Ray Kinsella has calmed down over what he initially perceived as an insult from the ballplayers. They didn’t invite him to join them in his Iowa cornfield, and instead asked Terrence Mann to be the honored guest who bears witness to whatever mysteries lay beyond the outfield.
Ray, his wife, Annie, and daughter Karin walk toward their farmhouse, when Ray suddenly looks back and sees “Shoeless” Joe Jackson still standing on the field.
Turning around to face the ballplayer, Ray asks, “What are you grinning at, you ghost?”
Jackson glances at the backstop, where an unidentified catcher is taking off his equipment. “If you build it,” Jackson says, nodding toward the catcher, “he will come.”
Ray looks in astonishment as the catcher removes his mask, realizing immediately that the player is his deceased father as a young man.
I’m serious. I have seen “Field of Dreams” no fewer than 20 times, and that scene always tears me up. I don’t know how that scene plays for guys who are lucky enough to still have their dads with them, but it grabs me in the gut and won’t let go. And trust me, I never cry in the movies, except when I’ve paid full price for an Adam Sandler comedy.
I never seek out “Field of Dreams” when I look through the TV schedule, but if I’m flipping through the channels and come across it, I’m a goner. I tell myself that I’ll only watch this next scene, and before I know it, the climactic scene is getting closer, and I figure I might as well keep watching.
Although there are many great baseball movies, I have to give my top spot to “Field of Dreams.” Other baseball films might have more authentic baseball scenes, but no other film has more heart.
Although I am in the middle of watching March Madness, it is hard not to think about baseball movies with the new season about to start.
So I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite baseball movies of all time. The two most important factors in compiling the list were that they had to be about baseball, and I had to be willing to watch them more than once.
Also, I should note that these are all feature films, so Ken Burns’ excellent documentary “Baseball” didn’t qualify, but should not be missed by any baseball fan.
1. “Field of Dreams” (1989) — Director Phil Alden Robinson based his screenplay on a book by W.P. Kinsella. Kevin Costner stars as Ray, and Ray Liotta plays “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
2. “Bull Durham” (1988) — Director Ron Shelton played in the minor leagues, and his experience is evident in this film’s authenticity. Once again, Costner is the star as a journeyman catcher on a minor-league team. He is given the job of taming and training an undisciplined phenom played by Tim Robbins. The men battle for the attentions of a woman (Susan Sarandon), who is both a super-fan and a muse. Sarandon once told me that she never understood her sexy image in Hollywood, and I asked her if she had ever seen “Bull Durham.”
3. “The Sandlot” (1993) — This is a movie about the love of baseball from the perspective of kids playing the game outside the discipline and restrictions of organized ball.
4. “The Bad News Bears” (1976) — I never tire of the lessons learned in this movie.
5. “Major League” (1989) — Don’t get turned off by the sequels. The original is pretty funny.
6. “A League of Their Own” (1992) — Any movie that gave us the line “There’s no crying in baseball” has to be included.
7. “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) — I hate the New York Yankees so much that I couldn’t place this movie any higher on the list. I also couldn’t ignore it. Damn Yankees!
8. “The Natural” (1984) — I know that many people would have put this film higher, but I find it too far-fetched. And I’m the guy who doesn’t think “Field of Dreams” is too far-fetched.
9. “Fever Pitch” (2005) — This is less about the workings of baseball than it is about baseball fans. I love the scene with Jimmy Fallon and his friends dividing up his season tickets. There is also a great scene in a restaurant when the depressed fans see some of their heroes enjoying a dinner after a loss, proving that the game’s outcome means more to the fans than the professionals who play it.
10. “Moneyball” (2011) — The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon is the best baseball editor in the business, and an accomplished screenwriter to boot, but he must have been delirious with baseball fever when he called this the best baseball movie ever made. In five years, no one, except for a few purists, will care about this movie.