Today is a great day. Baseball officially started for many teams this afternoon, and the possibilities are endless. Some of my friends are posting their annual “predictions” for the season, but I don’t do things like that. I let the season’s chips fall where they may.
However, this doesn’t mean I don’t have other pre-season rituals. I like to follow the live blogs on Detroit websites and see what is happening in downtown Detroit. I don’t really have any desire to attend Opening Day (as my father says, “It’s more about the beer than the baseball”), but it’s still fun to see so many people excited about the blank slate ahead.
Another annual tradition I like to do is view a baseball movie. There are about three gajillion baseball movies out there, but I usually limit them to a certain few:
Angels in the Outfield
Released TWENTY years ago (!), this was one of my favorites as a kid. At the time, it was just a fun movie with That Dude From Back to the Future. (Christopher Lloyd) But I just watched it last night, and there are a huge number of big-name stars in that movie: Adrien Brody, Danny Glover, Matthew McConaughey, Neal McDonough, and my man Joseph Gordon-Levitt!
There isn’t any real lesson learned in this one - unless you count that it’s okay to believe in angels. And that radio commentators can be real jerks. But who doesn’t get emotional when the entire stadium starts flapping their wings like angels?
There are many haters of this movie, but I am not one of them. I find it to be charming, and as a woman who understands that it’s hard to balance sports and a personal life, I can relate to Ben’s troubles. Even though the movie was supposed to end with the Red Sox losing, I think the fact that they decided to play it during the 2004 championship season was a thing of beauty. (I could have done without Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore going on the field.)
Yes, I have seen the original Fever Pitch, and it was pretty good. But I’m not much of a soccer fan, or else I probably would have liked it more.
Dennis Quaid takes his high school team to the championship, and then they encourage him to try out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays - and he makes it! This one came out while I was still on a Remember the Titans “Disney sports movie” high, and I think I really enjoy it because there’s no real antagonist. It’s just a dude trying to follow his dream.
Rookie of the Year
This began my crush of Thomas Ian Nichols, the kid who breaks his arm, but miraculously causes him to be able to throw fastballs like nobody’s business. And then he pitches for the Cubs! Hijinks ensue, and the Cubs win the World Series. This is clearly not based on a true story. Oh - Gary Busey is the love interest to Nichols’ mom!
I probably should have put this one at the top, because this one is hands down my favorite baseball movie. This came out in 2001, when the story behind the 1998 Home Run Race still hadn’t come out, and people were still in awe of the home run hitters. This was an HBO movie produced by Billy Crystal, and I absolutely loved it. It actually made me root for the Yankees, kind of.
There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy this movie - the setting, the premise, the fact that they used old Tiger Stadium (RIP) when they filmed Yankee Stadium - but the biggest thing was the actors. Thomas Jane as Mickey Mantle and Barry Pepper as Roger Maris were amazing in their roles. They really got into the characters, and when I saw pictures of the real Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, I couldn’t believe how much they looked like Jane and Pepper!
There are plenty of other movies I could put on this list - most of which were made in the 90’s (The Sandlot, A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, Major League, and Little Big League) - but the ones listed above are my personal favorites. What are yours?