I missed the parade today and I'm already feeling the post-World Series blahs. I love football, especially my Jets and their poor, put-upon GQMF QB, but there's something magic about baseball you (or I, at least) don't find in other sports. I don't know it it's the rhythm of the game, that the season goes so long it's like every player gets his own story arc, or that it's as much an individual sport as a team one sometimes, but there's something about baseball that's almost art sometimes.
In celebration of baseball and the season's end, my five favorite baseball movies:The Pride of the Yankees
: The paper today had a rundown of all the Yankees' WS wins, and one of the entries made note that Gehrig had first reported feeling poorly in the 1937 Series, and contributed four hits in the 1938 one, his last before stepping down to fight the disease that would claim his life three years later. That was all I needed to go, "I need to watch Pride of the Yankees right now." Virtually everything that makes up the "Yankee" image --- the clean-cut professionalism, the insistence on perfection --- all of that can be traced squarely back to Lou Gehrig. I wish someone would make a biopic of Babe Ruth as exquisite as this one; Gary Cooper in the role he seems to have been born to play, the beautiful cinematography, and that final, heart-breaking retirement speech that seems almost too on the nose, too cinematically perfect to have been real life. But it was.Eight Men Out
: And now we have the sport's lowest moment, the specter lurking behind the repeated refusals to forgive Pete Rose and the outrage over steroids. Eight Men Out
shows how something like the 1919 fix could happen, a combination of owner greed (Cominsky comes off as a monster) and human weakness. This is a period drama as much as a baseball movie; you see the excitement of a society in flux, just getting back to its feet after WWI and about to fall head-first into the '20s. The film makes a strong case for Shoeless Joe Jackson, the most famous of the Black Sox; if he really did intend to throw the Series, hitting .400 was a funny way to go about it.Major League
: This may be the most imitated movie off all time (and ML itself owes quite a bit to Police Academy as it is). There have been roughly one quadrillion sports movies about misfit teams that somehow overcome the odds in the past twenty years --- The Replacements, Baseketball, Semi-Pro (ugh), hell, Adam Sandler's version of the Longest Yard had a lot more in common with Major League than the original --- but they still haven't come up with one that's funnier. This is both the perfect background movie and a total "Hey, it's that guy!" movie: in what other movie can you have President Palmer, Blade and Shawn Spencer's dad all trying to beat the tar out of those evil, evil Yankees?Field of Dreams
: Kevin Costner's best movie, and the reason I always forgive him for making Wyatt Earp
(Tom Petty running a town in The Postman
is awesome enough to justify its existence). Just try to watch Costner's character play catch with his dad and not tear up. I dare you. FoD also makes a great bookend with Eight Men Out
; whatever you think of Jackson's guilt or innocence, it's hard not to root for him getting his peace here. The Natural
: This is easily one of the most beautiful movies ever made. A splendid fairy tale, everything is golden-hued and soft-focused, making that short burst of noir on the train all the more devastating. This is the ultimate Baseball Is Magic movie, full of mythology and big, grand moments. The homerun hitting the lights at the end as Randy Newman's gorgeous score swells always chokes me up.