While at a shindig with some Empire magazine scribes a while back, the discussion got round to the (then) upcoming Moneyball.

It was at that moment that writer Ian Nathan let slip a little secret – that, in his words, he cries every time he sees a trailer for a movie set in the world of baseball.

A strange admission you may agree (and these were tears of joy it has to be added), but one that I can certainly relate to.

You see I, unlike Ian, am a big fan of the sport itself – the ever-frustrating San Diego Padres to be exact.

But, taking my love for America’s national pastime out of the equation, there is still something about a film set on the diamond that gets the juices flowing.

Whether it be the stat-heavy delights of Moneyball, the comedic elements of Bull Durham or Major League, or the serious tones of Bang The Drum Slowly or Fear Strikes Out, there is something about the sport that really lends itself to the big-screen treatment.

Compared to say football (soccer) movies there is simply no contest, as how many film classics can we name that covered that sport – Escape To Victory perhaps, but that is certainly the exception rather than the norm.

Although baseball is a team sport, it can be stripped down to a very simple one-on-one – the pitcher versus the hitter.

And that my friends is why the game works so well in cinematic form, as that confrontation between the men on the mound and at home plate allows directors to remove all the other distractions and focus on those two combatants.

We get the stares, the shake-offs and the voiceovers as the two players get to second-guess each other and close-ups that resemble more a Leone western than a sports flick.

There is also the overly-dramatic home run calls, the histrionics of the umpires and fans and the chicanery of the big-club owners.

Baseball is also an incredibly romantic sport, sentimental even (as Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane admits in Moneyball), where even the most downtrodden player can have his moment in the spotlight with one swing of the bat.

That teary-eyed outlook, hammered home in the likes of The Natural, Field of Dreams and Pride of the Yankees just about walks the line between fuzzy-feeling warmth and stinking cheese – well in my mind anyways.

Baseball has also thrown up some pretty impressive bio-pics as well – take Cobb, or The Babe for example (or even the modern-day The Rookie), with these larger-than-life characters simply not existing in any other sport.

I would say the only sport that comes close is boxing, which to be fair has thrown up its fair share of memorable movies – probably for the simple reason that the sweet science is the ultimate one-on-one sporting showdown.

But there is something about baseball films that get me excited – heck I even love when the sport simply pops up in a film of an entirely different genre (a swooping shot across Dodger Stadium in The Core for example).

The real beauty of it in addition is that there always seems to be another baseball flick out there to sit through, with 61 the next on my list.

Baseball really is the sport that keeps on giving movie-wise – and this from someone who has sat through Bernie Mac’s Mr 3000 and Tom Selleck as Mr Baseball.

And with spring training currently in full swing and the start of the season mere weeks away, what better way to while away the hours than settle in for some big (or small) screen ball?

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.