Today I was flipping through the channels and came across Major League II on TBS. It made me think of all the great films out there that have portrayed the game of baseball on the big screen.
There have been so many baseball motion pictures that in Cooperstown, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, there is an exhibit dedicated solely to baseball movies. I decided to write in my top 10 favorite baseball flicks. I know many people have written these already, but I figured to throw in my favorite movies.
10) Angels in the Outfield
I know, it’s not the strongest of movies, but Roger and JP love the game. They are both separated from their parents and turn to the greatest game in the world for support. With a little divine intervention from Christopher Lloyd, real Angels help the Anaheim Angels win. A great movie for the family.
9) Little Big League
Another one for the younger audience, but still a great picture. Billy Heywood’s grandfather passes away, but leaves him a fortune: the Minnesota Twins!
Heywood becomes manager of the team and guides them to a winning season. There are so many cameos of the greatest players at the time: Ken Griffey, Jr., Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Paul O’Neill, Randy Johnson, and Lou Piniella to name a few. Pretty decent flick that portrays our favorite sport.
8) The Benchwarmers
This movie kind of got a bad rap, but I was one of the ones that liked it. The overall theme of the movie was important: bullying is wrong.
I especially loved the fact that director Dennis Dugan used baseball as a means to stop the bullying and have the little leaguers work together. Plus, that Stadium they built was impressive; a touch of the Yankee Stadium frieze, Fenway’s Green Monster, and the ivy from Wrigley Field.
The geeks may have lost the final game in the movie, but at heart, they really won.
7) Rookie of the Year
Henry Rowengartner. He was living my dream as a kid pitching in the big leagues. An accident somehow made his velocity go up, and he was picked to pitch for the Chicago Cubs.
As a kid, I always wanted to have an accident so I could throw harder, but my parents and coaches told me accidents don’t make you throw harder. This will always be a great baseball movie in my book.
6) Major League
Not only was this one of the best baseball movies I’ve seen, it was by far one of the funniest. I loved Bob Uecker’s quote: “One hit?! All we have is one God damned hit?!” “You can’t say that we’re on the air! Well, nobody’s listening anyway.”
All the characters are colorful, from Ricky Vaughn to Willie Mays Hayes. The story is great, and after viewing this film, I think the Indians will forever be in Cleveland, even if some stuffy owner’s wife wants to move the team…
I gained a new level of respect for Billy Crystal after I saw this movie. Now I know it’s about the Yankees, and I want to be un-biased, but this was an amazing picture. The actors playing Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane, respectively) did such a masterful job of portraying their feelings during the roller coaster ride that was the 1961 season.
It’s not easy chasing the greatest record in baseball, and at the film’s end, I truly feel that Maris is the rightful single season Home Run King. After going through death threats, losing his hair out of stress, and the media making his life a living hell, Maris deserves the right to be called the King.
4) For Love of the Game
I saw this movie with my uncle and my cousin the weekend it opened. This was more of a love story, but it is such a touching movie.
The last place Detroit Tigers play the Yankees with washed-up Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) on the mound. As Chapel pitches, he reflects on his love life with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston). He notices after seven innings that he’s pitching a perfect game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on the final game of the regular season.
Vin Scully’s quote still gives me goosebumps: “Tonight, Billy Chapel will take the walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium to use that achy arm to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
When he finally records the last out and notches the perfecto, Scully says, “The Cathedral of Yankee Stadium belongs to a Chapel.” If you are a guy and love baseball, watch this movie with your girlfriend. There’s something there for both of you.
3) The Rookie
High School baseball coach Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) tries his luck and makes it to the majors after his high school team makes the championship. It gives everyone hope that you can still fulfill your dreams, no matter how old you are.
After playing for the Durham Bulls, Morris makes it to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and pitches in a game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. His players are there in the nosebleeds to root him on. This is a movie that will most likely stand the test of time, and will be watched for a long time to come.
2) Bull Durham
This movie came out exactly a year after I was born. Costner plays Crash Davis, who is an aging catcher called up to tutor rookie pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh. Unfortunately for them, they are both romantically involved with a woman which makes a love triangle.
I learned something from this movie. 108 beads in a rosary, 108 stitches in a baseball. Coincidence? I think not. The “I believe in” speech that Davis gives is also gold. A little harsh, but brutally honest, which makes it classic. This will always be revered as one of the greatest baseball movie of all-time. They’ll be talking about Bull Durham for years to come.
1) Field of Dreams
Costner again. He must love the game. Anyone who has seen this movie knows how great it is. Ray Kinsella (Costner) interprets voices to build a baseball field on his farm. When he does, the Chicago Black Sox, or at least their ghosts, come to play there.
Who wouldn’t want to build a diamond and see their favorite players come out and play there? If I could pick a team, I would build my field and have the 1998 Yankees play on it. Kinsella’s line, “I’m pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson…” speaks volumes. If I had it my way, it’d be, “I’m pitching to Tino Martinez…” being that he was favorite player on the ’98 Yanks. This movie is the best of the best.
