Baseball movies are as much a part of Americana as apple pie and quilts. For decades, we have embraced moves like The Natural, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, quoting them in perpetuity (“If you build it, he will come”) and regaling them as downright prophetic (“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness”).
But in addition to those quotable moments we all hold dear (“I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for”), what other key ingredients do you need to make a classic American baseball movie?
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Maris and Mantle, Lou Gehrig, The Rockford Peaches. Because while we love to go to the movies to escape, it never hurts when at the back of our minds and in the bottom of our hearts, we can believe this magic truly transpired.
See also: Pride of the Yankees, *61, A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out
Roy Hobbs, Morris Buttermaker, Jimmy Dugan, JB Bernstein. Everyone rejoices when the jaded, hopeless and/or surly find true love/win the game/conquer the odds/beat the bad guy.
See also: The Natural, Bad News Bears
“You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” Baseball is serious business. Winning requires concentration, determination and discipline. But a smile or three along the way never hurts.
See also: Major League, The Sandlot
Susan Sarandon, Kim Basinger, Drew Barrymore, Lake Bell… And don’t think I don’t see you over there, ladies, How about Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and Jon Hamm. Eye candy never hurts.
See also: Bull Durham, Fever Pitch, For Love of the Game
James Earl Jones, Wilford Brimley, Harrison Ford, Alan Arkin. For as long as we’ve loved baseball movies, we’ve loved the gruff older men in them, busting at the seams with pungent one-liners and bursts of sage advice.
See also: Field of Dreams, Moneyball, 42
Be it age, illness, a beast of an animal catching and claiming your only baseball, a dirty team owner, financial woes or cultural barriers, the journey is just as important as the destination. You might say it’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
See also: Fear Strikes Out, The Rookie
Now watch this…
Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm stars Hamm as struggling independent sports agent JB Bernstein. Bernstein is questioning everything, including his decision to leave a large prestigious firm and go out on his own with friend and partner, Aash (a breakout role for Aasif Mandvi).
In a last ditch effort to save his livelihood he concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm.” He relies on help from a motley crew of locals including wanna-be baseball coach Amit (charming Indian actor Pitobash) as well as a cantankerous retired baseball scout endearingly portrayed by Arkin.
Soon, they discover Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi), two 18-year-old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India, the boys, who have never left their rural villages, are even more challenged when they come to the States and often times, hilarity ensues. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, Bernstein, with the help of his quirky and beautiful friend Brenda (Lake Bell), learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
Does it end well? Does love conquer all? Well, it is based on a true story so you could Google it if you wanted to but why ruin it for yourself? All the key ingredients are there — the movie is terrific! And after all, it’s not about whether you win or lose…
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