Not too long ago, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports wrote an article blasting the movie Field of Dreams. Calcaterra said he felt the movie was terrible bordering on insulting. Not surprisingly, this take provoked quite a reaction on social media as people rose to defend the movie.
Whatever your opinion of Field of Dreams, no one can argue it’s underrated. For the most part, it’s a mainstay near the top of any list of the best baseball movies. As such, I would like to list some baseball movies I feel have been underrated.
Just a disclaimer: these are movies that I find to be underrated, and my views do not necessarily reflect the views of Cubs Insider. The list is ordered chronologically by release date. Feel free to comment if you’ve got some thoughts on my roster or have some movies of your own to add.
Eight Men Out (1988): The other story about the Black Sox, this time ghost-free. Based on the book of the same name, Eight Men Out focuses on the World Series fixing and the trial that follows it. John Cusack steals the show as third baseman Buck Weaver, who interacts with two young White Sox fans who slowly lose faith in their heroes. Also keep an eye on David Strathairn’s great performance as ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte.
Mr. Baseball (1992): Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliot, a washed-up Yankees slugger who tries to extend his career in Japan. His new manager on the Chunichi Dragons (Kosuke Fukudome’s old team), Uchiyama, gives him a hard time almost immediately. Elliot initially reacts with hostility to the ways of Japanese baseball, until finally, with the help of the manager’s daughter, he sees the light. If you have ever been curious about Japanese baseball it’s worth a watch. Ken Takakura is especially good as Uchiyama, who also starts to change his old-school ways as the movie progresses.
Little Big League (1994): Despite Jonah Keri’s efforts to extol its virtues, I still believe this movie is underrated. Luke Edwards plays 12-year-old Billy Heywood, who inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather. Billy, a baseball savant, soon names himself the new manager and leads the team to a one-game wild card playoff. Filmed during the baseball strike, this movie is loaded with MLB cameos and great baseball action. Timothy Busfield is particularly good as All-Star first baseman Lou Collins. Cubs fans will particularly enjoy cameos from Lou Piniella and Leon Durham.
For Love of the Game (1999): Tigers ace Billy Chapel, played by baseball-movie mainstay Kevin Costner, is at the end of his career. His shoulder is shot and the Tigers are being sold. Yet, he’s out on the mound at Yankee Stadium pitching the game of his life. As he chases perfection, he looks back on his life and career, much of which deals with his ex-girlfriend, played by Kelly Preston. Perhaps the best part of this movie is the call of the incomparable Vin Scully as Chapel seeks his perfecto.
Summer Catch (2001): Freddie Prinze Jr. is Ryan Dunne, a hard-throwing lefty pitching prospect in the Cape Cod Summer League who can’t keep his emotions in check. If he can ever put it all together he could make the show, but will he? To add to the drama and intrigue, Dunne is also dating the daughter of the rich guy he does landscaping work for. Matthew Lillard is very entertaining as hard-partying USC catcher Billy Brubaker and baseball legends Hank Aaron and Curt Gowdy also make cameos.
61*(2001): Billy Crystal directed 61*, which examines the home run race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961. The M&M boys were roommates that summer and were actually close friends despite media efforts to portray them as rivals. Thomas Jane gives an unbelievable performance as the Mick, down to a perfect imitation of his switch-hitting swings. Barry Pepper embodies the spotlight-shunning Maris, who reluctantly took center stage in the home run chase. Even if you hate the Yankees you’ll be rooting for these two by the end of the movie.
The Rookie (2002): Dennis Quaid plays Jim Morris, the high school baseball coach from Texas who became a major league reliever at age 39. After suffering an arm injury as a young prospect, Morris stopped throwing. Then, while throwing batting practice to his high school team, he discovered he still had his old velocity. His team made a deal with him that he would try out for the big leagues if they made the state playoffs. Sure enough, they did and he did and the rest is history. Rachel Griffiths is excellent as Jim’s supportive wife, and his major league debut is a very emotional scene. Also lots of great throwback Devil Rays gear.