According to the Internet Movie Database, this movie ranks a 7.6 out of a possible 10. I could easily rank this film 10 out of 10. After this movie is over, go play catch with your dad. You need to. It is one of the most engrossing films I’ve ever seen.
There you have it. My top 10 baseball flicks. There are so many other great ones, but this is just my opinion. If anyone would like to share their favorite baseball movies, feel free to comment!
Believe. It’s a motto Seattle Mariners’ reliever Brian Sweeney goes by. Believe in yourself, believe in God, just believe and you will be fine.
On July 1, Sweeney, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., pitched at Yankee Stadium; a scoreless, 1-2-3 inning in which he got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter out. He later went on to face the Yanks on July 11 in Seattle and got the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher out. At press time, Sweeney is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA.
But his story begins long before facing the Bronx Bombers. Sweeney recently talked to Yankee Yapping about his journey through baseball, where he learned his knee-buckling changeup, and how he was punk’d the night before he was called up to the big leagues.
Yankee Yapping: You started at Archbishop Stepinac High School, and then moved on to Mercy College. Could you describe what it was like to pitch for the Flyers (now known as the Mavericks) and what did you major in while you were there?
Brian Sweeney: Pitching for Mercy was an incredible learning experience. I learned about hard work, dedication and how important it was to not give in, no matter what the circumstance.
Our records each season were not very good but it was not for lack of effort. I learned how to lose which is an important aspect in my professional life.
Learning how to lose helped me want to win more!
We lost off the field as well, because our assistant coach passed away in a car accident my freshman year. I also learned my changeup from my head coach at Mercy that I still use today.
My major was biology.
YY: Growing up, was there any specific team or player you looked up to?
BS: I was a Yankee fan growing up and my idol was Don Mattingly.
YY: You made your MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 16, 2003. What was your initial reaction when you got the call to the show?
BS: There was an unbelievable feeling of satisfaction. I knew from when I was four years old that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Granted I wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees, but after seven years of work in the minor leagues, I have finally accomplished my goal of getting to the big leagues.
People spend seven years in school to become doctors and lawyers, but I would certainly say my schooling helped me become a big league baseball player.
YY: After you spent a year with the Mariners, you went to San Diego to pitch for the Padres. What was the move like, going from the American League to the National League?
BS: The move wasn’t a big deal, except I wanted to stay with the Mariners my whole career. They brought me up and I wanted to pay dividends for them. I guess I can do that now that I’m back in Seattle. Both San Diego and Seattle are classy organizations. I only wish they were closer to home for me and my family, though!
YY: On May 7, 2006, you earned your first career save in a 6-3 Padres’ victory over the Chicago Cubs. As a relief pitcher, how did that feel and would you rather have a win or a save?
BS: It was a pretty cool experience considering our closer was Trevor Hoffman. He had pitched, like, five days in a row and he had the day off so they put me in the closer role that day. Everybody in the stands expected Hoffy to run out of the bullpen, but they got me that day.
All things winning are good, so I prefer both.
YY: At the end of ’06 you made your way to Japan and pitched for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. The story in the Journal News said, “You could go on all day about the differences between pitching in Japan and the United States.” Is there anything that you miss about Japan, now that you’re back in the States?
BS: I miss some of the drills that were conducted over there. For instance, they would put the pitchers at shortstop and it really was a great workout. I also miss some of my teammates. I played with Yu Darvish, who is an excellent player and a classy individual. Overall, it was a lot of fun to play in Japan.
I would also say I miss the food there. It was tremendous!
YY: This past April you came back, signed a deal with the Mariners, and then you were sent to the minors. Exactly two months later you were back in the majors. How did it feel to be back, considering you went right back to where you started (in Seattle) Was it a kind of homecoming for you? How happy were your teammates for you?
BS: It felt like I was in a time machine. All I could say was, “Where am I?”
Coming back and getting called up was satisfying, especially since I was able to go back to the Mariners–the team that bred me for seven years. It was like a homecoming, but I also had to get to know a lot of my teammates.
The only one I really knew from my first stint with the Mariners was Ichiro. It was fun to catch up with him and we talked a lot about Japan. It was a learning process to get to know the rest of the players. It took some time, but I got to know them all.
YY: Recently on July 1, you pitched at Yankee Stadium–a scoreless, 1-2-3 7th inning in which you got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and the legendary Derek Jeter out.
Your family was there, holding signs that read “believe” on them. Could you maybe give me the story behind that, and what did it feel like to be pitching at Yankee Stadium against its most beloved player? Did you change your pitching approach when Jeter stepped into the box?
BS: Believe is a word my children use (they are 11 and 6). It’s a strong word that means a lot and it pays dividends over time; believe in yourself, believe in God. My family jumped on that. They made signs that read “Believe” on them and it was meaningful to me that they did that.
I later found out that the Mariners’ team expression is “Believe Big.” It’s just a positive word.
As for Jeter…
I did the same thing with him that I did with the other hitters; same approach. Obviously he is one of the most celebrated ballplayers on the Yankees and he was a nice challenge.
The only thing that was different about him was that he took a long time to get into the batter’s box. I wish he had gotten into the box a little faster! Maybe he was trying to slow me down? It could just be his routine.
