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The Story: The tale of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who using an usual strategy of computer analysis with a low-budget to redefine the sport. With the help of Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) on his staff, he recruits and builds a team nobody thinks can win and in the process creates a philosophy that turns the world of sports upside down.
The Baseball Moment: Brand is a numbers guy, a genius with formula’s that breaks down the skills of players not on impression and expectations, but production. In this chilling moment in the film, Brand develops a strategy for building a team of ‘misfits’, players that have been egregiously overlooked for how they look or otherwise, rather than the incredible skills the possess. And they can be bought for cheap. Hill and Pitt are at their best in this film, and this great moment, while not dealing with an baseball play, is wholly about the game and is one of the best in baseball movie history.
The Story: In 1939, an unknown ball player arrives in the majors and sets the game on fire, but who is he? Where did he come from? His name is Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) and his story is a tragic one but filled with hope and inspiration. As a young man, he was destined for greatness but a fateful encounter with a deranged woman changes all that. Years later, he decides to return to the sport he loves and proves that what he had could have been, and still might be, make him the best the game has ever seen.
The Baseball Moment: As a boy, Roy carved is own bat, made from a tree that was split open by lightning. In the majors, he uses the bat to send out home run after home run. For Wonder Boy, a name he earns both for his baseball prowess and the words he carved on the bat as a child, the bat is his greatest weapon in the sport. In the playoff game against the mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, Hobbs and his New York Knights face stiff competition. When Hobbs comes up to bat in the 9th, his team trailing by two with two men on base, he needs to hit a big one. When he does make contact with a fastball, it goes foul, but also splits his bat. With no choice but use another, he looks to bat boy Bobby Savoy (George Wilkosz), a kid’s come to look up to Hobbs, and tells him to “pick me out a winner, Bobby.” He comes back with the Savoy Special, and you can guess the rest.
The Story: A kid named Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves into town and is befriended by a group of misfits whose only really love is baseball (and Wendy Peffercorn). Disorganized and lacking greats skills, save for Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), they have heart and meet almost daily in the dusty old ball field behind Mr. Mertle’s (James Earl Jones) junkyard, which is guarded by the Beast, a huge dog that eats baseballs.
The Baseball Moment: There is actually not very much baseball in the movie, but that’s because this is more about coming of age than sports. But baseball is the thing that ties it all together, the equalizer that sees these boys find common ground and solve their problems. One of those problems is Phillips (Wil Horneff), the team captain of the local little league club who stops by on his bicycle with a few of his teammates to heckle the sandlot boys. Decked out in his uniform and team jacket, Phillips starts with some verbal jabs, directed mostly at Porter (Patrick Renna), whom he calls “the fat kid.” From there, it’s a competition to see who can better insult the other culminating with Porter letting loose the most scandalous put-down in kid’s baseball, “you play ball like a girl” with all the conviction of a major leaguer. Talk about your crickets in silence, this one ends the battle fast and riles up Phillips enough to challenge the other boys to a real game. Classic.
The Story: A former showgirl named Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) becomes the owner of the Cleveland Indians Baseball organization and hatches a scheme to make the team lose so they can petition to move to a different city. When the ragtag team of misfits she hires to play realize this, they band together and decide to be the best team they can and win to stop her plans.
The Baseball Moment: This comedy is surprisingly full of heart as the men, considered losers by most of the league and much of the fans, turn it around and prove they are anything but. They are led by catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), an aging former star who figures he has one good season left in him. He rallies the troops, smoothing over conflicts and inspiring the team. The best moment comes when the Indians have pretty much foiled Phelps and are in the playoffs. With the game tied, their only hope is with Wille Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes) on second base who has become the league’s best base stealer. Up to bat comes Taylor who, inciting the crowd, points to the home run fence in left field having everyone convinced he’s going to go big. What he does instead is something you’ll have to watch, but it’s a fantastically filmed and executed baseball moment that steps away from the comedy long enough to put a lump in our throats.
The Story: Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is just a normal 12-year-old kid who loves to play baseball. When he trips on a ball in the field and breaks his arm though, he becomes anything but normal. Later, the doc says his tendons have healed a little too tightly and it gives him the ability to cock back his arm like a rifle hammer, then fire a ball forward with lightning speed. This naturally gets him a lot of attention and soon enough, he’s pitching in the major leagues.
The Baseball Moment: There’s plenty of fun moments in this children’s sports fantasy film, especially once little Henry gets to suit up with the pros. The film finds just the right tone to keep this light and fun but amazingly, even believable. The best moment comes right after Henry has his cast off. He and his friends head straight to Wrigley Field to watch their favorite team. As fate would have it, a home run by a player on the visiting Montreal Expos lands in their hands and the packed crowd calls for them to throw it back, a tradition in the game. The boys toss the ball to Henry and he winds up, sending the ball whirling like a rocket from the stands behind the home run wall all the way to home plate. Needless to say, it has everyone stunned, including Cubs manager Larry Fisher (Dan Hedaya). A moment that feels like what every kid whose a baseball fan dreams would happen to them, this sequence sets the movie in play both tonally and contextually, but is done with warmth and humor. Best of it: The hilarious John Candy playing the play-by-play announcer who, mid-bite on his hotdog stares in stunned awe at what just happened.
The Story: During World War II, as the men were off fighting, to keep the people at home distracted and entertained, Major League Baseball managers, fearing their teams will be shut down, organize an all-female league. Two sisters join up and along with many others, show the country that women can play, too, while suffering the indignations of male-enforced etiquette.
The Baseball Moment: This comedy/drama is loaded with great moments, led by a great cast, but the best is given by the Rockford Peach’s manager, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), a one-time famous slugger who thinks this women’s league is a joke. That all changes of course, but before that, he’s got some learning to do in how to handle women, who are a decidedly different than the men he played with before. During one game, he stops Evelyn (Bitty Schram) after she makes a play on field that has the team lose their lead. Dugan, used to the rough banter of the majors, lays into her with some yelling that on the men’s team wouldn’t bat anyone’s eyes, but when he gets in Evelyn’s face, he gets attention also, especially when she breaks out into tears. Thus begins his epic “there’s no crying in baseball” rant that ends up with him getting tossed from the game. You know you’ve said this at least once to your friends.
The Story: Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), a 60s radical, gets married to his high school sweetheart and buys a farm in Iowa, raising a young daughter and growing corn. One day, he starts hearing voices telling him that ‘if he builds it, he will come’ and it freaks him out. But soon enough, it sends him on a deep, emotional and physical journey of self-discovery as he plows under his corn and builds a baseball field where the ghosts of players from long ago appear and play again.
The Baseball Moment: In a movie that is about baseball, the movie is really not about baseball. Yes, that a weird sentence, but baseball is the thing that connects the characters, especially one very important one with Ray: his father. He died long ago and they were estranged while he was alive. Ray always felt disappointed by how their relationship was never really settled. With the baseball field though, we realize that even though great stars of the past are having their dreams fulfilled again, it really is for something else. One evening, when the games are done for the day, three men remain on the field. One is Ray and another is the great Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), who smiles at Ray and repeats the spoken words first heard in the beginning of the film then nods to the last, the catcher at home plate, Ray’s father (Dwier Brown). The men speak, and while his father here is a young man, the two reconcile and then play catch while all the demons of the past melt away. Not a dry eye in the house.