42 and the best films about Baseball...
42, the biopic of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, comes out on DVD on Monday (February 3). The film stars Chadwick Boseman as the aforementioned Robinson who overcame the most intense prejudice and forged a successful career in Major League Baseball and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers who put his faith in Robinson to fight through the prejudice.
To celebrate we've decided to put together our pick of the five best films about baseball. Now, given baseball is a sport that isn't played much in the UK, we've decided that to be eligible for this list, the films must transcend the sport, they must be movies with real heart and guts; and this is what we've come up with…
Hopes weren't exactly high when it was announced that a big-screen adaptation of Michael Lewis' 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game was being made. Baseball statistics and the art of number crunching did not look like natural cinematic material, but, in the hands of screenwriters Steve Zaillain and Aaron Sorkin, it was transformed into an engrossing, underdog drama.
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, general manager of the struggling Oakland As, after a chance meeting with Peter Brand (played superbly by Jonah Hill), he decides to adopt a new statistics-based approach to player recruitment, initially alienating fans, media and board members alike. Persevering with the strategy, the As suddenly start to win, and win a lot…
Sound too dry and sporty? It's not; with Sorkin and Zaillain's razor sharp script this is a witty, poignant and amazingly engrossing movie.
The Pride of the Yankees
Less a film and more a tribute to the New York Yankees' beloved first baseman Lou Gehrig who had died one year earlier. Gary Cooper stars as Gehrig, who played in 2130 consecutive games during his career and was loved by almost all of New York. Following Gehrig from his childhood in New York until the day he retires with the famous 'Luckiest man alive' speech.
As heart-warming dramas go, Bull Durham is pretty much perfect. Kevin Costner (back when he was at the top of his game) plays Crash Davis, a veteran player who is forced to go and work for Class A Durham Bulls to handle the team's star rookie, wild pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins with some wild hair). Both men meet and end up involved with Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) creating a clever, funny, love triangle.
Unlike Pride Of The Yankees, sport very much takes a backseat in this film, but it's still just as affecting.
Field Of Dreams
One year after Bull Durham, Costner was back on the field, this time starring in the much-loved fantasy oddball drama Field Of Dreams. This time he stars as an Iowa corn farmer, who, after hearing commands from some strange ethereal voices interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his fields. Why? Because Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series want to come and play there.
Sound batshit? It is. It's also beautifully filmed, superbly scripted and, you'll be fighting back tears by the time the end rolls around.
Perhaps the grittiest of all the films in this list, Sugar tells the story of Miguel 'Sugar' Santos, a Dominican pitcher who is struggling to make it and, in so doing, pull himself and his family out of poverty. After signing with Kansas City and being housed with a farm family, Sugar is forced to adapt to his new way of life, with decidedly mixed results.
This lacks the glory and triumphalism of the others on this list, but is the most grounded in reality, with a charm and poignancy all of its own.
42 is released on Monday (February 3) on DVD and Blu-Ray.