There are three reasons for this post:
#1 is that I criticize New York Times reporters and writers so often for bias and incompetence that it is only fair that I give credit when one of them does something not only right, but exactly as I would have done it.
#2 is that the “something” is a list of the best baseball movies to watch while trying to endure both the anxieties of the Wuhan virus disruption and the delay of the baseball season.
#3 is that I am trying to scale down Part 2 of the Ethics Alarms inspirational films list (Part I is here), and this helps: I can remove the baseball movies now.
Times film critic Bruce Fretts picked what he called the ten best baseball films of the last 50 years. I would call them the best baseball films of all time. The one borderline pick he left out would be “The Lou Gehrig Story,” which is more a biography than a true baseball movie, and it’s also sad. Only two films on Fretts’ list are sad. Baseball movies shouldn’t be sad, though I agree with him on the exceptions.
I would add two more baseball movies if it was a Top 12: “The Sandlot” (1993), which brings back memories of my own pick-up baseball gang (and my late English Mastiff, Patience) and “Fever Pitch” (2005), which perhaps is more of a Red Sox movie than a baseball movie. (It had me from the moment Jimmy Fallon kissed his hand and deposited the love on a picture of Tony Conigliaro.) These, however really are the ten best. Fretts listed them alphabetically, and I wouldn’t try to rank them.
The Bad News Bears (1976): It’s also a great ethics movie, with the final game against the hated Yankees (Little League-version) being perhaps the best climactic game on the whole list.
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973): The novel is also wonderful, and the stage version, which my theater company produced under the excellent direction of Ellen Dempsey. Yes, it’s sad, but the movie is about kindness and our shared humanity as well as baseball. The last line of the book, movie and play is a beautiful expression of the Golden Rule.
“The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings”(1976): Billy Dee Wiliams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor in an ode to barnstorming baseball teams and segregated baseball before Jackie Robinson
“Bull Durham”(1988): former minor leaguer The weirdness of minor league baseball is exploited to the max is this romantic comedy. The film deserves immortality if only for the fact that its screenplay, authored by Ron Shelton, reveals what mound conferences are really like.
“Eight Men Out” (1988): The other sad movie on the list, this is the story of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, a human tragedy and an ethics cautionary tale.
“Field of Dreams” (1989): Yes, it’s shamelessly manipulative, and some of the speeches from the novel needed to be loosened up, but if “Dad? Wanna have a catch?” doesn’t choke you up, something’s wrong with you.
“A League of Their Own” (1992): Here’s how good this film about the short-lived All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is: even the fact that Rosie O’Donnell is one of the players can’t hurt it.
“Major League” (1989): The funniest baseball comedy if you don’t count the hilarious baseball sequence in “The Naked Gun,” which I guess you can’t. Fretts says this is generally considered the favorite baseball movie of Major League players. I didn’t know that, but I can see why.
“Moneyball” (2011): A fascinating movie about baseball management and team building, I was shocked at how good it was, and I already knew the story.
“The Natural’ (1984): It’s not perfect, but “The Natural” is probably my favorite movie on the list, for the beginning, for the ending, for Randy Newman’s score, for some of the lines, for the many references to baseball history, and mostly because it captures what those rare and special moments feel like to a passionate baseball fan, when the impossible comes true, and you hear “The Natural’s” Wonderboy theme echoing in your head even if you never heard it before.