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What are the best baseball films? Connie Mack coaches weigh in

Baseball on the big screen has made for some great and not so great moments
The cast of “The Sandlot,” released by 20th Century Fox in 1993. (20th Century Fox)

FARMINGTON – It can be debated that there’s more to life than baseball. I’d make the case that sometimes baseball mirrors life. Since one of the most important things we do in our life is to find ways to entertain ourselves, I take a certain pride in being a film snob, particularly when it comes to baseball movies.

As a lifelong baseball fan, I take the cinematic interpretation of the sport very seriously. The only other sport which translates so well to the big screen, in my estimation, is boxing.

With that in mind, and with the Connie Mack World Series right around the corner, I asked several coaches leading their teams into battle for the CMWS which baseball movies caught their attention and furthered their love of the game (pun clearly intended).

Steven Bortstein

Interestingly, one movie, “The Sandlot,” seemed to be at or near the top of many coaches lists. The 1993 film follows a group of young baseball players during the summer of 1962. The movie is set in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, while filming locations were in Midvale, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah.

The film grossed $34 million worldwide and has since become a bit of a cult classic.

“’The Sandlot’ captures the true essence of baseball, the deep love of the game and kids chasing their dreams,” said Frackers head coach Eli Wyatt.

Jeff Kiraly, who is looking to guide the 505 Panthers back to the CMWS, had no hesitation in calling out his favorite baseball movies.

“I got to see ‘Bull Durham’ when I was young and that was big for me,” Kiraly said. “I’m also a big fan of ‘The Natural’ because I like the more serious baseball movies.”

Landry Mayo, who will be leading the Dallas Patriots onto the baseball fields across Farmington this week in hopes of winning the CMWS, also praised “The Sandlot” as an essential baseball film.

“’The Sandlot’ is a childhood classic that represents the innocence of being a kid and playing the game with your friends,” Mayo said. “No uniforms, no umpires, just playing until the sun goes down.”

Brett Bergman, who guided the Dallas Tigers to victory in last year’s Connie Mack World Series, took a different approach when it comes to his theatrical representations of baseball.

“’Bull Durham’ is a comedy classic that shares insight into minor league baseball with great characters, Crash Davis & Nuke LaLoosh,” Bergman said. “’42’ is an incredible story about a man that had so much impact to the game of baseball and society. It is really amazing what Jackie Robinson endured during his career. He is a baseball and American icon and hero.”

Bergman also enjoyed the comedic stylings of “Major League”, which tells the story of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians and is one of the most enduring film franchises of the late part of the 20th century.

Greg Byron, head coach of the High Performance Tigers from Mississauga, Ontario, shared Bergman’s enthusiasm regarding Major League, but also gave special attention to one of my personal favorite baseball films, “Eight Men Out”.

Chicago White Sox third baseman Jake Lamb walks through a cornfield before a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Dyersville, Iowa. The Yankees and White Sox are playing at a temporary stadium in the middle of a cornfield at the “Field of Dreams” movie site, the first Major League Baseball game held in Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press)

Released in 1988, “Eight Men Out” is based on Eliot Asinof's 1963 book of the same name, recalling the tale of the 1919 World Series. The film is a dramatization of Major League Baseball's Black Sox Scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series.

“It’s a cool story on one of the most historic things to ever happen in baseball,” Byron said.

Surprisingly, none of the coaches we spoke to mentioned “Field of Dreams,” “A League Of Their Own” or “For Love of the Game,” the only film in which the late Vin Scully makes an appearance as an announcer of a fictional Major League game.

Keith Law, senior baseball writer at The Athletic, wrote a column earlier this year on baseball movies for RogerEbert.com, a website dedicated to the late film critic which still provides reviews for current films.

In Law’s column, he writes extensively about a film called “Sugar,” a mostly unknown piece released in 2008, following the story of Miguel Santos, also known as Sugar (Algenis Perez Soto), a Dominican pitcher struggling to make it to the big leagues and pull himself and his family out of poverty.

“Sugar” was not a hit at the box office and was eventually released on DVD for home video in September 2009, but received mainly favorable reviews.

Whatever your choice is for a night away from the ballpark, it’s hard to go wrong with a film about the sport.

Unless of course you’re talking about “Angels In The Outfield” or “Trouble With The Curve.” Those two movies are unforgivably bad.

That’s all.

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