How can you not be romantic about baseball?
- Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball (2010)
Unlike most other team sports, baseball is a game of individual achievements that culminate in a team's efforts to win. Each batter stands alone at the plate, facing a pitcher who opposes him. Each defender on the field must make a play alone, or in conjunction with another defender. The cumulative efforts of each individual results in a team win or a team loss.
That is one reason why baseball has had such a strong hold on successive generations. It's easy to imagine oneself as Babe Ruth hitting a called home run, or Don Larsen throwing a perfect game, or last year's hero David Freese improbably winning Game Six of the World Series. These incredible moments come from one man stepping up at the right moment and delivering magic. Anyone who loves sports can easily be drawn into the fantasy that baseball provides.
But baseball provides more than a fantasy; it also mirrors life. Over the course of a brutal 162 game schedule - the longest in sports - heroes are made and then humbled, and sometimes exalted again. Some of the greatest players in history have suffered terrible humiliations at the fickle whims of the game. Albert Pujols has reached the pinnacle of the sport, yet this year has dealt with an unprecedented slump that humbled him significantly. A similar humbling happened to Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum this year as well. Like life, baseball can glorify an individual as quickly as it can abase them.
Yet, perseverance is often rewarded in baseball, as it is in life; the players who fight through injury and opposition often find blessings at the hands of the baseball gods. Think about how Chris Carpenter fought through two years of surgeries and rehabilitation, only to find himself on the mound last year to throw a shutout win over his best friend Roy Halladay and propel the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series. It's magical. It's inspirational. It's romantic.
The best baseball movies capture the game's ability to exalt and humble individuals, and how the performance of each player affects the entire team. Here are the best baseball movies ever made (so far), in a handy numbered list!
10. Major League
One of the few successful baseball comedies, Major League stars Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger as star players for the struggling Cleveland Indians. New owner Rachel Phelps wants to move the team to Miami, so she concocts a plan to put the worst possible team on the field in order to lose so many games that the team's attendance will drop below 800,000 and trigger an escape clause in the team's contract with the city. Of course, the team learns to play great baseball anyway.
While popular with most baseball fans, I never fell in love with it. Sure, there are some funny bits inside the clubhouse (especially the ones involving a superstitious outfielder who practices voodoo), but, in the film, baseball never feels like more than a vehicle for goofy player eccentricities and a pretty boring love story.
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