This feature originally ran in April 2015. We’re revisiting as this year’s pandemic-shortened season gets underway.
With Opening Day fast approaching, Matt Melis, Justin Gerber, Michael Roffman, and Dominick Suzanne-Mayer got together to shell sunflower seeds, practice their seventh-inning stretches, and try to avoid a rhubarb as they selected the top 10 baseball films of all time. We’re happy to report that they’re practically in mid-season form already.
One of my favorite baseball moments captured in a film won’t be found on this list. That’s partly due to the fact that the movie it appears in, City Slickers, isn’t a baseball film, even if Billy Crystal opts for a Mets cap over a standard ten-gallon. In the scene, the lone woman on a tourist cattle drive comments on how silly it is that men obsess over a game like baseball rather than discuss more important things like “real life” and relationships. Daniel Stern’s character, the endearingly damaged Phil, responds: “You’re right, I suppose. I guess it is childish, but when I was about 18 and my dad and I couldn’t communicate about anything at all, we could still talk about baseball. Now, that was real.”
For all the talk of pinstripes, pennants, and, unfortunately, pharmaceuticals, baseball, more than anything, remains the glue that maintains and repairs the relationships between fathers and sons. It’s the language men use to say what would otherwise go unsaid. There truly are few experiences as magical as a summer “in the hunt,” but when October ends, the stands empty, and we settle in for the long, cold days ahead, it’s not the scores, statistics, or standings that comfort us during winter’s quiet solitude. Fathers and sons think back upon those late-night calls second-guessing a pitching change or that one or two times a season they still manage to get out to the ballpark together even though they now live half a country apart. Seasons come and go, blur or altogether vanish in their memories as time passes, but those moments spent “talking ball,” so simple and natural, mark those lifetimes and relationships.
Another favorite moment of mine does appear on this list. One grown man asks another, “You wanna have a catch?” No matter how old I get, the answer remains the same.