Now, here’s my top ten countdown:
 Major League (1989)
Before Charlie Sheen went cocaine crazy, he starred in some really good movies — most notably Wall Street. However, Sheen is better known for playing “Wild Thing,” the erratic pitcher in the romp camp comedy Major League. Never to be taken too seriously, this fun movie features a rogue team of misfits who play for baseball’s perennial laughingstock (at the time) — the last-place Cleveland Indians. Comprised by an ideal cast — including Tom Berenger, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, and Corbin Benson — Major League became an instant crowd-pleaser and grossed millions at the box office. Unfortunately, that massive success led to two awful sequels which followed. But later misfires don’t detract from our enjoyment of the original. Watch the movie trailer HERE.
 Bull Durham (1988)
I’ve heard several movie buffs insist Bull Durham is a woman’s movie. Are we allowed to say “Chick Flick?” I’m not sure about that. Writer-director Ronald Shelton based his film on real-life experiences when he was playing minor league baseball years earlier for the Durham Bulls (hence, the film’s unusual title). Susan Sarandon is caught in a love triangle between a rising baseball star (played by Tim Robbins) who is destined for the major leagues versus a fading has-been who’s aging fast and likely in the last months of his final season (played by Kevin Kostner). Bull Durham successfully blends drama, romance, baseball, and comedy into a film that’s established a lasting legacy with movie audiences. It’s often ranked among the best sports movies ever made. I don’t rate it quite so high, but it’s certainly a well-crafted film carried by excellent performances throughout. Bull Durham’s trailer can be seen HERE.
 Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
One year before Robert De Niro was cast in his breakthrough Academy-Award winning role in The Godfather: Part II, he played a struggling major league catcher with diminished mental capabilities. Adding to the challenges of trying to be a regular guy on the team and fit normally into society, he’s diagnosed with a terminal illness during a midseason pennant race. Fearful that his disease will create even more problems and quite possibly trigger a release from the team, with the help of his best friend (a pitcher played by Michael Moriarity), the duo tries to keep the catcher’s terminal illness a secret. Based on a book of the same title written 15 years earlier, Bang the Drum Slowly is sometimes referred to as baseball’s Brian’s Song. This mostly-forgotten film often gets overlooked in the broader pantheon of great sports movies. But it certainly merits a place. The chemistry between catcher De Niro and Moriarity, along with club manager Vincent Gardenia is often deeply moving. There are scenes that stick with me to this day, decades after seeing the movie. The film’s credibility is enhanced by being shot on location at old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium during midseason while the respective pro teams were away on road trips. From the empty beer cups littering the outfield to the towels laying all over the locker room, everything looks and feels very real. This isn’t really a romanticized story about baseball. This isn’t a story about illness and death. It’s the story of friendship and the power of the human spirit. Watch the film trailer HERE.
 Eight Men Out (1988)
What really happened with the ill-fated 1919 Chicago White Sox? They were a great team that intentionally lost the baseball World Series to satisfy personal grievances with their tight-fisted owner and collect bribes from shady gamblers determined to bet on the fix. Why they did it and which specific players were involved and to what degree is one of the worst scandals in sports history remains a subject of lively speculation nearly a century later. This movie won’t reveal any hidden secrets, nor solve lingering mysteries. Still, Eight Men Out remains a thoroughly entertaining account of what made eight players on the very best team in baseball abandon their desire to win a championship in exchange for revenge and profit. Critical reception to this film was (and is) mixed, and I can appreciate both sides. Non-baseball fans may be underwhelmed by the story of corrupt ballplayers who were kicked out of the game and were given lifetime bans from baseball as a fitting punishment. Yet, most hard-core baseball fans love this film and many sympathize with the players as victims. As the umpire, my ruling is — Eight Men Out is a broken-bat lead-off stand-up triple. The official trailer can be seen HERE.
 The Natural (1984)
Every boy dreams at least once about being Roy Hobbs; stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the 9th; glaring at a mighty fastball; taking a backbreaking swing; then cracking a game-winning home run out of the park into the upper deck light towers. It’s the stuff boyhood dreams are made of. Director Barry Levinson completely understood this fantasy. Accordingly, he crafted one of the greatest baseball movies ever — The Natural. Robert Redford plays the aging ballplayer Hobbs with a mysterious past. Glenn Close plays his long-lost love interest and muse. Audiences will also recognize the rest of a stellar cast — which includes Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Barbara Hershey, Richard Farnsworth, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin, and Michael Madsen. However, the dramatic film score by the great songwriter-composer Randy Newman steals the film. Combined with mystifying visuals in the hands of a masterful filmmaker like Levinson, this makes for a cinematic grand slam. When old-fashioned filmgoers complain they don’t make movies like they used to — what they likely miss are movies like The Natural. This film is a throwback to a time when honesty, integrity, and a person’s character mattered most, and baseball was looked to as the kettle of those noble virtues. Watch the final dramatic home run smash HERE.
Coming next in Part 3, will be my top five countdown.
This list first appeared HERE.