YY: At the moment your career record is 4-1. Of those four wins, which one would you say (if you can) was the most memorable, or rewarding?
BS: My first win was certainly the most rewarding. On June 29, 2004, San Diego needed a starter to face the Arizona Diamondbacks–and not just the D’Backs, but Randy Johnson.
Johnson had 3,992 career strikeouts and was going for 4,000. In that game, he got to 4,000 and I was two of them; I had to hit against him because it’s the N.L. We did however win the game 3-2 and it was a great feeling.
The next day I actually met Randy and talked to him, which also made it memorable.
YY: What’s the best story you have from being an MLB pitcher? When I interviewed John Flaherty (a former MLB catcher) he said he was hung over the day he was called up to the majors. Do you have a story like that?
BS: Oh brother! I know John very well and it’s pretty funny that he was hung over when he was called up! I have a story like that…
The night before I was called up I was out with a longtime roommate of mine. We had a few beers and then Jim Slaton, one of the coaches said, “I’m fired because the team isn’t pitching well.” I didn’t take it very well and had some choice words.
Finally he stopped me and said, “Just kidding. You’re going to the big leagues tomorrow.” I practically passed out; all the work I put in had finally paid off.
I was so happy, but I couldn’t get in touch with my dad right away because of the massive blackout that hit the east coast in the summer of 2003. I wanted my dad to be the first to know, because he was and still is a huge part of my success.
Yesterday, one of the biggest pitchers of our generation stepped down and retired. And he was big not only in terms of his height, but what he accomplished on the baseball field.
Pitcher Randy Johnson (all 6’10” of him) better known by his famous nickname “The Big Unit,” announced his retirement from baseball after 22 illustrious seasons. He stepped down at the young age of 46, proving that 40 is pretty much the new 30.
Over the course of his 22 seasons in the majors, Johnson pitched for six teams; The Montreal Expos, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees, and he finished his career in 2009 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Johnson accomplished so much over the course of his career and he is basically a dead lock for a first ballot Hall of Fame induction. He made 10 All Star Game appearances and tossed a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004.
He won Five Cy Young Awards, 303 Games, a World Series Championship and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award (he shared the honor in 2001 with teammate Curt Schilling as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat the Yankees in the ’01 fall classic).
With the type of career he had, he practically deserves his own room in Cooperstown.
Oftentimes people wonder how he got the nickname “Big Unit.” When Johnson was a member of the Expos back in 1988, his teammate Tim Raines accidentally collided with him in a batting practice session. Raines exclaimed, “You really are a big unit!”
The rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing Johnson pitch one time, of course as a member of the New York Yankees. The night was June 21, 2005, Yankees vs. the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium. I was so psyched to see this future Hall of Famer pitch a game for my favorite team.
Unfortunatley the Big Unit had a rough night.
Johnson scattered seven earned runs behind eight hits in just three innings, giving Tampa Bay a commanding 7-2 lead by the end of the third inning. He walked a batter, struck out three, and gave up three home runs.
It was frustrating to watch, but believe it or not, the Yankees came back and won the game, beating Tampa Bay by a score of 20-11. By the end of the game, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Gary Sheffield all hit home runs (Sheffield even left the park twice!)
Yes, the final box score looked like something you might see at Giants Stadium across the river, but I was just thankful the Yankees won. It was an eventful game to say the least!
Although Johnson had a miserable outing, I can vividly remember the reception he got when he jogged out to the bullpen to warm up before the start of the game; the crowd roared for him and showed him a lot of respect; all the respect well-deserved for a pitcher of his caliber. He just didn’t fit in with the Yankees and that was evident from the moment he got to New York.
When he first arrived in the Big Apple, Johnson went to take a physical examination in Manhattan. A CBS camera crew caught him and tried to follow him around the City while asking him questions. Johnson got annoyed and shouted angrily at the cameraman, resulting in a confrontation.
Sure enough, all over the newspapers and media outlets the next day was the Big Unit, slapping away the camera. He apologized for the incident, but everyone I talked to said they didn’t think he could handle New York after what had happened. Those thoughts were well-founded, because after just two seasons in pinstripes, he was gone.
As a member of the Yankees, Johnson won 34 games, had some rough postseason starts, and was involved in a little scrap on the streets of Manhattan. But on the bright side, he never lost to the Red Sox when he faced them.
Following 2006, Johnson had one more year left on his contract with the Yankees. However, he asked for a trade back to Arizona, where he spent most of his career and a good portion of his life. His brother had died and he wanted to be closer to his family, so he asked for the trade and the Yanks granted him his wish.
I will always feel that his heart and soul was never in New York, but always with the Diamondbacks and in the National League in general. To me he was never an American League pitcher, even after all the years he spent with the Mariners.
When I think of Johnson, I think of the National League because almost everything that he really ever accomplished came when he pitched there. And that isn’t a bad thing; it’s good that he was able to find a niche in the NL and have such a successful career pitching in that league.
My congratulations to you, Mr. Johnson. You are truly one of a kind and one of the all-time greats. With such prodigious longevity you will undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame some day. Nice work!