S. Ward, it follows a shopworn underdogs-pursue-the-championship formula, the cinematic equivalent of a down-the-plate fastball, enlivened by some fun performances, particularly Charlie Sheen as an ace reliever with control issues.
3. Eight Men Out (1988)
With the White Sox back in the series for the first time since 1959, it might just be in bad taste to mention this story of the eight ChiSox players who threw the 1919 World Series to Cincinnati at the behest of gamblers. But John Sayles' film is an interesting, albeit unapologetically leftist, tale of American capitalism gone awry -- and Studs Terkel even makes a cameo, to prove it.
2. ( a tie) Bull Durham (1988)
Along with The Natural, this dramedy directed and written by Ron Shelton (who also did the decidedly darker quasi-baseball flick Cobb) is widely considered to be the zenith of baseball movies -- which is kinda odd considering that both films employ such polarizing views of the game. The Natural revels in the game's golden-tinged mythology (with director Barry Levinson wringing every drop of sentiment out of it), while Bull Durham opts for a much looser and libidinous vibe more akin to the great Jim Bouton tell-all book, Ball Four. Kevin Costner is the aging catcher, Susan Sarandon is the bed-hopping groupie and Tim Robbins is the up-and-coming pitcher. But hell, you know all that already.
and 2. The Rookie (2002)
A straightforward "family" film, but don't let that scare you off. Dennis Quaid gives one of his better performances in the real-life story of Jimmy Morris, who finally pursued his dream of pitching in the major leagues at the ripe old age of 35.
1. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Well, not so much a great baseball movie, but it's definitely a great movie that has to do -- peripherally, perhaps -- with baseball. A formative flick for yours truly growing up, this Michael Ritchie-directed yarn about a team of Little League misfits says more about sportsmanship and childhood than several dozen ABC after-school specials put together. And it's a testament to the glory days of Seventies' cinema that the original is so much more raw and honest than its 2005 remake.
Honorable mention: Cobb, The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings and Pride of the Yankees.
Full disclosure: I've never seen Bang the Drum Slowly and Fear Strikes Out