After I did my “All-Time, Desert-Island Top 5 Baseball Movies” list recently, I got congratulations from several readers — readers of the female persuasion — for my good judgment in putting “A League of Their Own” on the list. And it was, I believe, a good choice.
Unfortunately, it just got sent down.
I saw “Moneyball” yesterday. Definitely Top Five material. I saw it with my Dad. He said it was the best film he’d seen in awhile, and the best thing Brad Pitt has ever done. I don’t know if I’d agree with that last part, being a fan of both “Fight Club” and “Snatch,” but the film overall is definitely one of the best baseball movies ever. (And the best acting in it, as usual, is done by Phillip Seymour Hoffman — although I thought Billy Beane’s front office staff was impressive, too.)
In fact, I’m going to put it at number four. Actually, technically — as an example of filmmaking — it should probably be at No. 2 and giving “The Natural” a run for its money. But while it is unquestionably all about baseball, it’s about other things, too. Communicating the essence of baseball is not quite its mission the way it is with the top three. It is also about change, and modernity, and the never-ending struggle between statistics and intuition. The top three are more about answering the question, “Why do I love baseball?” “Moneyball” is about that, too — but not entirely.
Hence my new Top Five:
- The Natural – American myth-making on the grand scale. If you wanted to put a movie on a spacecraft to explain to aliens what the game means, you’d choose this one. It’s perfect.
- Major League — Silly, yes, but a good complement to the reverential seriousness of “The Natural.” Hits all the buttons in explaining why the game is fun.
- The Sandlot — Maybe because it’s set in the days when I was a kid, and also spending hours on a sandlot — without uniforms, without adult supervision, just being kids — this really resonates as a depiction of the ball-playing experience of those of us who will never play in the majors.
- Moneyball — Just an incredibly well-made film, independently of being about baseball — perhaps the best on the list in that regard. While it’s about the triumph of Bill James‘ statistical method, there’s plenty here for us intuitive types to cheer for.
- Eight Men Out — A masterly, credible evocation of how the game’s blackest scandal came about, told in a way that you can understand motives. Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Now that I look at it without the Tom Hanks one, I’m starting to wonder about “Eight Men Out.” I’m not sure this list is final. I think maybe I’ll refer this to the blog’s Ad Hoc Committee on Baseball Movies. The committee will be assigned to watch both of those again to decide conclusively which should be in fifth place.
Until then, “A League of Their Own” is sixth on the list.