‘Moneyball’ prompts list of old moneyball diamond classics
With Brad Pitt’s smart “Moneyball” racking up bucks at the box office and with the major league playoffs looming on the horizon, now’s a good time to consider baseball movies.
Everybody, it seems – fan or non-fan – has a favorite. And you don’t have to be a baseball wonk to rattle off the titles of the most high-profile diamond classics – “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Bad News Bears,” “The Natural.”
Of all sports, baseball has probably spawned a greater number of Hollywood treatments than any other game.
In recent years, baseball flicks have included everything from the somber and serious (“Bang the Drum Slowly,” “Eight Men Out”) to the funny and fanciful (“The Sandlot,” “Bingo Long’s Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings”) to the sentimental and sappy (“The Rookie,” “Summer Catch”). The roster goes on and on.
But for this lineup, we’ll offer a star-studded baker’s dozen of old moneyball classics (movies from the 1950s and before). So fire up the DVD and PLAY BALL!
“The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) – Truly a classic, this biopic traces the life of Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper), the Yankees ironman who played in 2,130 consecutive games before falling at age 37 to ALS, the deadly nerve disease that now bears his name. The film’s highlight: the famous “Luckiest Man” speech at Gehrig’s farewell day in 1939.
“Damn Yankees” (1958) – An antidote to pinstripe fandom is the jazzy film adaptation of the George Abbott Broadway musical, featuring Tab Hunter and Gwen Verdon. It’s about a Washington Senators fan who makes a pact with the Devil to help his baseball team win the league pennant.
“It Happens Every Spring” (1949) – A college professor (Ray Milland) invents a revolutionary substance that causes baseballs to be repelled by wood. Gradually, he realizes the possibilities, takes a leave of absence and goes to St. Louis to pitch in the big leagues, where he becomes a national sensation and propels his team to the World Series.
“Elmer the Great” (1933) – Big-mouthed comic Joe E. Brown stars in this Ring Lardner gem about country bumpkin ballplayer Elmer Kane, who leaves tiny Gentryville to play for the Chicago Cubs. In the big city, Elmer has woman troubles, runs afoul of big-time gamblers and finds himself on the spot during the deciding game of the World Series.
“Alibi Ike” (1935) – Joe E. Brown is back with the Cubs in this comedy in which he plays rookie pitcher Francis “Ike” Farrell, who comes out of nowhere to help the Cubs go for the pennant. But Ike’s idiosyncratic ways, which include excuses and alibis for everything, drive his manager (William Frawley), his teammates and fiancée (Olivia de Havilland) batty.
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