There are few better surprises than watching a "regular" movie (meaning one without a baseball theme) and being treated to something baseball related. This brings up the question, when we are so blessed, which baseball-related movie scenes come off best?
In my estimation, these are the 10 best, ranked according to my inner gyroscope. To be sure, there is a definite bias toward scenes that can be viewed on the internet since this is a visual medium and you're visually oriented people, am I right? Some very good stuff had to be left off and I'm sure we will revisit this topic in the near future and present another 10 great ones.
10. Master thieves undertake a big heist at the ball yard in The Town
This is a remake of the Troy McClure vehicle, They Came to Burgle Fenway Park. There's no actual baseball in it, but the home of the Red Sox has a starring role.
9. Sam Craig defends baseball in Woman of the Year
It has long been a standard Hollywood rom-com ploy for love interests to start out hating each other. In this case, Katherine Hepburn's Tess Harding gets on the wrong side of Spencer Tracy's Sam Craig by suggesting that baseball should be banned for the duration of World War II. It's also one of the few movies that contains an actual trivia question in the dialogue: "What is the most frequently run distance in American sports?" (There's another great scene later in the movie when Tracy and Hepburn go to a game together.)
8. Ferris and Cameron skip school at Wrigley Field in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
True story: One time in college, I blew off class (it happened just that one time, I swear) and went to work instead. I was a clerk in a liquor store, and it seemed bizarrely coincidental when the instructor of the class I'd blown off came into the store a few hours later. I buried my head in a cooler and she walked right past me. I relived that moment the first time I saw Ferris Bueller when Principal Rooney just misses seeing Ferris haul in a foul ball on television. Of course, now that I'm older, I understand that Rooney is the film's true hero.
7. Mitch Kramer pitches under pressure in Dazed and Confused
Remember how before the internet you'd share a clever observation with your friends and they'd all think you were some kind of raconteur or something? So when Tim Lincecum started growing his hair long you said, "Hey, he looks just like that kid pitcher in Dazed and Confused." Then you googled "Tim Lincecum/Mitch Kramer/Wiley Wiggins" and realized that hundreds of others were saying the same thing. And then you got depressed because you were previously convinced that your brain was unique and the only one capable of making such keen observations of the passing scene. Thanks a lot, internet. (Watch)
6. The faux cowbpokes discuss the importance of baseball in City Slickers
As cinematic philosophical discussions go, I would rate this assessment of our national game right up there with this important take on life from Conan the Barbarian.
5. Buster Keaton runs amok in Yankee Stadium in The Cameraman
Keaton's wannabe newsreel cameraman shows up at the then-five-year-old Yankee Stadium to get some footage, only to find out the Yankees are in St. Looie, playing the Browns. So instead he acts out some baseball plays, climaxing with a headfirst dive into home. Keaton doing just about anything is worth watching, but you also can't beat the Yankee Stadium vistas, and you get to see how much it changed over the decades, even before the 1970s makeover. The vastness of the place is staggering! For instance, you could build a pretty big house between home plate and the backstop.
4. The Mets are all jammed up in The Odd Couple
Talk about your well-executed gags! From the set-up to the visual punch line, it's all done to perfection. The only flaw -- and it's a minor one -- is that fans obviously were instructed to bunch together in the stands. It's also got a host of real 1967 Mets and Pirates playing themselves.
3. Agents K and J get unstuck in time in Men in Black 3
"It's my favorite moment in human history." Maybe mine, too.
2. Randle P. McMurphy wants to watch the World Series in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
Have you ever worked in a place where you're the only real baseball fan? Then you'll love Jack Nicholson's anguished plea, "For crissakes, isn't there one of you f***ing maniacs who knows what I'm talking about?" when he tries to get his fellow asylum inmates to vote yes to watching the Series on the common-room television. Frustrated but never beaten, he then launches into an imagined game call featuring the '63 Dodgers and Yankees. It's all quite inspired and it won him an Oscar.
1. Lt. Frank Drebin goes undercover in Naked Gun
The baseball sequence in this 1988 film is so long and so great you can actually make a choice as to which part of it you like best. Is it when Leslie Nielsen takes over the plate-umpiring duties and really gets into it? Is it the blooper reel they show at the stadium that just keeps topping itself? Or is it when Nielsen and another umpire get a runner into a pickle? There is no wrong choice.
Thanks to Jason D. Scott and Will Moore for their input.