The Top 5 Baseball Movies of All-Time

Okay, I’ll admit I’m probably putting my ass in the jackpot for this one, but I would like to have a conversation about the best baseball movies of all-time.

Best baseball documentary: 

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The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014) – In the ’70s, Portland had a minor league team that was unaffiliated with any MLB club. It’s a classic ragtag, outcast story. And this doc gets bonus points because Portland played in a weird stadium (that has since been refurbished to host the Portland Timbers of the MLS).

Best baseball docuseries: 

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Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (1994) – America’s preeminent documentarian takes on America’s national pastime.

I’m sorry, but no: 

People will make arguments for the following movies, but they’re wrong:

Any of the spate of kids’ baseball movies that came out in ’93 and ’94 – These are all great for what they are, but we’re trying to have an honest conversation about the best baseball movies of all-time. I know a lot of people will disagree with the exclusion of The Sandlot from my top 5, but it has some really problematic parts (do not point out how many problematic parts there are in the other films in my top 5!) and the storytelling is just plain lazy.

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Moneyball (2011) – Aaron Sorikin has his stench on so many shitty cultural touchstones of my generation. Chief amongst them, of course, is the bloodless brand of liberal wonkism that believes politics is fast-paced, exciting, sexy, and always honorable, as opposed to tedious drudgery required to build coalitions on the ground, where real lives and, indeed, generations are rendered destitute by policies of barbarism enacted by ghoulish legislators misdirecting constituents from their barbarism with sleek, snappy, and endlessly quotable speeches. Anyway, Sorkin also made this film about sabermetrics. And now that I think about it, Moneyball features the same shitty technocratic ideology that gave us a computer program that told Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin. Sorkin isn’t critiquing any of these things. He’s celebrating them. Yes, I rely on traditional statistics. Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?

The Top 5:

5. 

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Bull Durham (1988) – A romantic (hmmm unconvinced so far) sports (okay now we’re talking) comedy (what? are you friggin kidding me?). This film is pretty much the only thing informing 99% of the general public’s cognitive frame for minor league baseball. Bonus points for the fact that Crash Davis eventually joins the Asheville Tourists, who were one the Savannah Sand Gnats primary rivals in the Sally League (RIP Gnate the Gnat).

4. 

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Major League (1989) – Although Caddyshack explored the “slobs vs. snobs” trope to greater effect, Major League is nonetheless serviceable and often very funny. It’s also incredibly problematic, but most everything that came out of the 1980s was (DO NOT SAY, “LIKE YOU?”).

3. 

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A League of Their Own (1992) – A captivating wartime tale about the home front, human potential, and our capacity to carry on and carry each other. Two things: “there’s no crying in baseball” and Kit > Dottie *shrugging emoji*.

2. 

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The Natural (1984) – Both of the top two baseball movies of all-time are magical realist meditations on American myth-making and American masculinity. They both play out on that liminal space between sleep and wake, where there’s still some sweetness in the dreaming. I love them both dearly.

1. 

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Field of Dreams (1989) – Field of Dreams edges out The Natural simply because the first time I saw it, at my grandma and grandpa’s house in Westerville, Ohio, it spun my head around in a way that only a magical story can do to a young child. “If you build it, they will come” did a number on me. I wanted to build it. I wanted them to come play baseball. It is one of the great contemporary father-son fables, and it only becomes more meaningful, and more heartbreaking, with time.

And the Dark Within: Twin Peaks and the Möbius Time Loop

SPOILERS AHEAD: IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN AND DON’T WANT SPOILERS, TURN BACK NOW

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T/W: potential for acid flashbacks

How did you want Twin Peaks: The Return to end? What were you waiting for?

I’ll admit I was waiting for a specific piece of Lynchian magic, and in the show’s penultimate hour, I was struck with simultaneous realizations: I wasn’t going to see the trick; I had already seen the trick.

It’s perhaps no secret that Twin Peaks: The Return–referred to as “s3” from here–conjures and communes with the dead. Catherine E. Coulson (Margaret Lanterman aka The Log Lady), Miguel Ferrer (FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield), and Warren Frost (Dr. Will Hayward), not to mention Frank Silva (BOB), Don S. Davis (Major Garland Briggs), and Jack Nance (Pete Martell), are no longer with us. Yet they all appear on the screen and in the credits.

Seeing Catherine E. Coulson and Miguel Ferrer in s3’s first few hours, their scenes obviously filmed before their deaths, I realized I wanted Bowie (Phillip Jeffries). Of course, Bowie would eventually appear, like Silva, Davis, and Nance, via flashback–footage from the original series and/or film. But I wanted to see Bowie one last time as he is now. Not really now, of course, but I wanted it to feel as though time was distorting, warping for one last transmission from, one last glimpse of the Thin White Duke. With Bowie’s character, Phillip Jeffries, figuring prominently into s3’s narrative, it seemed possible. Although episode 15 reveals that Phillip Jeffries is now…a furnace? Or a giant teapot?, Agent Cooper’s visit to Jeffries in episode 17 had me hoping Bowie would emerge from the steam emanating from the teapot.

No such luck.

But in having that hope teased out, I still convened with Bowie now. Life and death are opposite sides of the same möbius strip, but the möbius strip doesn’t have sides; it never ends. Everything ends; nothing ends. I didn’t get to see the trick; I already saw the trick.

THIS IS THE WATER

Every single thing we ever know ends. Many of those endings are sad. In the face of all those endings, we don’t end. Until we do. We carry on. Until we don’t.

For those reasons, we’re uniquely unqualified to write endings for our narratives. We’re forever destined to fumble those endings.

Especially in the world of serial narratives, where we come to view the characters as friends and the settings as homes, we will always be disappointed by the endings. But even in the more closed-off narrative arcs of novels and films, I’m not sure I’ve ever walked away impressed by the ending. It’s always the journey that I find so intoxicating, not the journey’s end.

s3 turns the narrative arc of the Twin Peaks universe into a narrative loop. You can be disappointed in the ending of s3, but only if you understand it as an ending. It is not.