' ' Cinema Romantico: My 5 Favorite Scenes from Baseball Movies

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

My 5 Favorite Scenes from Baseball Movies

A couple weeks ago on his blog, er, Substack, Joe Posnanski fielded a question from a brilliant reader, as he deems them, asking after his five favorite scenes from baseball movies. Posnanski, however, let his own brilliant reader’s five favorite scenes from baseball movies – one from “Field of Dreams,” one from “The Natural,” one from “League of their Own,” two from “Eight Men Out” – settle the matter and gave his five favorite baseball references from the celebrated FX show “The Bear,” including the scene from the lost 90s indie holiday movie “Fishes” where baseball cards are discussed and some guys are literally remembered. One of the guys, it should be noted, was Jay Buhner, meaning both “The Bear” and “Seinfeld” include references to Jay Buhner, apparently the hallmark of a truly great TV show. Anyway. Posnanski said the rest of his brilliant readers could hash out their favorite baseball scenes in the comments, and though I suppose I pay to read his blog, er, Substack for that privilege, I don’t do really do comment sections, and besides, I’ve got my own blog, I thought, I could just do my five favorite baseball scenes here. Ergo, a list that I feel confident AI could not have hatched.   

My 5 Favorite Scenes from Baseball Movies

5. Bull Durham. It might be more of a moment, really, than a scene, but Kevin Costner’s introduction as Minor League journeyman Crash Davis is iconic, not merely one of the best character intros in movie genre but in movies in general, bringing to life an arcane bit of baseball terminology in the most colorfully droll way possible. 

4. Field of Dreams. This is not a baseball scene, but it is a scene in a baseball movie, which as far as I am concerned, still counts. And whatever you think of the pie in the sky belief system, deliberately hokey storytelling, or the left-handed Shoeless Joe Jackson batting right-handed, as events concerning book banning in my native state have demonstrated, that scene in the high school gymnasium where Amy Madigan indulges her inner-60s radical is essentially a documentary.

3. Sugar. On the other hand, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s “Sugar,” which has emerged over the years as my favorite baseball movie, is also partially set in rural Iowa where a Dominican baseball product named Miguel “Sugar” Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) comes to play in the minor leagues. There is a recurring joke in which he orders French toast because he does not know how to order anything else, like eggs, because he can’t specify what kind of egg. So, the server (Marla Finn) brings him a plate with all the egg options and explains what each one is, a recurring joke transforming into an olive branch. In my considerable experience, the phrase Iowa nice is not as overall in accordance with reality as its proponents would suggest, but neither is it entirely mythological, and this moment taken in tandem with the previous one demonstrates the flip side to Iowa. 

2. Major League. A winning team is fun, that goes without saying, but as I have aged and become fonder of regular season baseball’s feeling and rhythm than the postseason’s, I have also become more intrigued by losing baseball teams, the ones that have to muster up just enough to slog through August and September when they are 25 games out of first place. And so more than Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) getting the climactic strikeout post “Wild Thing” walkout, the sequence that I have always loved most in David S. Ward’s 1989 comedy is Rick Vaughn’s first appearance on the mound in which he walks the bases loaded on 12 pitches, surrenders a grand slam, plunks a guy, and triggers a brawl. It is a virtual comic symphony courtesy of editor Dennis M. Hill in which each cut maximizes the humor and Bob Uecker ties the whole thing together by riffing on the local announcer’s duty to try and maintain a little optimism in the face of certain defeat.

1. The Naked Gun. Uh oh. Real existential question here. Is “The Naked Gun” a baseball movie, or is it merely a movie that ends with a baseball sequence? Well, if the Major League Baseball Network is any guide, which re-runs “The Naked Gun,” like, every weekend, then it absolutely is. Besides, I would argue the concluding baseball sequence is so overpowering that in real time it remolds “The Naked Gun” into a baseball movie, sort of like how Taylor Swift remolded every Kansas City Chief game last year into a platform for her own stardom. If humor is truth then the climax of “The Naked Gun” proves it, getting to the truth of baseball in a way no callow drama ever could by ribbing on things as small as spitting and TV’s penchant for filling booths with too many talking heads and as big as insistence on regimental pageantry (see above), umpires who make themselves the star of the show, and good old fashioned American bloodlust by way of a brawl (if not also a few sports bloopers), its status as America’s Pastime enlarged by having it all play out in front of Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles), take it or leave it, Your Majesty.

No comments: