Click here to subscribe to the
free Classic Movies Weekly
If the opening of Spring Training or the Fall Classic always make you nostalgic for the good old days, here's another look at my list of great baseball movies. The following films are listed in chronological order, with an additional non-annotated list at the end, plus some links you might enjoy. All films in the first section are now linked either to the Internet Movie Database or to places where you can purchase them, assuming they're available on video or DVD.
Reel Baseball: Baseball Films Of The Silent Era 1899-1926
America's favorite pastime is seen in all its glory in these rare and entertaining baseball-themed silent films from cinema's earliest decades. The two-disc collection features 11 shorts, including "Casey at the Bat or The Fate of a 'Rotten' Umpire" (1899); "Hearts and Diamonds" (1914), starring corpulent silent screen comic John Bunny; the Felix the Cat cartoon " Felix Saves the Day" (1922), and more; plus the features "The Busher" (1919), starring Charles Ray, and "Headin' Home" (1920), Babe Ruth's film debut.
Alibi Ike (1935) is another, even better, Joe E. Brown vehicle, featuring the big-mouthed comic as a ballplayer who has excuses for all his failings. With William Frawley, plus Olivia de Havilland in her first screen role.
Girls Can Play (1937). Baseball/crime drama starring a young Rita Hayworth. The plot centers around an ex-con engaged in illegal activities and he uses the girls' team as a front.
Pride Of the Yankees (1942). Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Nominated for best picture. With Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan, plus real ballplayers Babe Ruth, Joe McCarthy, Bill Dickey, and others.
It Happened in Flatbush (1942). Clever comedy based on the Dodgers 1941 pennant win. Lloyd Nolan and Carole Landis play an unlikely, yet fun, romantic pair, but the actual film clips from the 1941 baseball season add the most enjoyment to this film.
The Babe Ruth Story (1948). William Bendix doesn't really look much like an athlete, which Babe Ruth was, in spite of his girth, and the movie isn't very accurate, but it's fun to watch. The Babe died of cancer a month after the film was released. With William Frawley, Charles Bickford, Claire Trevor.
The Kid from Cleveland (1949). Not a very good film, but fans will enjoy seeing Bill Veeck, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Satchell Paige, Hank Greenberg, Tris Speaker, and other real players. Starring George Brent, Lynn Bari, Ann Doran, Tommy Cook, Russ Tamblyn.
The Stratton Story (1949) tells the tale of White Sox pitcher Monty Stratton, whose leg was amputated when he was 26. Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson play Stratton and his wife. With Frank Morgan and real players Jimmy Dykes, Bill Dickey, Spec Shea, Ted Lyons, Luke Appling, Gene Beardon, Lou Novikoff and George Vico.
It Happens Every Spring (1949). Ray Milland stars as a physics professor who invents a substance that makes a baseball impossible to hit, making him an instant pitching sensation. Cute comedy with good special effects for the era, but a real hoot if you're a baseball fan. With Paul Douglas, Jean Peters, Ed Begley, and Ray Collins.
Take Me out To the Ballgame (1949) is the musical about fictitious infielders ("O'Brien to Ryan to Goldberg") played by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin. With Esther Williams, Betty Garrett, Edward Arnold.
The Jackie Robinson Story (1950). Jackie plays himself in the story of the first black major league player. With Ruby Dee, Louise Beavers.
Kill the Umpire (1950). William Bendix, of "Life of Riley" fame, loves baseball and hates umpires - so naturally he goes to umpire school! Very funny. With Una Merkel, Ray Collins, William Frawley.
Angels in the Outfield (1951). The Pittsburgh Pirates get help from the Angels - the real kind (as opposed to the ones from California). Remade in 1994. Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, Keenan Wynn, Bing Crosby, and players Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio.
Rhubarb (1951). Cat inherits baseball team (The Loons). Chaos results. Based on a story by H. Allen Smith. With Ray Milland, William Frawley, Jan Sterling. (Out of print.)
The Winning Team (1952). Ronald Reagan plays famed pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. With Doris Day, plus real players Bob Lemon, Hank Sauer, Irv Noren, Gerry Priddy, Al Zarilla, Peanuts Lowery, George Metkovich, Gene Mauch.
The Pride of St. Louis (1952) is an average Dizzy Dean biopic starring Dan Dailey as Diz. With Richard Crenna, Joanne Dru, and Chet Huntley as an announcer.
The Kid From Left Field (1953) is the precocious son of "Pop" Cooper, a disgraced ex-ballplayer working as a peanut vendor at the ballpark. The kid ends up managing the team as a front for his father, until illness forces Pop to come forward and take the place of the old manager. With Dan Dailey, Billy Chapin, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Egan, Anne Bancroft, Ray Collins.
Big Leaguer (1953). Based on the life of big league scout John B. "Hans" Lobert, who is running the New York Giants rookie camp. Edward G. Robinson, Vera-Ellen, Jeff Richards, Richard Jaeckel, and Carl Hubbell as himself.
Roogie's Bump (1954). Remington "Roogie" Rigsby is just a kid, but he ends up pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Very similar to 1993's "Rookie of the Year." Robert Marriot, Ruth Warrick, William Harrigan, and ballplayers Roy Campanella, Billy Loes, Russ Meyer and Carl Erskine.
