The greatest baseball movies and books

Oct. 30, 2004, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 10 months ago

Jonah's Top 5 Baseball Movie Picks

1. Bull Durham (1988) - The movie follows an experienced catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and a brash new talent named Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) as they compete for the love of Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). The two men both want Annie, but they also want a future in the game they love, baseball. Overall, the movie is quite funny but is also quite accurate about life in the minor leagues. It blends in a guy's sports movie and girl's to create one great representation of love, life and baseball that shows how all are seamlessly interconnected.
2. The Natural (1984) - Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs in this famous movie about the power of baseball. Hobbs is a great, young baseball player who uses a special bat he made from a fallen oak tree. Even though, his dreams of stardom end abruptly, years later, he remerges as rookie for the New York Knights and becomes an immediate sensation. Hobbs still has the natural talent he had as a young man and now he has the chance to fulfill his dreams and win the pennant. This movie is truly inspirational and captures the power of baseball in a young man's life and of the dream of playing professional professional baseball.
3. Field of Dreams (1989) - Kevin Costner plays a marginally successful farmer named Ray Kinsella who is driven to build a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield because of the famous saying, "If you build it, they will come." The movie shows how baseball is so much more than a game and seems almost intertwined with religion. The movie portrays the spiritual side of "America's pastime" as Kinsella tries to give Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball because he fixed the 1919 World Series, one more at-bat. The movie has a feel-good tone, as Kinsella is able to kindle a relationship with his father through a simple game of catch. The movie, while being unrealistic, shows a driven farmer willing to put his family and farm on the line in order to have a deeper connection with the game he loves.
4. Eight Men Out (1988) - This movie's plot shows the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919 in which several Chicago White Sox players were paid to throw the World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds. John Cusak plays Buck Weaver (although historically the biggest player to be involved was Shoeless Joe Jackson), a great player who was banned from the game for life. The movie, while not being as upbeat as other baseball films previously mentioned, shows the darker side of sports and money. Eight Men Out is a true tragedy in which a great ensemble of actors is able to show the one of darkest moments in baseball history.
5. The Pride of the Yankees (1943) - Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, The Pride of the Yankees is one of the greatest biographical movies in baseball history, if not in the history of cinema. This movie follows Lou Gehrig as he ascends from a mediocre first baseman into one of the finest baseball players the sport has ever known. Gary Cooper, who gives a magnificent delivery of Gehrig's famous retirement speech at the end of the movie, plays Gehrig himself. Although Gehrig was to die soon after, his honest play and amazing record of 2,130 consecutive games played are a testament to a player who truly was the pride of the Yankees. The movie, however, is about much more than baseball; it captures a time period, a person, a disease and a sport which all bound America together, if just for an instant.

Jonah's Top 3 Baseball Book Picks

1. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy By: Jane Leavey - This book takes an in depth look at the career of Sandy Koufax, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955 until 1966. Koufax is to many people the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time because of his tremendous performance between the years of 1962 to 1966 in which he won 111 games while losing only 36. The book takes a look at what shaped the amazing pitcher and why he left the game in his prime. It also tells how Koufax became the premier role model for Jewish children around the nation. But the book goes much deeper in investigating the reserved pitcher and what caused him to make the historically defining decisions that he did.
2. Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time By: Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein - Baseball Dynasties is a book which analyzes the great teams in the history of Major League Baseball. While this book is non-fiction, it is much closer to an encyclopedia than a novel because of its extreme concise nature. It follows teams from the 1906 Chicago Cubs to the 1975 Cincinnati Reds to the most recent 1998 New York Yankees and analyzes players' statistics rather than the person behind the numbers. The book ranks teams by using a score called Standard Deviation in order to compare a team with the league average. It tries to show the best teams in comparison to their time period in order to present the most accurate representation.
3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game By: Michael Lewis - Moneyball poses the question, "How does a team such as the Oakland A's continue to be successful year after year?" The Oakland Athletics have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball at around $40 to $50 million, and yet they continue to stay competitive even in a time when the New York Yankees spent $184 million on their payroll for the 2003 to 2004 season. The book shows how A's General Manager Billy Beane has been able to run one of the most efficient teams in baseball by using a different set of statistics when judging players. Even with an in-depth discussion of different statistics, the book also covers the personal stories of multiple players who were discovered by the A's.

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