By Meaghan Walsh Gerard
Baseball commissioner, philosopher and literature professor A. Bartlett Giamatti (yes, he was Paul’s father) wrote: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
This opening day (and throughout the season), revisit these essential baseball movies.
“Smalls, Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player that ever lived. People say he was less than a god but more than a man. You know, like Hercules or something. That ball you just aced to The Beast is worth, well, more than your whole life.”
A ragtag group of neighborhood kids play pick-up games in an abandoned lot, but their adventures become more dire when they lose their Babe Ruth-signed baseball over the fence and in the angry neighbor’s yard.
“Oh, Miss Higgins! You're the prettiest manager in baseball.”
Esther Williams inherits a baseball team and has to keep the players, including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munchin, in line. It’s a funny MGM musical that’s typical of the era.
“I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book…. And then? And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”
Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, Robert Redford plays a soft-spoken player with natural talent from a seemingly unnatural source.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) has a struggling farm in Iowa. A mysterious voice tells him to build a baseball diamond in his field, which eventually attracts the ghosts of players past - and his own father.
“After the first month of league play, the shine still isn't off these ‘diamond’ gals. Alice ‘Skeeter’ Gaspers says legging out a triple is no reason to let your nose get shiny - Betty Grable has nothing on these gals. Helen Haley has not only been a member of several championship amateur teams, she is also an accomplished coffee maker.”
Based on the real-life story of the Rockford Peaches, the movie is a feel-good look at a time when women played major league baseball – and were really good at it.
“Baseball was proof positive that democracy was real. A baseball box score after all, is a democratic thing. It doesn't say how big you are, or what religion you follow it does not know how you voted, or the color of your skin, it simply states what kind of ballplayer you were on any particular day.”
Chadwick Boseman plays Jackie Robinson ina biopic about the first modern African American Major League player. Robinson eventually won Rookie of the Year (1947), MVP (1949) and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1962).
“Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.”
Aging pitcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is sent to the minors to mentor an up-and-coming player. He struggles with being on the other side of fame and a summer fling.
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.