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baseball flicks without Kevin Costner that satisfy superfans

By Justin Pacheco
On April 14, 2009

04/14/09 - Baseball season has just started and with each game played fans seem to become more engrossed with the season. However, there isn't always a game on and fans need to get their baseball fix somewhere. Aa good baseball movie can often fill the void. Here are five great baseball movies that do not feature Kevin Costner.Why exclude Costner? Because, there is nothing interesting about a list of baseball movies that features "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams" in the top two spots followed by another Costner movie, "For the Love of the Game."

There's no denying that they're great movies, but if you have a more than middling interest in baseball or movies, it's pretty impossible to not know about these movies. There's no need to heap further praise on them.

So, onto the list of five great baseball movies. (Non-Costner Division)

1. "The Bad News Bears"

The original 1976 version is preferable to the remake, since the remake concedes to the political correctness of the time by eliminating much of the children's vulgarity. The little leaguers in the 2005 version won't be swearing at each other, and that's really just a shame.

The 1976 version stars Walther Matthau as an alcoholic, washed-up minor leaguer who is currently working as a pool cleaner. He takes over the team and turns them around with the help of two new star players: a female pitcher with a great fastball and a motorcycle-riding, cigarette smoking centerfielder.

The best part of the movie, aside from Matthau's drunken leadership and the kids' prolific swearing, is the ending. While most sports movies have the underdog win, especially when it involves kids, the good guys lose this one. They celebrate despite the loss, and tell the champion Yankees, "You can take your apology and your trophy and shove 'em straight up your ass!"

2. "61*"

This was a made for HBO movie that takes a look at the 1961 season of the New York Yankees, following Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as they both chase Babe Ruth's single season home run record.

The film seems to portray Maris as the sympathetic figure. He has a bad start to the season and while the chase goes deep into the summer, it becomes clear that he is not well-liked by the fans or media. Both would much rather see Mantle, the charming Yankee legend, break the Babe's record.

The contrast between Mantle and Maris is what drives the movie. Maris is shown to be a clean cut guy who doesn't drink, smoke, gamble or cheat on his wife. Mantle is portrayed as a hard drinking lover of the nightlife. Both are sympathetic figures in the film, but it's hard not to root for Maris.

3. "The Natural"

In this film, a towering homerun is hit so deep that it shatters the stadium lights causing a shower of sparks to rain down as Roy Hobbs rounds the bases. There is likely not a more iconic visual in any sports film.

The movie is full of iconic scenes and plays out like a piece of baseball mythology. There is no more perfect story than that of a 35 year-old nobody becoming the best player in the majors, single handedly turning around an awful team, finding love and hitting a pennant winning homerun.

Hobbs is a larger-than-life character who is unbelievably true and undeniably good. This doesn't make for the most realistic movie, but it makes for a feel-good, epic tale of a legendary player that helps wash away the taste of baseball's real life problems.

4. "Major League"

Now, this movie may be a little predictable, a little cheesy and have a few too many cliches, but it's damn funny. Of all the movies on this list, I've watched "Major League" the most. Every time it shows up on TBS I stop and watch it. I've probably seen it close to 20 times and have yet to get sick of it.

I don't get sick of Tom Berenger as the old catcher, mentoring the young team. I don't get sick of Charlie Sheen with Buddy Holly glasses, prison tattoos and a zigzag buzz cut as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn. I don't get sick of Pedro Serrano, the Indians' slugger from parts unknown whose beliefs in voodoo lead him to sacrifice a chicken to help him hit. This also leads to a clash with Eddie, the Indians' devout Christian pitcher, in which Serrano says "Ah, Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball." To which Eddie angrily replies, "You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?"

Most of all, I don't get sick of Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle, the Indians' long time announcer with a bit of a drinking problem. Uecker is the standard as far as hilarious announcers in sports comedies go. From this point on, sports movies have featured quick-witted announcers that both root for the home team and lament its loser status.

5. "The Sandlot"

"There are better baseball movies out there than "The Sandlot," but no other catches the pure spirit of the game quite like it. It's a nostalgic trip to a 1960s summer in the suburbs for a 10 year-old boy.

There is something about the fact that the kids play unorganized baseball that lends the movie some of its endearing qualities. They don't keep score, they don't really compete. They just play. It's important to notice how the things kids do were done for pure enjoyment rather than as a means to an end. There are no parents pushing the kids to win, to succeed and to become major leaguers (though one kid ends up in the majors as an adult).

So while other movies might be more realistic, or more dramatic, "The Sandlot" succeeds in its ability to capture the spirit of a childhood baseball game with friends.

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