The storm this weekend meant that we got in one day of baseball movie watching. First up was Little Big League. This is one of the many children’s baseball movies that came out in the 90s, movies that I remember awfully fondly. (See also: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield) Dan campaigned for this one to be included in our study because it holds up to the test of time despite a very weak actor playing the main character. And he was right. It’s a great, if unlikely, story, about a kid whose grandfather dies and leaves him the Minnesota Twins. After arguing with the Twins’ manager, twelve-year-old Billy names himself the manager. It’s fairly straightforward from there: single mom is romanced by the first baseman. Old grizzled reliever resents having a kid as a manager. But what this movie has going for it are a bunch of really fun team members, clever trick plays, former MLB players playing the baseball players in the movies (including former Met Kevin Elster!), the Twins’ actual radio announcer, Chris Berman doing Baseball Tonight, and cameos from big-name 90s baseball greats like Ken Griffey, Jr, Pudge Rodriguez, Paul O’Neill, Randy Johnson, Lou Piniella and Rafael Palmeiro. You don’t see that kind of thing any more, and it’s just flat-out cool. Oh! And don’t let me forget that this movie contains a sweet baseball montage to “Centerfield” by John Fogerty. Which is kind of essential. It’s a good story and it’s funnier than you think. Good stuff.
Bull Durham was next, and this one carries a lot of weight. I’ve only seen it once, but both Dan and my brother list it among their very favorite movies. This was part of Kevin Costner’s late 80s baseball movie trifecta, and it’s GOOD. I mean, this is an amazing movie. Because this movie focuses on a really terrible minor league team, it’s unique. It’s about baseball and love and loving baseball, and about wanting to make it in the majors. And about sometimes not making it. Tim Robbins is hilarious as a clueless hotshot rookie who has no control on the mound, while Susan Sarandon is the woman who adopts one player each year and makes him great. But it’s even more about Kevin Costner’s character, and old catcher whose last hurrah will be grooming Tim Robbins to make it big. Maybe this movie’s strength comes from the fact that it was written by a guy who played in the minors for five years and really understands what that means. Another “Centerfield” montage, a fast-talking manager, and a really great cast of characters only add to Bull Durham’s charm. It’s funny, it’s sexy, and it’s a great story. So, so, so good. Don’t watch it with kids. But I love it.