Fear Strikes Out (1957). Anthony Perkins plays Jimmy Piersall in a mostly-fictional but engrossing account of the ballplayer's mental breakdown. With Karl Malden.
Damn Yankees (1958). A Washington Senators fan sells his soul to the Devil, played by Ray Walston, in perhaps his most memorable role. Great songs, with choreography by Bob Fosse. The Broadway musical was better, but this is still fun. Gwen Verdon, Tab Hunter.
Safe At Home! (1962). Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris star in a fairly lame film about a young boy who lies about his dad's relationship with the two stars. Timed to take advantage of Roger's 61-home-run year. With William Frawley, plus manager Ralph Houk and pitcher Whitey Ford.
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) stars Robert DeNiro in his first big role as a terminally ill catcher. With Michael Moriarty, Vincent Gardenia, Phil Foster, Heather MacRae, Selma Diamond, Danny Aiello.
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976). One of my favorite baseball films, and a very enjoyable movie all around, with an excellent cast, including Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Ted Ross, DeWayne Jessie, Stan Shaw.
The Bad News Bears (1976). A good cast makes this forumula losers-to-winners movie quite enjoyable, unlike the various sequels. With Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow, Joyce Van Patten, Jackie Earl Haley.
Don't Look Back (1981) stars Louis Gossett Jr. as Leroy "Satchel" Paige in a made-for-TV movie about the life of the Negro League pitcher who made it to the big leagues at the end of his career.
Tiger Town (1983). The Disney Channel's first movie featured a fictitious Detroit Tiger pitcher. Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson and broadcaster Ernie Harwell appear as themselves. With Roy Scheider, Justin Henry, Ron McLarty.
The Natural (1984). This movie is about baseball the way that Casablanca is about WWII, but there are a lot of baseball scenes in it. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, with Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth, Robert Proskey, Joe Don Baker, and Darren McGavin. Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, many of whose fans don't much like it. Very watchable nonetheless.
Bull Durham (1988). Kevin Costner stars as Crash Davis, a catcher in the twilight of his career who's given the job of watching out for young pitching stud "Nuke" LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins. Lots of fun, with some good baseball moments. With Susan Sarandon.
Eight Men Out (1988) retells the story of the 1919 Black Sox World Series betting scandal involving "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. With John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Charlie Sheen, John Mahoney, D.B. Sweeny, David Strathairn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Rooker, Perry Lang, James Read, Bill Irwin, Kevin Tighe, Studs Terkel, John Anderson.
Field Of Dreams (1989). Another film that isn't really about baseball, even though it takes place mostly on a ball diamond. Nominated for Best Picture. Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster, Timothy Busfield, Gaby Hoffman, Ray Liotta. (Click on the banner above for another take on it.)
Major League (1989). Funny film about a Cleveland Indians team put together by their owner with the express purpose of losing who defy the odds and win anyway. With Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Margaret Whitton, James Gammon, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, Dennis Haysbert, Charles Cyphers.
A League of Their Own (1992). Story of the Woman's Professional Baseball League created during WWII to fill the void left by the fact that most male ballplayers were in the military. With Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall, Megan Cavanaugh, Rosie O'Donnell, Renee Coleman, Ann Cusack, Tracy Reiner, Janet Jones, Tea Leoni, Bill Pullman.
Other baseball flicks from the early days, plus some recent films:
- Fast Company (1929)
- Hot Curves (1930)
- They Learned About Women (1930)
- Slide, Speedy, Slide (1931)
- The Loud Mouth (1932)
- Fireman, Save My Child (1932)
- Stealin' Home (1932)
- Too Many Women (1932)
- Swell Head (1935)
- One Run Elmer (1935)
- Dizzy & Daffy (1935)
- Gracie at the Bat (1937)
- The Heckler (1940)
- Two Mugs From Brooklyn (1942)
- Whistling In Brooklyn (1943)
- Ladies Day (1943)
- Mr. Noisy (1946)
- Casey at the Bat (1946) (Animated)
- Casey Bats Again (1954) (Animated)
- Charlie Brown's All-Stars (1966) (TV)
- It's Good To Be Alive (1974)
- Murder At the World Series (1977)
- One In A Million (1978)
- A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story (1978)
- Goodbye, Franklin High (1978)
- The Great American Pastime (1956)
- Here Come the Tigers (1978)
- The Kid from Left Field (1979)
- Million Dollar Infield (1982)
- The Slugger's Wife (1985)
- A Winner Never Quits (1986)
- Long Gone (1987)
- Blue Skies Again (1988)
- Stealing Home (1988)
- The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson (1990)
- Babe Ruth (1991)
- Pastime (1991)
- Talent for the Game (1991)
- Trading Hearts (1991)
- The Comrades of Summer (1992)
- The Babe (1993)
- Rookie of the Year (1993)
- Mr. Baseball (1993)
- Cooperstown (1993)
- The Sandlot (1994)
- The Scout (1994)
- Angels in the Outfield (1994)
- Little Big League (1994)
- Major League II (1994)
- Cobb (1994)
- Soul of the Game (1996)
- Ed (1996)
- The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
- Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)
- For the Love of the Game (2000)
Check out the Web site for a book called Reel Baseball, including a great filmography of movies from 1898-2002 that have anything whatsoever to do with the sport.
How about some great classic football movies, too?